A fascinating in-depth analysis of the Muslim-ness of Dune

Last fall, I shared a fantastic piece by Haris Durrani, an author and JD/PhD candidate at Columbia Law School and Princeton University, examining the "white savior" complex of the Dune universe, based on actual interviews with Frank Herbert shortly after the release of the first book.

Now, Durrani is back with a similarly fascinating and complex look at the role of Islam in Dune — which, he argues, may not be as appropriative as you might expect. Once again, Durrani turns back to interviews and other original documents to examine Herbert's attentive research on and surprising affection for Islam. From Durrani's perspective, Dune is perfectly in conversation with questions that Muslims have been asking about their own faith for years:

As much as the saga examines tensions between east/west, colonized/colonizer, and Brown (or Black)/White, it also interrogates questions internal to Islam.

Dune is orientalist and conservative, but also, and sometimes frustratingly at the same time, thoroughly Muslim. Its Muslimness is not only a function of its Arabic words; its quotations and paraphrases from the Qur'an, prophetic teachings, or Muslim authors; or its references to Muslim histories. More so, its Muslimness reflects a serious engagement with those sources and histories, a conversation with their underlying ideas and affects that surpasses exotic aesthetics, easy plagiarism, cheap appropriation, the assumption of unchanging religion or language, and even scintillating references. Certainly, readers don't level the same critiques at Herbert, let alone other science fiction writers, when he uses the English, French, or Latin language, or references so-called Western philosophy in far future settings. Ultimately, it is through, and not apart from, the engagement with Islam and Muslims that the Dune novels explore their central themes about the relationship between religion, ecology, technology, capitalism, and anti/colonialism. 

This piece is long — like, nearly 10,000 words, including footnotes. But damn if Durrani is not the unofficial leading post-colonial Dune scholar of our time.

The Muslimness of Dune: A Close Reading of "Appendix II: The Religion of Dune" [Haris Durrani / Tor.com]