An Enchanted Modern is an ethnographic research conducted by Lara Deed in the Southern suburbs of Beirut. Deeb demonstrates that Islam and modernity are not in opposition but complimentary. She examines the ways that individual and collective expressions along with the understanding of piety have been debated, contested and reformulated. By emphasizing the ways modernity and piety are lived, debated and shared by ‘everyday Islamist’, this book shows that Islamism is not static or monolithic.
In the introductory part of this book Deeb notes that asking questions of whether or not people are modern are not productive. Instead Deebs (2006:16) states that:
I will focus on how people understand the terms of debate,
how they approach the question of modern, what they desire
for themselves and their community—without assuming the
universality of desires or that progress has a single trajectory.
This is a strength in Deeb’s book because the reader can seek to understand the different discourse and assessment about modern-ness that the Islamist debate in various ways. It is also helpful when analyzing the dichotic relationship between tradition and authentication. Authenticating Islam as defined by Deeb is the new definition of public piety that includes practicing Islam through public visibility and social service. It represents a found truth to oneself as well as a responsibility to community. Additional to the notion of authenticating is the notion that in Shi’ism, the door of interpretation is open and the idea that multiple interpretation is good for progress. This encourages Islamist to learn and seek knowledge, asking questions when uncertain because “there is no good in religion that has no knowledge” (Deeb 2006: 124). It is strongly believed that a strong believer has evidence and to be convinced is to be knowledgeable. This is expressed by both Aziza and a volunteer at the Martyrs’ Association. This constant...