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.
This April, Springer Press will release “The Transnational and the Local in the Politics of Islam: The Case of West Sumatra, Indonesia” by Delmus Puneri Salim (University of Sydney). The publisher’s description follows:
This book explores the relationship between transnational and local Islam as expressed in public discourse and policy-making, as represented in the local press. It does so against the background of local governments in majority Muslim regions across Indonesia promoting and passing regulations that mandate forms of social or economic behaviour seen to be compatible with Islam. The book situates the political construction of Islamic behaviour in West Sumatra, and in Indonesia more generally, within an historical context in which rulers have in some way engaged with aspects of Islamic practice since the Islamic kingdom era. The book shows that while formal local Islamic regulations of this kind constitute a new development, their introduction has been a product of the same kinds of interactions between international, national and local elements that have characterised the relationship between Islam and politics through the course of Indonesian history. The book challenges the scholarly tendency to over-emphasise local political concerns when explaining this phenomenon, arguing that it is necessary to forefront the complex relationship between local politics and developments in the wider Islamic world. To illustrate the relationship between transnational and local Islam, the book uses detailed case studies of four domains of regulation: Islamic finance, zakat, education, and behaviour and dress, in a number of local government areas within the province.
In April, the University of North Carolina Press will release “What Is a Madrasa?” by Ebrahim Moosa (University of Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows:
Taking us inside the world of the madrasa–the most common type of school for religious instruction in the Islamic world–Ebrahim Moosa provides an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to understand orthodox Islam in global affairs. Focusing on postsecondary-level religious institutions in the Indo-Pakistan heartlands, Moosa explains how a madrasa can simultaneously be a place of learning revered by many and an institution feared by many others, especially in a post-9/11 world.
Drawing on his own years as a madrasa student in India, Moosa describes in fascinating detail the daily routine for teachers and students today. He shows how classical theological, legal, and Qur’anic texts are taught, and he illuminates the history of ideas and politics behind the madrasa system. Addressing the contemporary political scene in a clear-eyed manner, Moosa introduces us to madrasa leaders who hold diverse and conflicting perspectives on the place of religion in society. Some admit that they face intractable problems and challenges, including militancy; others, Moosa says, hide their heads in the sand and fail to address the crucial issues of the day. Offering practical suggestions to both madrasa leaders and U.S. policymakers for reform and understanding, Moosa demonstrates how madrasas today still embody the highest aspirations and deeply felt needs of traditional Muslims.
This April, Gerlach Press will release “The Caliphate and Islamic Statehood: Formation, Fragmentation and Modern Interpretations” edited by Carool Kersten (King’s College, University of London). The publisher’s description follows:
Although the Islamic Caliphate was formally abolished ninety years ago, it had already ceased to exist as a unitary and effectively administered political institution many centuries earlier. The ever widening gap between political ideal and historical reality is also reflected in the varying conceptualizations and theories of the Caliphate developed by Islamic religious scholars and Muslim intellectuals past and present. However, recent events in the Islamic world show that the idea of a Caliphate still appeals to Muslims of varying persuasions. This three-volume reference work tracks the history of the Caliphate as what many Muslims believe to be a genuine and authentic Islamic political institution: From its emergence in seventh-century Arabia until highly contested and controversial attempts of its revival at the beginning of the twenty-first century by radical Islamists in Afghanistan and Iraq. No matter how grandiose such interpretations of a seemingly archaic institution may be, they show the Caliphate’s longevity as a rallying point – real or symbolic – for Muslims across the world.
This April, Hurst Publishers will release “The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam” by Simon Cottee (Kent University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Apostates is the first major study of apostasy from Islam in the western secular context. Drawing on life-history interviews with ex-Muslims from the UK and Canada, Simon Cottee explores how and with what consequences Muslims leave Islam and become irreligious.
Apostasy in Islam is a deeply controversial issue and features prominently in current debates over the expansion of Islam in the West and what this means. Yet it remains poorly understood, in large part because it has become so politicised — with protagonists on either side of the debate selectively invoking Islamic theology to make claims about the ‘true’ face of Islam. The Apostates charts a different course by examining the social situation and experiences of ex- Muslims. Cottee suggests that Islamic apostasy in the West is best understood not as a legal or political problem, but as a moral issue within Muslim families and communities. Outside of Muslim-majority societies, ex-Muslims are not living in fear for their lives. But they face and must manage the stigma attached to leaving the faith from among their own families and the wider Muslim community.
In April, Syracuse University Press will release “Pragmatism in Islamic Law: A Social and Intellectual History” by Ahmed Fakry Ibrahim (McGill University). The publisher’s description follows:
In Pragmatism in Islamic Law, Ibrahim presents a detailed history of Sunni legal pluralism and the ways in which it was employed to accommodate the changing needs of society. Since the formative period of Islamic law, jurists have debated whether it is acceptable for a law to be selected based on its utility, rather than weighing conflicting articulations of the law to determine the most likely expression of the divine will. Virtually unanimous opposition to the utilitarian approach, referred to as “pragmatic eclecticism,” emerged among early Islamic jurists. However, due to a host of changing institutional and socioeconomic transformations, a trend toward the legitimization of pragmatic eclecticism arose in the thirteenth century. Subsequently, the Mamluk authorities institutionalized this pragmatism when Sultan Baybars appointed four chief judges representing the four Sunni schools in Cairo in 1265 CE. After a brief attempt to reverse Mamluk pluralism by imposing the Hanafi school in the sixteenth century, Egypt’s new rulers, the Ottomans, embraced this pluralistic pragmatism.
In examining over a thousand cases from three seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury Egyptian courts, Ibrahim traces the internal logic of pragmatic eclecticism under the Ottomans. An array of archival sources documents the manner in which Egyptian society’s subaltern classes navigated Sunni legal pluralism as a tool to avoid more austere legal doctrines. The ensuing portrait challenges the assumption made by many modern historians that the utilitarian approaches adopted by nineteenth- and twentieth-century Muslim reformers constituted a clear rupture with early Islamic legal history. In contrast, many of the legal strategies exercised in Egypt’s partial codification of family law in the twentieth century were rooted in premodern Islamic jurisprudence.
Last month, I.B.Tauris released “Family Law in Contemporary Iran: Women’s Rights Activism and Shari’a” by Marianne Boe (University of Bergen). The publisher’s description follows:
Passed into law over a decade before the Revolution, the Family Protection Law quickly drew the ire of the conservative clergy and the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. In fact, it was one of the first laws to be rescinded following the revolution. The law was hardly a surprising target, however, since women’s status in Iran was then – and continues now to be – a central concern of Iranian political leaders, media commentators, and international observers alike. Taking up the issue of women’s status in a modern context, Marianne Boe offers a nuanced view of how women’s rights activists assert their rights within an Islamic context by weaving together religious and historical texts and narratives. Through her substantial fieldwork and novel analysis, Boe undermines both the traditional view of ‘Islamic Feminism’ as monolithic and clears a path to a new understanding of the role of women’s rights activists in shaping and synthesizing debates on the shari’a, women’s rights and family law. As such, this book is essential for anyone studying family law and the role of women in contemporary Iran.
Posted in Scholarship Roundup, Stephanie Cipolla
Tagged Books, Family Law, Islam, Islamic Law, Religion and Culture, Religion and Family, Religion and Society, Religion in the Middle East, Religious Law, Shari'a Law, Women and Islam, Women's Rights
This March, Routledge Press will release “Women and Sharia Law in Northern Indonesia: Local Women’s NGOs and the Reform of Islamic Law in Aceh” by Dina Afrianty (Australian Catholic University). The publisher’s description follows:
This book examines the life of women in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where Islamic law was introduced in 1999. It outlines how women have had to face the formalisation of conservative understandings of sharia law in regulations and new state institutions over the last decade or so, how they have responded to this, forming non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have shaped local discourse on women’s rights, equality and status in Islam, and how these NGOs have strategised, demanded reform, and enabled Acehnese women to take active roles in influencing the processes of democratisation and Islamisation that are shaping the province. The book shows that although the formal introduction of Islamic law in Aceh has placed restrictions on women’s freedom, paradoxically it has not prevented them from engaging in public life. It argues that the democratisation of Indonesia, which allowed Islamisation to occur, continues to act as an important factor shaping Islamisation’s current trajectory; that the introduction of Islamic law has motivated women’s NGOs and other elements of civil society to become more involved in wider discussions about the future of sharia in Aceh; and that Indonesia’s recent decentralisation policy and growing local Islamism have enabled the emergence of different religious and local adat practices, which do not necessarily correspond to overall national trends.
This March, Princeton University Press will release “Islamic Political Thought: An Introduction” edited by Gerhard Bowering (Yale University). The publisher’s description follows:
In sixteen concise chapters on key topics, this book provides a rich, authoritative, and up-to-date introduction to Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today, presenting essential background and context for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. Selected from the acclaimed Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, and focusing on the origins, development, and contemporary importance of Islamic political ideas and related subjects, each chapter offers a sophisticated yet accessible introduction to its topic. Written by leading specialists and incorporating the latest scholarship, the alphabetically arranged chapters cover the topics of authority, the caliphate, fundamentalism, government, jihad, knowledge, minorities, modernity, Muhammad, pluralism and tolerance, the Qur’an, revival and reform, shariʿa (sacred law), traditional political thought, ‘ulama’ (religious scholars), and women. Read separately or together, these chapters provide an indispensable resource for students, journalists, policymakers, and anyone else seeking an informed perspective on the complex intersection of Islam and politics.