The Broken Chain
What is implied by “traditional” Islam and how does it differ from other readings of Islam? How did the salaf and the khalaf understand and categorise “knowledge” and how does it differ from “information?” What is the importance of an "isnad" and what significance does it have in relation to authority? Are scholastic differences a sign of disunity or a manifestation of divine benevolence?
In The Broken Chain, Aftab Ahmad Malik explores history, medieval scholastic discussions and the centrality of the Prophet Muhammad in Muslim lives. His focus upon the centrality of knowledge, and more importantly, its transmitters, introduces to the readers an array of early and medieval Muslim scholars whose learned opinions have shaped and contributed to, what is known as “traditional” Islam.
Written primarily to bring classical scholarly views in order to clarify a number of “controversies” evident on university campuses and in mosques, The Broken Chain provides an incisive insight into Islam’s rich scholastic tradition. By referring to and citing major historical hadith scholars, The Broken Chain rests upon their status in the scholastic community to ensure its authoritativeness while challenging the authoritarian currents in contemporary Islamic revivalism.
The book analyses the impact of the printing presses on the method and manner in which knowledge was traditionally imparted and acquired. It explores the turbulent period from the tanzimat to the eventual collapse of the Islamic Caliphate. The Broken Chain investigates the consequences of colonialism in the Muslim world and its response in the form of various Islamic movements. Importantly, The Broken Chain brings to the attention of the reader, the values that lie at the heart of traditional Islam—values that have been severely undermined as Muslims try to struggle with modernity.
"University campuses are rife with self-styled mini-ulama, angry young people whohave read a few books on Islam coupled with modern technology of searchable databases of the sacred texts and the Internet. They are then deluded into thinking that they have properly read and understood the works and are qualified to give opinions onthem and other issues...Aftab Malik shows concisely and clearly that knowledge must be obtained from a living scholar and thereby reconnecting the "Broken Chain" and becoming part of the "Unbroken Chain" of a living tradition stretching back to the source of this great religion."