Karen Armstrong to speak at AKU
By our correspondent
KARACHI: The British-born nun-turned-academic, feminist, broadcaster and writer Karen Armstrong, is due in Karachi on Wednesday to deliver a lecture at the Aga Khan University Auditorium.
The lecture, tilted, ‘What is Religion?’ is her signature theme as she has acquired global fame as a prolific scholar of religions and a writer who has profusely written on a multitude of faiths. She has written on Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.
Her latest book, a revision of her biography of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), is likely to hit the bookstands during the autumn of 2006 from Atlas Books/Harper & Collins.
Born in Wildmoor, Worcestershire, England, on November 14, 1944, into a family with Irish roots, Karen Armstrong became a nun in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. This was a teaching order, and once she had advanced from postulant and novice to professed nun, she was sent to St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she studied English.
Armstrong left the order during her course of study. After graduating, she embarked on a doctorate (still at Oxford) on Alfred, Lord Tennyson. She continued to work on it while later teaching at the University of London, but her thesis was rejected by an external examiner. She eventually left the academia without completing her doctorate.
Armstrong published, “Through the Narrow Gate in 1982”, which described the restricted and narrow life she experienced in the convent (and earned her the enmity of many British Catholics). In 1984 she was asked to write and present a documentary on the life of St. Paul. The research for the documentary made Armstrong look again at religion, despite having abandoned religious worship after she left the convent. She has since become a prolific, acclaimed, and controversial writer on subjects touching on all of the three major monotheistic religions. In 1999, the Islamic Centre of Southern California honoured Armstrong, for “promoting understanding among faiths.”
Apart from her book on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Armstrong has written a number of articles for The Guardian. Her latest book, “The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions”, was published in March 2006.
Armstrong has advanced a counter-intuitive theory of religious fundamentalism, key to understanding the movements as they emerged in the late 15th and 20th centuries. Her book about the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), according to critics, provides a balanced, often insightful account of the life of the Prophet (PBUH) sympathetic enough to counter western prejudices, but not hagiographic.
She has won her acclaim as a writer and speaker of a very balanced, moderate and radical tone for all the faiths she has brought up for discussion in her documentaries, writing, and papers and is mostly appreciated by followers of all these faiths alike, which is a rare thing in itself for an expert on religions.