This month, Edinburgh University Press will publish Twelver Shi’ism: Unity and Diversity in the Life of Islam, 632 to 1722 by Andrew Newman (University of Edinburgh). The publisher’s description follows.
As many as 40 different Shi`i groups existed in the ninth and tenth centuries yet only 3 forms have survived. Why is Twelver Shi`ism one of them?
As the established faith in modern Iran, the majority faith in Iraq and areas in the Gulf and with its adherents forming sizeable minorities elsewhere in the region, it is arguably the most successful branch of Shi’ism. This book charts its history and the development of the key distinctive doctrines and practices which ensured its survival in the face of repeated challenges. It argues that the key to the faith’s endurance has been its ability to institutionalise responses to the changing, often localised circumstances in which the community has found itself, thereby remaining remarkably resilient in the face of both internal disagreements and external opposition.
Next month, Westview Press will publish a new edition of An Introduction to the Modern Middle East: History, Religion, Political Economy, Politics by David Sorenson (US Air War College). The publisher’s description follows.
Combining elements of comparative politics with a country-by-country analysis, author David S. Sorenson provides a complete and accessible introduction to the modern Middle East. With an emphasis on the politics of the region, the text also dedicates chapters specifically to the history, religions, and economies of countries in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. In each country chapter, a brief political history is followed by discussions of democratization, religious politics, women’s issues, civil society, economic development, privatization, and foreign relations.
In this updated and revised second edition, An Introduction to the Modern Middle East includes new material on the Arab Spring, the changes in Turkish politics, the Iranian nuclear issues, and the latest efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. Introductory chapters provide an important thematic overview for each of the book’s individual country chapters and short vignettes throughout the book offer readers a chance for personal reflection.
This November, University of Utah Press will publish Religious Knowledge, Authority, and Charisma: Islamic and Jewish Perspectives, edited by Daphna Ephrat (Open University of Israel) and Meir Hatin (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows.
The issue of religious authority has long fascinated and ignited scholars across a range of disciplines: history, anthropology, the sociology of religion, and political science. Religious Knowledge, Authority, and Charisma juxtaposes religious leadership in premodern and modern Islam with examples from the Judaic tradition. By illustrating various iterations of authority in numerous historical and cultural contexts, this volume offers fresh insights into the nature of institutions of learning and other systems of establishing and disseminating authority, the mechanisms for cultivating committed adherents, and the processes by which religious leadership is polarized and fragmented.
Contributors tease out the sources and types of authority that emerged out of the Sunni and Shiʾi milieu and the evolution of Muslim elites who served as formulators and disseminators of knowledge and practice. Comparative insights are provided by the examination of ideological and historical developments among Jewish sages who inculcated similar modes of authority from within their traditions. The rigorous exploration of the dynamic interface of knowledge and power in Islam and Judaism serves to highlight a number of present tensions common to both religions. By intertwining a historical span that traces trajectories of continuity and change, integrative discussion of cross-sectional themes, and comparative perspectives, this volume makes a distinct contribution.
Next month, Routledge will publish Adjudicating Family Law in Muslim Courts by Elisa Giunchi (University of Milan). The publisher’s description follows.
While there are many books on Islamic family law, the literature on its enforcement is scarce. This book focuses on how Islamic family law is interpreted and applied by judges in a range of Muslim countries – Sunni and Shi’a, as well as Arab and non-Arab. It thereby aids the understanding of shari’a law in practice in a number of different cultural and political settings. It shows how the existence of differing views of what shari’a is, as well as the presence of a vast body of legal material which judges can refer to, make it possible for courts to interpret Islamic law in creative and innovative ways.
Paul Horwitz (University of Alabama School of Law) has posted Rethinking the Law, Not Abandoning it: A Comment on ‘Overlapping Jurisdictions’. The abstract follows.
This short paper responds to a symposium article published by John Witte and Joel Nichols entitled “Who Governs the Family?: Marriage as a New Test Case of Overlapping Jurisdictions,” 4 Faulkner L. Rev. 321 (2013). Much of the response was motivated by a statement in an earlier draft of that paper suggesting that advocates of the use of shari’a in marriage cases “have given up on the state” and “want to become a law unto themselves.” I question that statement, and also take the occasion to discuss the legal status of anti-shari’a laws themselves.
My paper makes two basic points. First, although I am generally skeptical that equality is a sufficiently clean and clear principle to serve as the lodestar for all Religion Clause cases, I do believe there are cases where equality does a good deal of useful work. One such area is the legislative and judicial dispute over laws banning the judicial use of shari’a in interpreting marriage contracts. The Tenth Circuit’s decision in Awad v. Ziriax, in which it concluded that such a law violated the antidiscrimination principle offered in Larson v. Valente, shows that equality can be a powerful tool in such cases. It also sheds light on two points that have not been made much in law and religion scholarship: that Larson’s antidiscrimination principle can serve valuable information-forcing purposes, and that this principle can be profitably understood as a matter of political economy.
Second, I argue that although there are some grounds for Witte’s description of shari’a advocates as having given up on the state, that is a disturbing way to think of the issue, and not a necessary one. We need not think of religious arbitration panels and other mechanisms of religious law as an utter abandonment of “law” or “the state.” Rather, we can understand them as a challenge to what we mean by those terms. Religious arbitration of choice-of-law arrangements, and religious institutional autonomy arguments more generally, invite us to adopt a different view of what constitutes “the law” and, perhaps, a more skeptical view of the scope and dominance of “the state.”
Next month, Princeton University Press will publish Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Geography and Morality in Shi’ite South Beirut by Lara Deeb (Scripps College) and Mona Harb (American University of Beirut). The publisher’s description follows.
South Beirut has recently become a vibrant leisure destination with a plethora of cafés and restaurants that cater to the young, fashionable, and pious. What effects have these establishments had on the moral norms, spatial practices, and urban experiences of this Lebanese community? From the diverse voices of young Shi’i Muslims searching for places to hang out, to the Hezbollah officials who want this media-savvy generation to be more politically involved, to the religious leaders worried that Lebanese youth are losing their moral compasses, Leisurely Islam provides a sophisticated and original look at leisure in the Lebanese capital.
What makes a café morally appropriate? How do people negotiate morality in relation to different places? And under what circumstances might a pious Muslim go to a café that serves alcohol? Lara Deeb and Mona Harb highlight tensions and complexities exacerbated by the presence of multiple religious authorities, a fraught sectarian political context, class mobility, and a generation that takes religion for granted but wants to have fun. The authors elucidate the political, economic, religious, and social changes that have taken place since 2000, and examine leisure’s influence on Lebanese sociopolitical and urban situations.
Asserting that morality and geography cannot be fully understood in isolation from one another, Leisurely Islamoffers a colorful new understanding of the most powerful community in Lebanon today.
Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish The Shari’a and Islamic Criminal Justice in Time of War and Peace by M. Cherif Bassiouni (DePaul University School of Law). The publisher’s description follows.
This innovative and important book applies classical Sunni Muslim legal and religious doctrine to contemporary issues surrounding armed conflict. In doing so it shows that the shari’a and Islamic law are not only compatible with contemporary international human rights law and international humanitarian law norms, but are appropriate for use in Muslim societies. By grounding contemporary post-conflict processes and procedures in classical Muslim legal and religious doctrine, it becomes more accessible to Muslim societies who are looking for appropriate legal mechanisms to deal with the aftermath of armed conflict. This book uniquely presents a critique of the violent practices of contemporary Muslims and Muslim clerics who support these practices. It rebuts Islamophobes in the West that discredit Islam on the basis of the abhorrent practices of some Muslims, and hopes to reduce tensions between Western and Islamic civilizations by enhancing common understanding of the issues.
This June, Columbia University Press published German Jihad: On the Internationalization of Islamist Terrorism by Guido W. Steinberg (German Institute for International Security Affairs). The publisher’s description follows.
Since 2007, the German jihadist scene has become Europe’s most dynamic, characterized by an extreme anti-Americanism, impressive international networks, and spectacularly effective propaganda. German jihadists travel to Turkey, Chechnya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, trading jihadist ideologies and allying themselves with virulent organizations. Mapping the complicated interplay between jihadists’ personal motivations and the goals and strategies of the world’s major terrorist groups, Guido W. Steinberg provides the first analysis of German jihadism, its links to Turkey, and its growing, global operational importance.
Steinberg follows the formation of German-born militant networks in German cities and their radicalization and recruitment. He describes how these groups join al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as the Islamic Jihad Union, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Taliban, and he plots the path that directly involves them in terrorist activities. Situating these developments within a wider global context, Steinberg interprets the expanding German scene as part of a greater internationalization of jihadist ideology and strategy, swelling the movement’s membership since 9/11. Increasing numbers of Pakistanis, Afghans, Turks, Kurds, and European converts are coming to the aid of Arab al-Qaeda, an incremental integration that has worrisome implications for the national security of Germany, the United States, and their allies.
This month, Routledge publishes Legal Pluralism and Shari’a Law, edited by Adam Possamai (U. of Western Sydney, Australia), James T. Richardson (U. of Nevada, Reno), and Bryan S. Turner (Graduate Center of CUNY & U. of Western Sydney, Australia). The publisher’s description follows.
Legal pluralism has often been associated with post-colonial legal developments especially where common law survived alongside tribal and customary laws. Focusing on Shari‘a, this book examines the legal policies and experiences of various societies with different traditions of citizenship, secularism and common law. Where large diasporic communities of migrants develop, there will be some demand for the institutionalization of Shari‘a at least in the resolution of domestic disputes. This book tests the limits of multiculturalism by exploring the issue that any recognition of cultural differences might imply similar recognition of legal differences. It also explores the debate about post-secular societies specifically to the presentation and justification of beliefs and institutions by both religious and secular citizens.
A few years ago, while working on an essay on Christian and Islamic jurisprudence, I read a translation of University of Paris philosopher Rémi Brague’s helpful book, The Law of God, a history of the concept of divine law in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Brague is good at showing the essentially different understandings of law in these three great religious traditions. Last month, St. Augustine’s Press published a translation of an interesting-looking new book by Brague, On the God of the Christians (And On One or Two Others), which looks to cover some of the same material. The publisher’s description follows:
On the God of the Christians tries to explain how Christians conceive of the God whom they worship. No proof for His existence is offered, but simply a description of the Christian image of God.
The first step consists in doing away with some commonly held opinions that put them together with the other “monotheists,” “religions of the book,” and “religions of Abraham.”
Christians do believe in one God, but they do not conceive of its being one in the same way as other “monotheists,” like the first of them, the pharaoh Akhenaton (18th century before J.C.), like some philosophers, e.g., Aristotle, or like Islam.