by ELLIOTT BAZZANO for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MAY 4, 2016:

Asma Afsaruddin
Asma Afsaruddin

Unknown-1As the title of the monograph suggests, Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) by Asma Afsaruddin, guides the reader through an organized and compelling narrative of reflections on hot-button topics in the modern world. The monograph offers a provocative balance of historical contextualization, close reading of texts, review of key scholars, and political analysis. Given its treatment of topics such as Islamic law, gender, international relations, and interfaith dialogue, the book should prove useful in a graduate or undergraduate context–either as a whole or as individual chapters–particularly as a conversation starter, given the depths to which each chapter points. Although the scope of the book may appear ambitious, Professor Afsaruddin is well-equipped to manage the breadth of her study into a concise, lucid, and well written text. Given her research background in jihad and violence as well as Quranic hermeneutics, moreover, Contemporary Issues in Islam is a mature work that reflects decades of careful research and intellectual synthesis with ample attention to both primary and secondary literature. The monograph will likely appeal not only to scholars and students in religious studies and Islamic studies, but also political science and history as well as journalists.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH AFSARUDDIN

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.

Shrine of Cheikh Moussa Kamara. (photo by Mbaye Lo)
Shrine of Cheikh Moussa Kamara. (photo by Mbaye Lo)

a Scholar’s Notebook feature 

by MBAYE LO for ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 19, 2016:

Professor Mbaye Lo (far right) with some acquaintances in Fuuta Toro
Professor Mbaye Lo (far right) with some acquaintances in Fuuta Toro (photo courtesy of Mbaye Lo)

After 15 hours of traveling by buses, taxis and horse-drawn carriages, I finally arrived at a border village on the bank of the river that divides Senegal and Mauritania. The village of Ganguel Soulé is located in Fuuta Toro, a West African region of cultural influence, learning and resilience. This is the land that produced the family of *Cheikh Usman dan Fodio, the 18th century leader of Nigeria’s Islamic revival movement and the founder the Sokoto Caliphate in Northern Nigeria. (henceforth the French spelling of Sheikh - Cheikh - will be used)

From this land also came Abdoul Kader Kane (d.1807), founder of the Almamate dynasty that sought to put an end to the Atlantic slave trade by imposing martial control of European ships passing through their territories. Cheikh el-Hadji Omar Tall, the last leader of the jihad movements against the French West Africa Federation project in 1850s also hailed from here. Fuuta Toro is also likely to be the birthplace of Omar Ibn Said, the Muslim American slave whose Arabic autobiography serves as a valuable sourcebook for antebellum black writing and history.

My visit here had both an academic and personal purpose. My mother’s side of the family is from Fuuta, and it was never clear to us growing-up why my ancestral great-great-grandfather left this region of Fuuta Toro in the early nineteenth century to move to the most western region known as Kajoor. Most aspects of family oral history talk about the devastation caused by Kane’s resistance against the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. However, these issues are considered long-gone memories that people are neither interested nor comfortable remembering. Only a few Senegalese academics, for example Ibrahima Seck, are spending their lives looking at the local and cross-continental intricacies of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

My host, Cernoo Kamara, wasn’t interested in yesterday’s questions either. He is a marabou (a sufi religious leader) who has become accustomed to silence, and people around him are also used to him speaking only in time of extreme need.

“Welcome home,” he murmured when his personal driver picked me up at the bank of the river. (“Birds also go home when is dark-out there,” were his last few words as we parted later that night.)

“This is a house of service: reading and writing,” he told me early the next day as he walked me through the compound of his esteemed grandfather Cheikh Moussa Kamara. There were books, clusters of old papers, and manuscripts everywhere. Kids from the neighborhood were up at dawn rehearsing the sacred text at the compound’s Quranic school before breakfast and regular schooling. Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 30, 2015: 

Afsaneh Najmabadi
Afsaneh Najmabadi

41ZmP2xEtnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_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

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on NOVEMBER 25, 2015: 

Hina Azam
Hina Azam

61mAKxi7HUL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_In her shining new book Sexual Violation in Islamic Law: Substance, Evidence, and Procedure (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Hina Azam, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas-Austin, explores the diversity and complexity of pre-modern Muslim legal discourses on rape and sexual violation. The reader of this book is treated to a thorough and delightful analysis of the range of attitudes, assumptions, and hermeneutical operations that mark the Muslim legal tradition on the question of sexual violation.

Indeed, the most remarkable aspect of this book is the way it showcases the staggering range and diversity of approaches to defining and adjudicating rape that populate the Muslim legal tradition. Focusing primarily on the Maliki and Hanafi schools of law, Azam convincingly demonstrates that Muslim legal discourses on rape were animated and informed by competing ways of imagining broader categories such as sovereignty, agency, property, and rights. Continue reading

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

51vgUjZ2OcL._SL160_The Second Formation of Islamic Law: The Hanafi School in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2015) is a new contribution to the study of Islam and more specifically to the history of Islamic Law and its development. Guy Burak, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies librarian at New York University, explores the Ottomans’ adoption of one branch of the Hanafi legal tradition as the official school (madhhab) of the dynasty. The period of time in which this process occurred was during the 15th to 18th centuries, and Burak focuses on the lands of Greater Syria. What Burak seeks to illustrate is that through the adoption of an official school of law, the Ottoman hierarchy played a significant role in how the school of law was shaped. Examples Burak provides to demonstrate this phenomenon are the institutionalization of the position of mufti, the formalization of genealogical literature (tabaqat), and the canonization process of books essential to the school. In addition to examining the propagators of official Ottoman positions, Burak also examines how scholars not part of the Ottoman mainstream branch functioned and responded to these changes. Overall, this work represents and important contribution to the study of Islam, the history of Islamic Law, and Ottoman Studies.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH BURAK

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.