Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 April 2014
This article explores the role of Islam in contemporary Jordanian charities and social welfare organizations. In what ways do these organizations relate to Islamic traditions in their work? What role do religious convictions play in the construction of modern selfhoods among their employees and volunteers? Do these constructions relate to broader, globally relevant, social imaginaries? The article tries to answer these questions by applying a novel analytical framework to qualitative data from fieldwork conducted among Jordanian charities and social welfare organizations. We treat these organizations as “social sites” for the reinterpretation of Islamic traditions in the context of global modernity as well as for the construction of meaningful forms of modern selfhoods among their members. In doing so, we argue that these specifically Islamic identity constructions can fruitfully be understood with reference to different types of globally relevant social imaginaries.
Author's note: We thank the four reviewers, the editors of this issue of IJMES, and Morten Valbjørn for their most helpful comments on previous drafts of this article. In addition, we are grateful to The Danish Council for Independent Research in the Humanities (FKK) and VELUX Foundation for funding two projects that are currently being conducted at the University of Southern Denmark under the umbrella of “The Modern Muslim Subjectivities Project.” Finally, we thank The Danish Council for Independent Research in the Social Sciences (FSE) for funding the research project “Shifting Conceptions of Aid and Islam.”
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2 We spent four months total in Jordan and conducted about ninety interviews with staff and volunteers in approximately fifty organizations, predominantly located in Amman and Zarqa. Most interviews were conducted in Arabic with the use of a translator, while a few were conducted in English. The interviews were organized around relatively open themes and our interlocutors seemed to speak with ease and confidence, not being afraid to talk about Islam in relation to social welfare activities. They were relatively eager to participate and nobody turned down our request for interviews.
3 A paradigmatic article for this approach is Eisenstadt, Samuel N., “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus 129 (2000): 1–29Google Scholar. See also Arnason, Johann P., Civilizations in Dispute: Historical Questions and Theoretical Traditions (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2003)Google Scholar; and Eisenstadt, Samuel N., Comparative Civilizations and Multiple Modernities (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2003)Google Scholar.
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15 There is a difference in the numbering and consequently naming of the three types of successive forms of modernity that might confuse the reader. In Wagner's typology, the first type refers to the bourgeois society of the 19th century; this does not play a role in the theories of Beck and Giddens, who only talk about first and second modernities with respect to the organized mass society and its postmodern follower of reflexive modernity. In fusing these concepts, in our analytical framework, first and second modernity are preceded by what Wagner called restricted liberal society.
17 Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt, 635.
19 For approaches employing modern systems theory, see Beyer, Peter, Religion and Global Society (London and New York: Routledge, 2006)Google Scholar; and Luhmann, Niklas, “Society, Meaning, Religion—Based on Self-Reference,” Sociological Analysis 64 (1985): 5–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For Weber, Max's theory of religious social actions, see “Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions,” in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. Gerth, H. H. and Mills, C. Wright (London: Routledge, 1991 ), 129–56Google Scholar.
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21 With regard to their ends, Weber associated religious actions with two spheres: the dispensation from worldly suffering and the transcendental realm of redemption.
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27 Harmsen, Islam, Civil Society and Social Work, 137.
29 The ICCS uses both its Arabic and English name.
30 Harmsen, Islam, Civil Society and Social Work, 141.
31 The government tried to “sell” peace with Israel by promising future foreign investment and economic benefits for the whole of the country. However, these economic peace dividends never materialized and turned out to be a mere fantasy. See Scham, Paul L. and Lucas, Russel E., “Normalization and Anti-Normalization in Jordan: The Public Debate,” Israel Affairs 9 (2003): 141–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
33 The government changed the law shortly before the 1993 elections. While the former election system was based on multiple votes, the new law introduced a single-vote system, undermining the ability of the opposition, in particular the IAF, to win seats. In addition, the new law gerrymandered electoral districts in a way that “favored rural pro-regime constituencies over more urban bases of support for opposition groups from the secular left to the religious right.” Ryan, Curtis R. and Schwedler, Jillian, “Return to Democratization or New Hybrid Regime?: The 2003 Elections in Jordan,” Middle East Policy 11 (2004): 143CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
34 In the regime's “liberal interpretation” of Islamic traditions, Prince Hassan played an important role in promoting Islam as a religion of tolerance and openmindedness. Kornbluth, “Jordan and the Anti-Normalization Campaign,” 96.
35 Speech by King ʿAbd Allah II at the Catholic University of America, 13 September 2005, http://www.jordanembassyus.org/hmka09132005.htm .
36 The name relates to the traditional Islamic concept of tikiyya, going back to a Sufi-inspired provision of food for the poor in the 11th century. See http://www.tkiyetumali.org (accessed 22 September 2012).
37 Although JOHUD does not define itself as an Islamic organization, we have included it for three reasons. First, it represents a major player in the field of social welfare provision and is therefore deeply involved in the societal negotiations that have been going on in this field. Second, while not religious at the organizational level, some members of JOHUD claim religious motivations for their engagement in the organization. Third, in analyzing organizations that do not have a distinct religious rationale, we try to avoid the bias toward pious organizations, which has been strongly criticized, for instance, in relation to the work of Saba Mahmood. See Bangstad, Sindre, “Saba Mahmood and Anthropological Feminism after Virtue,” Theory, Culture & Society 28 (2011): 28–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Schielke, Samuli, “Being Good in Ramadan: Ambivalence, Fragmentation, and the Moral Self in the Lives of Young Egyptians,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15 (2009): 24–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
38 Harmsen, Islam, Civil Society and Social Work, 164.
39 The tensions between Jordanians of Transjordanian and Palestinian descent are not often discussed in public. Therefore, we did not ask our interlocutors about their ethnic backgrounds, and none of them raised the issue during our interviews.
42 In 1978, the Queen Alia Foundation obtained a fatwa from the chief mufti of the country permitting Muslim citizens to pay their zakat through the Fund. See Talal, Basma Bint, Rethinking an NGO: Development, Donors and Civil Society in Jordan (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004), 118Google Scholar.
43 Brochure from the Zakat Fund, authors’ translation.
44 The secretary general of the Ministry of Religious Foundations even said that the ministry plays a daily role in supervising the committees. See Muhammed Mhaisin, Secretary General of the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf: No Obstacles in the Way of Charity Activities in Jordan, Amman, humanityvoice.net, 24 September 2008, http://www.humanityvoice.net/news_details.php?id=1170.
45 According to the ICCS management, the clinics treat approximately 140,000 people annually, more than 15,000 students are enrolled in the schools, 13,000 orphans receive support, and 25,000 families use the services of the community centers.
46 A spokesperson from the Brotherhood told us that the ICCS is the only organization formally under the authority of the Brotherhood, while a number of other organizations are connected to it by personal friendships, strategic alliances, and the convergence of persons in management positions.
47 The ICCS is very active in Palestinian camps and the Muslim Brotherhood recruits most of its followers from among the country's Palestinian population. See Rumman, Mohammad Abu, The Muslim Brotherhood in the 2007 Jordanian Parliamentary Elections: A Passing ‘Political Setback’ or Diminished Popularity? (Amman: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2007), 16, 39Google Scholar.
48 For more details, see Clark, Janine, “Patronage, Prestige, and Power: The Islamic Center Charity Society's Political Role with the Muslim Brotherhood,” in Islamist Politics in the Middle East, ed. Shehata, Samer S. (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), 69–87Google Scholar.
49 Harmsen, Islam, Civil Society and Social Work, 228.
50 A third type could be described as the piously committed citizen. It has traits of the classical bourgeois subject and is predominantly represented in the independent organizations or among the volunteers of the Zakat Fund.
51 At the time of our fieldwork, the official unemployment rate was 15 percent. Unofficial figures estimated an unemployment rate of about 30 percent. Among young people, unemployment reached 41 percent. See Guégnard, Christine, Matheu, Xavier, and Shteiwi, Musa, Unemployment in Jordan (Torino, Italy: European Training Foundation, 2005)Google Scholar.
52 This predominance of women distinguishes royal NGOs from other Jordanian civil society organizations, Islamic as well as non-Islamic, which are generally male dominated.
53 There is no doubt that employment in Jordanian welfare organizations is not based on qualifications and convictions alone. On the contrary, in all types of organizations personal patronage (wasṭa) and networks based on ethnic, tribal, and family affiliations often play an important role. As a general feature of Jordanian society, however, these forms of patronage do not render the aforementioned differences in the recruiting procedures of JOHUD and the ICCS irrelevant.
55 Information from website and interviews.
57 Clark, Islam, Charity, and Activism, 106; Roald, Anne Sofie, TARBIYA: Education and Politics in Islamic Movements in Jordan and Malaysia, Lund Studies in History of Religions, vol. 3 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1994), 173Google Scholar.
58 Many of our interviewees also mentioned more tangible benefits such as the facilitation of jobs, favors, and personal relations as their prime motivation, underlining the network character of the Islamic movement.
59 Bonner, Michael David, Ener, Mine, and Singer, Amy, eds., Poverty and Charity in Middle Eastern Contexts (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2003), 2Google Scholar.
60 While the Palestinian issue definitely has played a role in the tension between the Muslim Brotherhood (as well as left-wing parties) and the regime, we cannot attribute the Transjordanian-Palestinian divide a major role in identity constructions at either the organizational or the individual levels. However, this finding is strongly qualified by the fact that this divide is rarely discussed in Jordanian society and therefore might play a rather invisible role in the ways in which these identity constructions relate to global social imaginaries.
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