Tag Archives: History of Islamic Societies

Alavi, “Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire”

This month, Harvard University Press releases “Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire” by Seema Alavi (University of Delhi). The publisher’s description follows:

Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire recovers the stories of five Indian Muslim scholars who, in the aftermath of the uprising of 1857, were hunted by British authorities, fled their homes in India for such destinations as Cairo, Mecca, and Istanbul, and became active participants in a flourishing pan-Islamic intellectual network at the cusp of the British and Ottoman empires. Seema Alavi traces this network, born in the age of empire, which became the basis of a global Muslim sensibility—a form of political and cultural affiliation that competes with ideas of nationhood today as it did in the previous century.

By demonstrating that these Muslim networks depended on European empires and that their sensibility was shaped by the West in many subtle ways, Alavi challenges the idea that all pan-Islamic configurations are anti-Western or pro-Caliphate. Indeed, Western imperial hegemony empowered the very inter-Asian Muslim connections that went on to outlive European empires. Diverging from the medieval idea of the umma, this new cosmopolitan community stressed consensus in matters of belief, ritual, and devotion and found inspiration in the liberal reforms then gaining traction in the Ottoman world. Alavi breaks new ground in the writing of nineteenth-century history by engaging equally with the South Asian and Ottoman worlds, and by telling a non-Eurocentric story of global modernity without overlooking the importance of the British Empire.

Al-Rasheed, Kersten, & Shterin, “Demystifying the Caliphate”

Demystifying the CaliphateThis month, Columbia University Press will publish Demystifying the Caliphate by Madawi Al-Rasheed (King’s College, London), Carool Kersten (King’s College, London), Marat Shterin (King’s College, London). The publisher’s description follows.

 In the Western imagination, the Islamic Caliphate is often linked to acts of beheading, stoning, and discrimination against women and non-Muslim minorities. Rallies in support of resurrecting the Caliphate seem deserving of derision and are believed to be the first steps toward the dismantling of the democratic state. Yet while some Muslims may be nostalgic for the Caliphate, very few are actively making its return a reality. The Caliphate serves more as a powerful symbol and slogan, evoking an imagined past and an ideal Islamic polity. It is also a vastly unstable concept contested by a number of powerful actors within Europe, the Muslim world, and beyond.

The essays in this collection demystify the Caliphate for modern readers, clarifying the historical rumors surrounding the demise of the last Ottoman Caliphate and the contemporary controversies informing the call to resurrect it. Contributors include impartial historians and social scientists who concentrate on the fundamental aspects of the Caliphate and unpack its lingering presence in the minds of diverse Muslims. From London to the Northern Caucasus, from Jakarta to Baghdad and Istanbul, contributors explore the Caliphate within the context of global and globalized publics and against the new reality of the Muslim umma as a multifaceted community.

Janina M. Safran, “Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus”

This March, Cornell University Press will publish Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus by Janina M. Safran (Pennsylvania State University). The publisher’s description follows.

Al-Andalus, the Arabic name for the medieval Islamic state in Iberia, endured for over 750 years following the Arab and Berber conquest of Hispania in 711. While the popular perception of al-Andalus is that of a land of religious tolerance and cultural cooperation, the fact is that we know relatively little about how Muslims governed Christians and Jews in al-Andalus and about social relations among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus, Janina M. Safran takes a close look at the structure and practice of Muslim political and legal-religious authority and offers a rare look at intercommunal life in Iberia during the first three centuries of Islamic rule.

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Lapidus, “Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century”

Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History by Ira M. Lapidus (University of California, Berkeley). The publisher’s description follows.

Ira Lapidus’ global history of Islamic societies, first published in 1988, has become a classic in the field. For over two decades, it has enlightened students, scholars, and others with a thirst for knowledge about one of the world’s great civilizations. This book is based on parts one and two of Lapidus’ monumental A History of Islamic Societies, revised and updated, describes the transformations of Islamic societies from their beginning in the seventh century, through their diffusion across the globe, into the challenges of the nineteenth century. The story focuses on the organization of families and tribes, religious groups and states, depicts them in their varied and changing contexts, and shows how they were transformed by their interactions with other religious and political communities into a varied, global and interconnected family of societies. The book concludes with the European commercial and imperial interventions that initiated a new set of transformations in the Islamic world, and the onset of the modern era. Organized in narrative sections for the history of each major region, with innovative, analytic summary introductions and conclusions, this book is a unique endeavor. Its breadth, clarity, style, and thoughtful exposition will ensure its place in the classroom and beyond as a guide for the educated reader.