This 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.
This December, Columbia University Press will publish The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament by Wael B. Hallaq (Columbia University). The publisher’s description follows.
Wael B. Hallaq boldly argues that the “Islamic state,” judged by any standard definition of what the modern state represents, is both an impossible and inherently self-contradictory concept. Comparing the legal, political, moral, and constitutional histories of pre-modern Islam and Euro-America, he finds the adoption and practice of the modern state to be highly problematic for modern Muslims. He then conducts a more expansive critique of modernity’s moral predicament, which renders impossible any project resting solely on ethical foundations.
The modern state not only suffers from serious legal, political, and constitutional issues, Hallaq argues, but it also, by its very nature, fashions a subject inconsistent with what it means to be, or to live as, a Muslim. By Islamic standards, the state’s technologies of the self are severely lacking in moral substance, and the Muslim state, as Hallaq shows, has done little to advance an acceptable form of genuine Shari‘a governance. The Islamists’ constitutional battles in Egypt and Pakistan, the Islamic legal and political failures of the Iranian Revolution, and similar disappointments underscore this fact. Nevertheless, the state remains the favored template of the Islamists and the ulama (Muslim clergymen). Providing Muslims with a path toward realizing the good life, Hallaq turns to the rich moral resources of Islamic history. Along the way, he proves political and other “crises of Islam” are not unique to the Islamic world nor to the Muslim religion. These crises are integral to the modern condition of both East and West, and recognizing such parallels enables Muslims to engage more productively with their Western counterparts.