Afsaneh Najmabadi

In her fascinating new book Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke University Press, 2015), Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University, explores shifting meanings of transsexuality in contemporary Iran. By brilliantly combining historical and ethnographic inquiry, Najmabadi highlights the complex ways in which biomedical, psychiatric, and Islamic jurisprudential discourses and institutions conjoin to generate particular notions of acceptable and unacceptable sexuality. Moreover, she also shows some of the paradoxical ways in which state regulation enables certain possibilities and spaces for nonheteronormative sexuality in Iran. Continue reading

Posted in Books, Gender, Islamic Law, Law, Middle East & North Africa, Religion, Science & Technology, Sexuality.


Saba Mahmood

It is commonly thought that violence, injustice, and discrimination against religious minorities, especially in the Middle East, are a product of religious fundamentalism and myopia. Concomitantly, it is often argued, that more of secularism and less of religion represents the solution to this problem.

In her stunning new book Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (Princeton University Press, 2015), Saba Mahmood, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, brings such a celebratory view of secularism into fatal doubt. Through a careful and brilliant analysis, Mahmood convincingly shows that far from a solution to the problem of interreligious strife, political secularism and modern secular governance are in fact intimately entwined to the exacerbation of religious tensions in the Middle East. Focusing on Egypt and the experience of Egyptian Copts and Bahais, Mahmood explores multiple conceptual and discursive registers to highlight the paradoxical qualities of political secularism, arguing that majority/minority conflict in Egypt is less a reflection of the failure of secularism and more a product of secular discourses and politics, both within and outside the country. Continue reading

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Citizenship, Gender, Islamic Law, Islamic Theology & Practice, Law, Middle East & North Africa, Political Science, Religion, Security & Civil Liberties, Sexuality.


We at the Duke Islamic Studies Center are pleased to announce that the work of the Carnegie Corporation of New York-supported Transcultural Islam Project (ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN) has been highlighted in a new report by the Social Science Research Council — “Religion, Media and the Digital Turn.” The report surveyed 160 digital projects and documents the effects that digital modes of research and publication have on the study of religion.

“While our primary goal is to chronicle emerging forms of intellectual production shaping the study of religion, we hope that a greater awareness of this new work will generate more recognition of the high quality and innovative work that already exists,” report authors Chris Cantwell (University of Missouri) and Hussein Rashid (New York University) write, explaining that “the most innovative digital projects are often those that creatively combine a number of these models or genres.”

ISLAMiCommentary was mentioned at the top of several subsections, for this reason, and a lengthy case study of ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN has been included in the report (in Appendix 1) because, as the report authors told us, they find the project “exemplary.” Other projects highlighted with lengthy case studies (in Appendix 1) include the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (MAVCOR) at Yale, the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project at the University of Loyola; and Mapping Ararat — a project of York University, the University of Toronto and Emerson College.

Appendix 2 lists the 160 projects surveyed.

The report can be downloaded HERE.

Posted in Americas, Anthropology, Arab men's studies, Arab Spring, Archaeology, Architecture, Arts & Culture, Asia, Citizenship, Colonialism, Cosmopolitanism, Digital Humanities, Economics, Education, Ethics, Eurasia, Europe, Gender, Geography, Health & Environment, History, Human Rights, Humanities, information science, Interdisciplinary, Interfaith, International Studies, Islamic Law, Islamic Studies & Academia, Islamic Theology & Practice, Language & Literature, Law, Libraries and Information, Media & Communication, Medicine, Medieval Period, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, Muslim Ethics, Muslim Life, MyTIRN, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Public Scholarship, Published Paper, Race and Ethnicity, Religion, Scholarly Communication, Science & Technology, Security & Civil Liberties, Sexuality, Social Media & Visual Media, Social Sciences, Sociology, Spirituality/Mysticism, Sub-Saharan, East, and West Africa, urban development.


Karen Bauer

In Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’an: Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Dr. Karen Bauer tackles one of the foremost hot-button questions of the day: What is the role of gender in the Qur’an?

Dr. Bauer’s adroit study will leave the reader informed but perhaps also disrupted, given the vast spectrum of competing, sometimes contradictory, interpretive paradigms that she explores. A key strength of the text, moreover, is that in addition to its meticulous investigation of primary texts from medieval and modern traditions of Qur’anic exegesis, Dr. Bauer also conducts numerous in-person interviews with prominent scholars across the Muslim world, including Iran and Syria. Thus, from a literary perspective, the text presents the reader with a compelling style seldom found in Qur’anic studies publications, seamlessly weaving together close textual analysis and ethnographic fieldwork. Notably, Bauer also gives attention to Sunni as well as Shi’i perspectives on her study, thus offering provocative comparison and breadth of analysis. Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Asia, Books, Eurasia, Europe, Gender, History, Islamic Studies & Academia, Islamic Theology & Practice, Law, Middle East & North Africa, Political Science, Sub-Saharan, East, and West Africa.


Maqam Rast (two parts)
Muhammad al-Qubbanchi
First Cairo Congress of Arab Music (1932)
Cairo, Egypt. 78rpm recording.

Maqam Rast by Muhammad al-Qubbanchi and members of the Iraqi delegation to the First Cairo Congress of Arab Music (Le Congrès du Caire) in Egypt, ِ1932. The poetry sung here is a takhmis by Sayyid Ja’far al-Hilli al-Najafi (1861-1898) of a poem by Muhammad Sa’id al-Habbubi (1849-1916).

by ABDUL SATTAR JAWAD for ISLAMiCommentary on SEPTEMBER 16, 2015: 

Remembering Baghdad in the salad days or during the monarchy era, seems now as if retrieving a reverie from the time of yore or as the Arab narrative goes : kan ya ma kan. What happened to Baghdad, Scheherazade’s abode, in the last sixty years or so, invites a flow of memories and emotions.

Having been born in a mixed neighborhood of this cosmopolitan city in 1943 , I still long for a time when religion was not an issue. Tolerance was a value to maintain and honor. Everyone cherished it. Continue reading

Posted in History, Human Rights, Islamic Theology & Practice, Law, Middle East & North Africa, MyTIRN, Religion.