In July, the I.B. Tauris International Library of Iranian Studies will release “Political Islam in Post-Revolutionary Iran: Shi’i Ideologies in Islamist Discourse,” by Majid Mohammadi (Stony Brook University). The publisher’s description follows:
The relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Western World is fraught with challenges and tensions. In order to generate the capacity for greater engagement and dialogue, there is a need for the West to better understand the complex ideological developments that are central to Iran. Majid Mohammadi charts the central concepts and nuances of the ideological map of post-revolutionary Iran, and examines the rise and development of Shi’i Islamism. He recognizes that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iranian political discourse are the outcome of contesting perspectives and ideologies: identity-oriented, socialist, nationalist, authoritarian, Shari’a, scripturalist, mystical, militarist and fascist. This is a comprehensive, comparative contribution to one of today’s most important topics: that of the relationship between Political Islam and the West.
Earlier this year, the New York University Press released “Disagreements of the Jurists: A Manual of Islamic Legal Theory,” by Al-Qadi al-Nuʿman, edited and translated by Devin Stewart (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:
Al-Qadi al-Nuʿman was the chief legal theorist and ideologue of the North African Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century. This translation makes available in English for the first time his major work on Islamic legal theory, which presents a legal model in support of the Fatimids’ principle of legitimate rule over the Islamic community. Composed as part of a grand project to establish the theoretical bases of the official Fatimid legal school, Disagreements of the Jurists expounds a distinctly Shiʿi system of hermeneutics, which refutes the methods of legal interpretation adopted by Sunni jurists.
The work begins with a discussion of the historical causes of jurisprudential divergence in the first Islamic centuries, and goes on to address, point by point, the specific interpretive methods of Sunni legal theory, arguing that they are both illegitimate and ineffective. While its immediate mission is to pave the foundation of the legal Ismaʿili tradition, the text also preserves several Islamic legal theoretical works no longer extant—including Ibn Dawud’s manual, al-Wusul ila maʿrifat al-usul—and thus throws light on a critical stage in the historical development of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) that would otherwise be lost to history.
In July, Edward Elgar Publishing will release “Islam and the Law of Armed Conflict: Essential Readings” edited by Niaz A. Shah (University of Hull, UK). The publisher’s description follows:
This important collection reveals a multiplicity of perspectives on the Islamic law of war and peace. Prefaced by an original introduction, the carefully selected works demonstrate how the concept of Jihad is interpreted or misinterpreted. They also examine the rules applicable during the conduct of armed conflict and the significance of peace and security within Islamic tradition. The collection provides valuable insights into the compatibility of the Islamic law of war and peace and the law of armed conflict, demonstrating how the former could minimise unnecessary human suffering during armed conflict. This book is an essential source of reference for everyone interested in this vital relationship.
This June, Tughra Books will release “General Principles in the Risale-i Nur Collection for a True Understanding of Islam” by Ali Ünal. The publisher’s description follows:
The Risale-i Nur Collection is full of “general principles,” not only related to the Islamic Jurisprudence but also to all the fields of Islam or Islamic life and Islamic branches of knowledge. Based on or specially favored with profound wisdom having its source in the Divine Wisdom or the Divine Name of the All-Wise, the Risale-i Nur Collection contains numerous principles, precepts, or maxims which are standards or brilliant criteria enabling people to think, believe, and live according to Islam, and to evaluate and judge things and events in Islam’s light. They also provide people with the essentials or basic principles on which the branches of Islamic knowledge and Islamic science are based. Thus, we have tried to collect many of these principles in this book under certain titles, and in certain parts or sections according to the fields of thought and branches of knowledge to which they have a greater relevance.
The University of Zurich is soliciting papers for its Electronic Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (EJIMEL). The Journal is seeking a wide range of unpublished scholarly submissions dealing with Middle Eastern and Islamic law from interdisciplinary perspectives:
The Editors … cordially invite both recognized authorities and younger experts in law, as well as related disciplines, and legal practitioners to take part in this discourse by submitting papers dealing with Middle Eastern and Islamic law from a variety of perspectives, and hence reflect Islam’s variety itself. We further encourage scholars to present interdisciplinary research in which law, both Shari’a and secular, is brought face to face with not strictly legal disciplines such as social and political sciences, religion and economics, in order to further a comprehensive understanding of the simultaneity of persistence and change in the area of Islamic and Middle Eastern law in a wider context.
EJIMEL welcomes a wide range of unpublished scholarly submissions such as articles, commentaries, reports on contemporary developments, book reviews, judgments as well as notes on recent legislation, case law and guidelines on future changes from the targeted law orders.
Further information and guidelines can be found here.
This June, Oxford University Press will release “The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam: The Qur’anic Principle of Wasatiyyah” by Mohammad Hashim Kamali (International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies). The publisher’s description follows:
In The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam, leading Islamic law expert Mohammad Hashim Kamali examines the concept of wasatiyyah, or moderation, arguing that scholars, religious communities, and policy circles alike must have access to this governing principle that drives the silent majority of Muslims, rather than focusing on the extremist fringe. Kamali explores wasatiyyah in both historical/conceptual terms and in contemporary/practical terms. Tracing the definition and scope of the concept from the foundational sources of Islam, the Qu’ran and Hadith, he demonstrates that wasatiyyah has a long and well-developed history in Islamic law and applies the concept to contemporary issues of global policy, such as justice, women’s rights, environmental and financial balance, and globalization.
Framing his work as an open dialogue against a now-decades long formulation of the arguably destructive Huntingtonian “clash of civilizations” thesis as well as the public rhetoric of fear of Muslim extremism since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Kamali connects historical conceptions of wasatiyyah to the themes of state and international law, governance, and cultural maladies in the Muslim world and beyond. Both a descriptive and prescriptive meditation on a key but often neglected principle of Islam, The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam provides insight into an idea that is in the strategic interest of the West both to show and practice for themselves and to recognize in Muslim countries.
In June, the University Press of Florida will release “Polygyny: What It Means When African American Muslim Women Share Their Husbands” by Debra Majeed (Beloit College). The publisher’s description follows:
Debra Majeed sheds light on families whose form and function conflict with U.S. civil law. Polygyny–multiple-wife marriage–has steadily emerged as an alternative to the low numbers of marriageable African American men and the high number of female-led households in black America.
This book features the voices of women who welcome polygyny, oppose it, acquiesce to it, or even negotiate power in its practices. Majeed examines the choices available to African American Muslim women who are considering polygyny or who are living it. She calls attention to the ways in which interpretations of Islam’s primary sources are authorized or legitimated to regulate the rights of Muslim women. Highlighting the legal, emotional, and communal implications of polygyny, Majeed encourages Muslim communities to develop formal measures that ensure the welfare of women and children who are otherwise not recognized by the state.
In May, Lexington Books will release “Islamic Law and Governance in Contemporary Iran: Transcending Islam for Social, Economic, and Political Order” by Tehran Tamadonfar (University of Nevada). The publisher’s description follows:
The current rise of Islamism throughout the Muslim world, Islamists’ demand for the establishment of Islamic states, and their destabilizing impact on regional and global orders have raised important questions about the origins of Islamism and the nature of an Islamic state. Beginning with the Iranian revolution of the late 1970s and the establishment of the Islamic Republic to today’s rise of ISIS to prominence, it has become increasingly apparent that Islamism is a major global force in the twenty-first century that demands acknowledgment and answers.
As a highly-integrated belief system, the Islamic worldview rejects secularism and accounts for a prominent role for religion in the politics and laws of Muslim societies. Islam is primarily a legal framework that covers all aspects of Muslims’ individual and communal lives. In this sense, the Islamic state is a logical instrument for managing Muslim societies. Even moderate Muslims who genuinely, but not necessarily vociferously, challenge the extremists’ strategies are not dismissive of the political role of Islam and the viability of an Islamic state. However, sectarian and scholastic schisms within Islam that date back to the prophet’s demise do undermine any possibility of consensus about the legal, institutional, and policy parameters of the Islamic state.
Within its Shi’a sectarian limitations, this book attempts to offer some answers to questions about the nature of the Islamic state. Nearly four decades of experience with the Islamic Republic of Iran offers us some insights into such a state’s accomplishments, potentials, and challenges. While the Islamic worldview offers a general framework for governance, this framework is in dire need of modification to be applicable to modern societies. As Iranians have learned, in the realm of practical politics, transcending the restrictive precepts of Islam is the most viable strategy for building a functional Islamic state. Indeed, Islam does provide both doctrinal and practical instruments for transcending these restrictions. This pursuit of pragmatism could potentially offer impressive strategies for governance as long as sectarian, scholastic, and autocratic proclivities of authorities do not derail the rights of the public and their demand for an orderly management of their societies.
In May, Cambridge University Press will release “Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’ān: Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses” by Karen Bauer (Institute of Ismaili Studies, London). The publisher’s description follows:
This book explores how medieval and modern Muslim religious scholars (‘ulamā’) interpret gender roles in Qur’ānic verses on legal testimony, marriage, and human creation. Citing these verses, medieval scholars developed increasingly complex laws and interpretations upholding a male-dominated gender hierarchy; aspects of their interpretations influence religious norms and state laws in Muslim-majority countries today, yet other aspects have been discarded entirely. Karen Bauer traces the evolution of their interpretations, showing how they have been adopted, adapted, rejected, or replaced over time, by comparing the Qur’ān with a wide range of Qur’ānic commentaries and interviews with prominent religious scholars from Iran and Syria. At times, tradition is modified in unexpected ways: learned women argue against gender equality, or Grand Ayatollahs reject sayings of the Prophet, citing science instead. This innovative and engaging study highlights the effects of social and intellectual contexts on the formation of tradition, and on modern responses to it.
This month, Routledge Publishing will release “Moral Rationalism and Shari’a: Independent rationality in modern Shi’i usul al-Fiqh” by Ali-Reza Bhojani (Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham). The publisher’s description follows:
Moral Rationalism and Shari’a is the first attempt at outlining the scope for a theological reading of Shari’a, based on a critical examination of why ‘Adliyya theological ethics have not significantly impacted Shi’i readings of Shari’a.
Within Shi’i works of Shari ‘a legal theory (usul al-fiqh) there is a theoretical space for reason as an independent source of normativity alongside the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition. The position holds that humans are capable of understanding moral values independently of revelation. Describing themselves as ‘Adliyya (literally the people of Justice), this allows the Shi ‘a, who describe themselves as ‘Adiliyya (literally, the People of Justice), to attribute a substantive rational conception of justice to God, both in terms of His actions and His regulative instructions. Despite the Shi’i adoption of this moral rationalism, independent judgments of rational morality play little or no role in the actual inference of Shari ‘a norms within mainstream contemporary Shi’i thought.
Through a close examination of the notion of independent rationality as a source in modern Shi’i usul al-fiqh, the obstacles preventing this moral rationalism from impacting the understanding of Shari ‘a are shown to be purely epistemic. In line with the ‘emic’ (insider) approach adopted, these epistemic obstacles are revisited identifying the scope for allowing a reading of Shari’a that is consistent with the fundamental moral rationalism of Shi’i thought. It is argued that judgments of rational morality, even when not definitively certain, cannot be ignored in the face of the apparent meaning of texts that are themselves also not certain. An‘Adliyya reading of Shari’a demands that the strength of independent rational evidence be reconciled against the strength of any other apparently conflicting evidence, such that independent judgments of rational morality act as a condition for the validity of precepts attributed to a just and moral God.