This June, Oxford University Press will publish Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam edited by Asef Bayat (Leiden University). The publisher’s description follows.
At least since the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran, political Islam or Islamism has been the focus of attention among scholars, policymakers, and the general public. Much has been said about Islamism as a political and moral/ethical trend, but scant attention is paid to its ongoing development. There is now a growing acknowledgment within the scholarly and policy communities that Islamism is in the throes of transformation, but little is known about the nature and direction of these changes. The essays of Post-Islamism bring together young and established scholars and activists from different parts of the Muslim World and the West to discuss their research on the changing discourses and practices of Islamist movements and Islamic states largely in the Muslim majority countries. The changes in these movements can be termed ‘post-Islamism,’ defined both as a condition and a project characterized by the fusion of religiosity and rights, faith and freedom, Islam and liberty. Post-Islamism emphasizes rights rather than merely obligation, plurality instead of singular authoritative voice, historicity rather than fixed scriptures, and the future instead of the past.
Next month, Catholic University Press will publish The Church and the Usurers: Unprofitable Lending for the Modern Economy, by University of Oklahoma Law Professor Brian McCall. The publisher’s description follows:
Professor McCall explains in a scholarly yet accessible manner the core principles of the usury doctrine. Tracing its history from Biblical texts, through Aristotelian philosophy and Roman law, to the great scholastic synthesis Professor McCall separates the unchanging principles from the changes in there applications to the new economic realities.
On Tuesday, April 16, Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work will host the Martin J. Hertz Lecture in Jewish Law and Culture: “How Concepts of Jewish Peoplehood Inform Legal Rulings.” The lecture will be delivered by Rabbi David Ellenson of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion:
Disputes surrounding the nature of conversion to Judaism are at the center of some of the most contentious legal debates taking place in modern Jewish jurisprudence. In this lecture, diverse rulings issued by Orthodox rabbis on matters related to conversion will be presented and analyzed. In so doing, it will be shown that these decisions do not simply present Jewish legal judgment in an instant case, Rather, these holdings are policy stances that rabbis are advancing in order to define membership in the Jewish people in an era where intermarriage is common and where the borders of the Jewish community are often porous and indeterminate. It will argued that way in which each individual rabbinic decisor views the notion of Jewish peoplehood serves as an independent and often decisive variable in informing the decisions that rabbis issue in these cases.
Details are here.
I spent this morning at the fourth annual Religious Legal Theory Conference, hosted this year by Sam Levine at Touro Law School. I moderated a panel, “Religious Legal Theory and the Perspectives of ‘Others.’” The idea for the panel, which was Sam’s, was to bring together scholars who write about law in religious traditions other than their own, something that I tried to do a few years ago at the first Religious Legal Theory Conference with my essay, Fiqh and Canons.
The presentations were interesting and covered a variety of perspectives. Randy Lee (Widener) spoke about his experience as a Christian studying Jewish law. He said that this experience had taught him the importance of “listening Jewish”–to find the best in others. He wondered whether “Godly lawyers” who listened to clients in this way might actually transform lives. In response to a question from me, Randy stated that he did not think that all lawyers who study religious law would have his experience, or should; but, in studying Jewish law, he realized that he himself was a “variable,” not a “constant,” and that he himself had been transformed.
David Friedman (Santa Clara) is an atheist who studies the history of religious legal systems. He argued that Jewish and Islamic law both rest in part on pre-existing, decentralized ”feud systems,” characterized by private retaliation for wrongs. He gave examples from both systems. Friedman also addressed the problems that arise in legal systems that have God, rather than humans, as “the legislator,” and the various interpretive devices such systems employ to mitigate what seem to be disproportionate penalties called for in sacred scripture- Islamic law rules calling for amputation as punishment for theft, for example.
Philip Ackerman-Lieberman (Vanderbilt), who is Jewish, spoke about his work on the interactions between Islamic and Jewish commercial law in medieval Cairo. He argued that scholars should not concern themselves only with a comparison of legal details, but should study social and legal structures as a whole. Structural analysis reveals that the Islamic legal culture and Jewish legal subculture influenced each other in a kind of “dialogue.” The two systems shared ideas, but also differentiated themselves from one another–and in this differentiation may be found the distinctive elements of each legal tradition. Philip suggested that the study of legal theory and commercial practice in medieval Cairo could have an impact on contemporary issues faced by Islam and Judaism.
In January, the University of Pennsylvania Press published The Roman Inquisition: A Papal Bureaucracy and Its Laws in the Age of Galileo, by Augustana College history professor Thomas F. Mayer. The publisher’s description follows:
While the Spanish Inquisition has laid the greatest claim to both scholarly attention and the popular imagination, the Roman Inquisition, established in 1542 and a key instrument of papal authority, was more powerful, important, and long-lived. Founded by Paul III and originally aimed to eradicate Protestant heresy, it followed medieval antecedents but went beyond them by becoming a highly articulated centralized organ directly dependent on the pope. By the late sixteenth century the Roman Inquisition had developed its own distinctive procedures, legal process, and personnel, the congregation of cardinals and a professional staff. Its legal process grew out of the technique of inquisitio formulated by Innocent III in the early thirteenth century, it became the most precocious papal bureaucracy on the road to the first “absolutist” state.
As Thomas F. Mayer demonstrates, the Inquisition underwent constant modification as it expanded. The new institution modeled its case management and other procedures on those of another medieval ancestor, the Roman supreme court, the Rota. With unparalleled attention to archival sources and detail, Mayer portrays a highly articulated corporate bureaucracy with the pope at its head. He profiles the Cardinal Inquisitors, including those who would play a major role in Galileo’s trials, and details their social and geographical origins, their education, economic status, earlier careers in the Church, and networks of patronage. At the point this study ends, circa 1640, Pope Urban VIII had made the Roman Inquisition his personal instrument and dominated it to a degree none of his predecessors had approached.
We’re a little late getting to this, but the Jewish Daily Forward reports on a recent Connecticut trial court’s decision to enforce a prenuptial agreement that requires a husband to grant his wife a religious divorce under Jewish law. The prenup between two Orthodox Jews, Rachel and Eben Light, provides that, in the event the couple divorce, Eben must give Rachel a get, or ritual document recognizing the divorce in Jewish law. In fact, the prenup has a liquidated damages clause: for each day Eben refuses to give the get, he must pay Rachel $100 in damages. As of today, the damages may exceed $100,000.
The Connecticut court held that the prenup does not violate the Religion Clauses. Although there have been other cases enforcing Jewish prenups, this is apparently the first recorded case in which this particular prenup, drawn up by the Beth Din of America, a major Jewish-law arbitration tribunal, has been enforced in the civil courts. The decision will be appealed.
Almost the moment Pope Benedict–now Pope Emeritus Benedict–announced his decision to retire, betting sites and prediction markets started to appear on the internet, offering people a chance to place money on the identity of his successor. There’s Paddy Power in Ireland and, for people of a more academic bent, the Intrade prediction market, which has been pretty accurate with respect to American politics.
Some readers may be wondering what Catholic canon law has to say about placing money on the outcome of a papal election. Apparently, nothing. According to this canon law blog, an earlier prohibition was abrogated in 1918, when the Catholic Church adopted the Pio-Benedictine Code. At the moment, therefore, there is no canon law on the question. So, I guess, nihil obstat. Nonetheless, as the author points out, the Catholic catechism does have advice about gambling, which Catholics should consider. Non-Catholics too, probably. And there’s the Second Commandment.
This April, Cambridge University Press will publish Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam by Asma Sayeed (University of California, Los Angeles). The publisher’s description follows.
Asma Sayeed’s book explores the history of women as religious scholars from the first decades of Islam through the early Ottoman period (seventh to the seventeenth centuries). Focusing on women’s engagement with ḥadīth, this book analyzes dramatic chronological patterns in women’s ḥadīth participation in terms of developments in Muslim social, intellectual, and legal history. Drawing on primary and secondary sources, this work uncovers the historical forces that shaped Muslim women’s public participation in religious learning. In the process, it challenges two opposing views: that Muslim women have been historically marginalized in religious education, and alternately that they have been consistently empowered thanks to early role models such as ‘Ā’isha bint Abī Bakr, the wife of the Prophet Muḥammad. This book is a must-read for those interested in the history of Muslim women as well as in debates about their rights in the modern world. The intersections of this history with topics in Muslim education, the development of Sunnī orthodoxies, Islamic law, and ḥadīth studies make this work an important contribution to Muslim social and intellectual history of the early and classical eras.
It just shows you. Even an institution as ancient and traditional as the papacy still retains the ability to shock. Pope Benedict’s announcement today that he will resign for health reasons, effective February 28, seems to have taken everyone, including Vatican insiders, by surprise. It is the first papal resignation since the year 1415.
Canon law on papal resignation is surprisingly – or, come to think of it, unsurprisingly – brief. Canon 332(2) of the current Code of Canon Law provides simply that “ If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” A leading commentary notes that Canon 332(2) does not specify the person or persons to whom a pope must manifest his resignation. Some scholars argue that the college of cardinals, as the body that elects the pope, is the proper recipient. But that’s not entirely clear; anyway, in Catholic understanding, the pope has authority to determine such matters for himself. Most likely, today’s announcement at a consistory, in which the Pope stressed that he was taking this step voluntarily and in full recognition of its gravity, will suffice. Anyway, the college of cardinals will no doubt have a chance to receive the resignation, if that action is required, before it elects Pope Benedict’s successor, most likely next month.
In October, Prometheus Books published Sharia versus Freedom by Andrew G. Bostom (Brown University Medical School). The publisher’s description follows.
Author Andrew G. Bostom expands upon his two previous groundbreaking compendia, The Legacy of Jihad and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, with this collection of his own recent essays on Sharia—Islamic law. The book elucidates, unapologetically, Sharia’s defining Islamic religious principles and the consequences of its application across space and time, focusing upon contemporary illustrations.
A wealth of unambiguous evidence is marshaled, distilled, and analyzed, including: objective, erudite studies of Sharia by leading scholars of Islam; the acknowledgment of Sharia’s global “resurgence,” even by contemporary academic apologists for Islam; an abundance of recent polling data from Muslim nations and Muslim immigrant communities in the West confirming the ongoing, widespread adherence to Sharia’s tenets; the plaintive warnings and admonitions of contemporary Muslim intellectuals—freethinkers and believers, alike—about the incompatibility of Sharia with modern, Western-derived conceptions of universal human rights; and the overt promulgation by authoritative, mainstream international and North American Islamic religious and political organizations of traditional, Sharia-based Muslim legal systems as an integrated whole (i.e., extending well beyond mere “family-law aspects” of Sharia).