Tag Archives: History of Religion

Where the Queen Prays in Scotland

crathie2

Crathie Kirk

As everyone knows, Scotland votes tomorrow on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom. In Scotland last Sunday, Queen Elizabeth made a statement most have interpreted as a commentary on the situation. Scots should think very carefully about the future, she said.

I’m sure the Queen meant that Scots should vote “No.” How could she have meant otherwise? What interests me, though, is that she made the statement after services at Crathie Kirk, a parish of the Church of Scotland. In fact, she regularly worships at Crathie Kirk when she’s in Scotland, at her Balmoral estate.

Now, Queen Elizabeth is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican communion. The Church of Scotland is not Anglican, but Presbyterian. Relations between the two churches are cordial (though they have not always been so), but the Queen is not a Presbyterian. She’s an Anglican. So why does she regularly worship in the Scottish Kirk? Are there no Church of England parishes near Balmoral? Couldn’t she fly in a vicar from London?

As far as I can tell, this arrangement is one of those historical accommodations that have ripened into custom. The Treaty of Union of 1707 — the treaty Scots may overturn tomorrow — requires the British Monarch to preserve the Church of Scotland. The Monarch takes an oath to that effect upon accession to the throne. Sometimes the Monarch attends meetings of the Church’s General Assembly. Usually she sends a representative.

It’s thus quite natural for British Monarchs to feel that, whatever their official role in the Church of England, they have a place in the Church of Scotland as well. In the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria caused a scandal when she received communion in the Church of Scotland, but she maintained that as the country’s — that is, Scotland’s — Queen, she had every right to do so. Since then, every reigning Monarch has worshiped at Crathie Kirk.

So, there it is. In England, the Monarch is an Anglican; in Scotland, she prays with the Presbyterians. How very British. I mean that in a good way, and I use the term advisedly. After tomorrow, it may mean something else.

David, “Jurisprudence and Theology in Late Ancient and Medieval Jewish Thought”

This month, Springer releases “Jurisprudence and Theology in Late Ancient and Medieval Jewish Thought” by Joseph E. David (University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:

The book provides in depth studies of two epistemological aspects of Jewish  Law (Halakhah) as the ‘Word of God’ – the question of legal reasoning and the problem of knowing and remembering.

-   How different are the epistemological concerns of religious-law in comparison to other legal systems?
–   In what ways are jurisprudential attitudes prescribed and dependent on theological presumptions?
–  What specifies legal reasoning and legal knowledge in a religious framework?

The author outlines the rabbinic jurisprudential thought rooted in Talmudic literature which underwent systemization and enhancement by the Babylonian Geonim and the Andalusian Rabbis up until the twelfth century. The book develops a synoptic view on the growth of rabbinic legal thought against the background of Christian theological motifs on the one hand, and Karaite and Islamic systemized jurisprudence on the other hand. It advances a perspective of legal-theology that combines analysis of jurisprudential reflections and theological views within a broad historical and intellectual framework.

The book advocates two approaches to the study of the legal history of the Halakhah: comparative jurisprudence and legal-theology, based on the understanding that jurisprudence and theology are indispensable and inseparable pillars of legal praxis.

Chak, “Islam and Pakistan’s Political Culture”

This September, Routledge Press will release “Islam and Pakistan’s Political Culture” by Farhan Mujahid Chak (Qatar University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islam and Pakistan's Political CultureThis book explores the ideological rivalry which is fuelling political instability in Muslim polities, discussing this in relation to Pakistan. It argues that the principal dilemma for Muslim polities is how to reconcile modernity and tradition. It discusses existing scholarship on the subject, outlines how Muslim political thought and political culture have developed over time, and then relates all this to Pakistan’s political evolution, present political culture, and growing instability. The book concludes that traditionalist and secularist approaches to reconciling modernity and tradition have not succeeded, and have in fact led to instability, and that a revivalist approach is more likely to be successful.

“The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law” (Peters & Bearman, eds.)

In July, Ashgate Publishing released “The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law” edited by Rudolph Peters (University of Amsterdam) and Peri Bearman (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:

This unparalleled Companion provides a comprehensive and authoritative guide to Islamic law to all with an interest in this increasingly relevant and developing field. The volume presents classical Islamic law through a historiographical introduction to and analysis of Western scholarship, while key debates about hot-button issues in modern-day circumstances are also addressed. In twenty-one chapters, distinguished authors offer an overview of their particular specialty, reflect on past and current thinking, and point to directions for future research.

The Companion is divided into four parts. The first offers an introduction to the history of Islamic law as well as a discussion of how Western scholarship and historiography have evolved over time. The second part delves into the substance of Islamic law. Legal rules for the areas of legal status, family law, socio-economic justice, penal law, constitutional authority, and the law of war are all discussed in this section. Part three examines the adaptation of Islamic law in light of colonialism and the modern nation state as well as the subsequent re-Islamization of national legal systems. The final section presents contemporary debates on the role of Islamic law in areas such as finance, the diaspora, modern governance, and medical ethics, and the volume concludes by questioning the role of Sharia law as a legal authority in the modern context.

By outlining the history of Islamic law through a linear study of research, this collection is unique in its examination of past and present scholarship and the lessons we can draw from this for the future. It introduces scholars and students to the challenges posed in the past, to the magnitude of milestones that were achieved in the reinterpretation and revision of established ideas, and ultimately to a thorough conceptual understanding of Islamic law.

Kefeli, “Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia”

This November, Cornell University Press will release “Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia: Conversion, Apostasy, and Literacy” by Agnes Nilufer Kefeli (Arizona State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Becoming Muslim in Imperial RussiaIn the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire’s Middle Volga region (today’s Tatarstan) was the site of a prolonged struggle between Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, each of which sought to solidify its influence among the frontier’s mix of Turkic, Finno-Ugric, and Slavic peoples. The immediate catalyst of the events that Agnes Nilufer Kefeli chronicles in Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia was the collective turn to Islam by many of the region’s Krashens, the Muslim and animist Tatars who converted to Russian Orthodoxy between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

The traditional view holds that the apostates had really been Muslim all along or that their conversions had been forced by the state or undertaken voluntarily as a matter of convenience. In Kefeli’s view, this argument vastly oversimplifies the complexity of a region where many participated in the religious cultures of both Islam and Orthodox Christianity and where a vibrant Krashen community has survived to the present. By analyzing Russian, Eurasian, and Central Asian ethnographic, administrative, literary, and missionary sources, Kefeli shows how traditional education, with Sufi mystical components, helped to Islamize Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples in the Kama-Volga countryside and set the stage for the development of modernist Islam in Russia.

Of particular interest is Kefeli’s emphasis on the role that Tatar women (both Krashen and Muslim) played as holders and transmitters of Sufi knowledge. Today, she notes, intellectuals and mullahs in Tatarstan seek to revive both Sufi and modernist traditions to counteract new expressions of Islam and promote a purely Tatar Islam aware of its specificity in a post-Christian and secular environment.

Kim & Kim, “A History of Korean Christianity”

In November, SUNY University Press will release “A History of Korean Christianity” by Sebastian C. H. Kim (York St. John University) and Kirsteen Kim (Leeds Trinity University). The publisher’s description follows:

With a third of South Koreans now identifying themselves as Christian, Christian churches play an increasingly prominent role in the social and political events of the Korean peninsula. Sebastian Kim and Kirsteen Kim’s comprehensive and timely history of different Christian denominations in Korea includes surveys of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions as well as new church movements. They examine the Korean Christian diaspora and missionary movements from South Korea and also give cutting-edge insights into North Korea. This book, the first recent one-volume history and analysis of Korean Christianity in English, highlights the challenges faced by the Christian churches in view of Korea’s distinctive and multireligious cultural heritage, South Korea’s rapid rise in global economic power and the precarious state of North Korea, which threatens global peace. This History will be an important resource for all students of world Christianity, Korean studies and mission studies.

“Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West” (Tottoli ed.)

Last month, Routledge Press released “Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West” edited by Roberto Tottoli (Università di Napoli L’Orientale).  The publisher’s description follows:

Routledge HandbookIslam has long been a part of the West in terms of religion, culture, politics and society. Discussing this interaction from al-Andalus to the present, this Handbook explores the influence Islam has had, and continues to exert; particularly its impact on host societies, culture and politics.

Highlighting specific themes and topics in history and culture, chapters cover:

  • European paradigms
  • Muslims in the Americas
  • Cultural interactions
  • Islamic cultural contributions to the Western world
  • Western contributions to Islam

Providing a sound historical background, from which a nuanced overview of Islam and Western society can be built, the Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West brings to the fore specific themes and topics that have generated both reciprocal influence, and conflict.

Presenting readers with a range of perspectives from scholars based in Europe, the US, and the Middle East, this Handbook challenges perceptions on both western and Muslim sides and will be an invaluable resource for policymakers and academics with an interest in the History of Islam, Religion and the contemporary relationship between Islam and the West.

Lorberbaum, “In God’s Image: Myth, Theology, and Law in Classical Judaism”

In November, Cambridge University Press will release “In God’s Image: Myth, Theology, and Law in Classical Judaism” by Yair Lorberbaum (Bar-Ilan University, Israel). The publisher’s description follows:

The idea of creation in the divine image has a long and complex history. While its roots apparently lie in the royal myths of Mesopotamia and Egypt, this book argues that it was the biblical account of creation presented in the first chapters of Genesis and its interpretation in early rabbinic literature that created the basis for the perennial inquiry of the concept in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yair Lorberbaum reconstructs the idea of the creation of man in the image of God (tselem Elohim) attributed in the Midrash and the Talmud. He analyzes meanings attributed to tselem Elohim in early rabbinic thought, as expressed in Aggadah, and explores its application in the normative, legal, and ritual realms.

Smith, “Weird John Brown”

This November, Stanford University Press will release “Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics” by Ted A. Smith (Emory University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Weird John BrownConventional wisdom holds that attempts to combine religion and politics will produce unlimited violence. Concepts such as jihad, crusade, and sacrifice need to be rooted out, the story goes, for the sake of more bounded and secular understandings of violence. Ted Smith upends this dominant view, drawing on Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, and others to trace the ways that seemingly secular politics produce their own forms of violence without limit. He brings this argument to life—and digs deep into the American political imagination—through a string of surprising reflections on John Brown, the nineteenth-century abolitionist who took up arms against the state in the name of a higher law. Smith argues that the key to limiting violence is not its separation from religion, but its connection to richer and more critical modes of religious reflection. Weird John Brown develops a negative political theology that challenges both the ways we remember American history and the ways we think about the nature, meaning, and exercise of violence.

Rabb, “Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation, and Islamic Criminal Law”

In November, Cambridge University Press will release “Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation, and Islamic Criminal Law” by Intisar A. Rabb (Harvard Law School). The publisher’s description follows:

This book considers an important and largely neglected area of Islamic law by exploring how medieval Muslim jurists resolved criminal cases that could not be proven beyond a doubt. Intisar A. Rabb calls into question a controversial popular notion about Islamic law today, which is that Islamic law is a divine legal tradition that has little room for discretion or doubt, particularly in Islamic criminal law. Despite its contemporary popularity, that notion turns out to have been far outside the mainstream of Islamic law for most of its history. Instead of rejecting doubt, medieval Muslim scholars largely embraced it. In fact, they used doubt to enlarge their own power and to construct Islamic criminal law itself. Through a close examination of legal, historical, and theological sources, and a range of illustrative case studies, this book shows that Muslim jurists developed a highly sophisticated and regulated system for dealing with Islam’s unique concept of doubt, which evolved from the seventh to the sixteenth century.