by M. LYNX QUALEY for ARABIC LITERATURE (BLOG) on MAY 4, 2015: 

A March 24 conversation on contemporary Arabic fiction — between short-story writers Hassan Blasim and Hisham Bustani, editors Jennifer Acker and John Siciliano, scholar Mohamed El Sawi Hassan, and publisher Michel Moushabeck — is now online:

Photos from Amherst College.

Although Bustani loomed over the other conversants on a screen, he was originally meant to participate in the Amherst College-based talk in person. However, because his US visa went in for “additional scrutiny,”  he instead joined the talk, called “Contemporary Arabic Fiction: A Conversation,” via Skype. Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on APRIL 23, 2015: 

Jamal Elias (from his academic page)
Jamal Elias (from his academic page)
Aisha's Cushion (via Amazon)
Aisha’s Cushion (via Amazon)

In his remarkable new book Aisha’s Cushion: Religious Art, Practice, and Perception in Islam (Harvard University Press, 2012), Jamal Elias, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, presents a magisterial study of Muslim attitudes towards visual culture, images, and perception.

Through meticulous historical and textual analysis, Elias successfully unravels the stereotype that there is no place for visual images in Islam, or that calligraphy represents the only normative form of art in Islam. He shows that throughout history Muslims have approached the question of images and art in a much more nuanced and complicated fashion, while negotiating important philosophical, theological, and perceptual considerations.

He argues that “Muslim thinkers have developed systematic and advanced theories of representation and signification, and that many of these theories have been internalized by Islamic society at large and continue to inform cultural attitudes toward the visual arts.” Continue reading

by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on APRIL 6, 2015: 

M. Brett Wilson
M. Brett Wilson

Muslim debates regarding the translation of the Qur’an are very old. However, during the modern period they became heated because local communities around the globe were rethinking their relationship to scripture in new social and political settings. M. Brett Wilson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College, provides a rich history of how this conversation unfolding with the late Ottoman period and Republic of Turkey in Translating the Qur’an in an Age of Nationalism: Print Culture and Modern Islam in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2014).

41hVbRuZO9L._SL160_The Qur’an’s translatability is contested from various perspectives (both old and new) but emerging print technologies, shifting political authority, and changing economies of knowledge production offer contemporary challenges that mark the demand for Turkish translations. Wilson narrates the production of vernacular interpretations and commentaries, unofficial translations, and a state-sponsored project. In many cases, translation was viewed as a tool of progress, modernization, and Turkish nationalism. For others, it led to vernacular ritual practice and the disharmony of the global Muslim community. Continue reading

by MATT LONG for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MARCH 23, 2015:

Raymond Farrin
Raymond Farrin

Interest in the structure of the Qur’an has its beginnings in the ninth century CE with Muslim scholars. Since that time, Muslim and Western scholars have debated the coherence of the Qur’an’s structure. Raymond Farrin, professor of Arabic at the American University of Kuwait, opens his newest book, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation: A Study of Symmetry and Coherence in Islam’s Holy Text (White Cloud Press, 2014) with a historical synopsis of the views adopted by the two primary camps regarding the structure of the Qur’an and the development of the study of the Qur’an’s constitution.

51nSYTU5e4L._SL160_Following in the footsteps of Muslim scholars and Western scholars of Islam who acknowledged and demonstrated patterns of connectivity between verses and chapters, Farrin argues that the entirety of Qur’an is organized according to three common patterns of symmetry: parallelism, chiasm, and, the most ubiquitous of three, concentrism.

As the reader moves form chapter to chapter, Professor Farrin explores how these patterns of symmetry are found in the individual chapters, chapter pairs, groupings of chapters, systems of chapters, and then the entire corpus. This structural analysis provides Farrin the opportunity to explore the overall connectivity of messages throughout the Qur’an. Continue reading