Thursday, March 29, 2018

[Book Review] Ḥallāl al-ʿuqad fī bayān aḥkām al-muʿtaqad. By Najm al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Qawī al-Ṭūfī. Edited by Lejla Demiri and Islam Dayeh. Beirut: Dār al-Farābī, 2016. Pp. 172. $55 (cloth) | Journal of Near Eastern Studies: Vol 77, No 1

Ḥallāl al-ʿuqad fī bayān aḥkām al-muʿtaqad, edited by Lejla Demiri and Islam Dayeh | Journal of Near Eastern Studies: Vol 77, No 1

"The Ḥallāl al-ʿuqad fī bayān aḥkām al-muʿtaqad (Untying the Knots in Expounding the Principles of Faith), also known as Qudwat al-muhtadīn ilā maqāṣid al-dīn (The Exemplar of the Rightly Guided to the Objectives of Religion), is an early fourteenth-century theological treatise. The Ḥallāl is perhaps the only surviving text in which al-Ṭūfī expounds his theology in a brief and systematic manner with an intention to provide a short and uncomplicated outline of the principles of faith. Its author, Najm al-Dīn al-Ṭūfī (d. 716/1316) is a key Ḥanbalī scholar of the Mamluk period. His writings manifest considerable creativity and erudition."

"The critical edition is based on a single surviving manuscript (Staatsbibliothek Berlin). The study was prepared by Lejla Demiri and Islam Dayeh. Lejla Demiri holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge and is Professor of Islamic Doctrine at the Centre for Islamic Theology, University of Tübingen. Islam Dayeh holds a doctorate from Freie Universität Berlin where he is Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies."

Monday, March 26, 2018

"The Book Launch of Shari'a Scripts: A Historical Anthropology" - Brinkley M. Messick

Writing and reading, considered as cultural and historical phenomena, have figured centrally in Brinkley M. Messick’s research on Islamic societies in both Arabia and North Africa. This work considers the production and circulation, inscription and subsequent interpretation of Arabic texts such as regional histories, law books, and court records.

Professor Messick has sought to understand the relation of writing and authority, events such as the advent of print technology, hybrid contemporary practices of reading, and local histories of record keeping and archiving. Much of this work dovetails with his general interests in legal anthropology and legal history, and with his specific interests in Islamic law.


Brinkley M. Messick is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He specialises in the anthropology of law, legal history, written culture, and the circulation and interpretation of Islamic law.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Composing Egypt: Reading, Writing, and the Emergence of a Modern Nation, 1870-1930 | Hoda A. Yousef

Composing Egypt: Reading, Writing, and the Emergence of a Modern Nation, 1870-1930 | Hoda A. Yousef: In this innovative history of reading and writing, Hoda Yousef explores how the idea of literacy and its practices fundamentally altered the social fabric of Egypt at the turn of the twentieth century. She traces how nationalists, Islamic modernists, bureaucrats, journalists, and early feminists sought to reform reading habits, writing styles, and the Arabic language itself in their hopes that the right kind of literacy practices would create the right kind of Egyptians. The impact of new reading and writing practices went well beyond the elites and the newly literate of Egyptian society, and this book reveals the increasingly ubiquitous reading and writing practices of literate, illiterate, and semi-literate Egyptians alike. Students who wrote petitions, women who frequented scribes, and communities who gathered to hear a newspaper read aloud all used various literacies to participate in social exchanges and civic negotiations regarding the most important issues of their day. Composing Egypt illustrates how reading and writing practices became not only an object of social reform, but also a central medium for public exchange. Wide segments of society could engage with new ideas about nationalism, education, gender, and, ultimately, what it meant to be part of modern Egypt.

Hoda A. Yousef is Assistant Professor of History at Denison University.

"The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment" by Alexander Bevilacqua

"Alexander Bevilacqua is assistant professor of history at Williams College, where he teaches the history of early modern Europe. He is interested in the cultural and intellectual transformations of what is often considered the first global era."

"Authors, Readers and Printers of 16th Century Hebrew Books in the Ottoman Empire" by Joseph Hacker

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Redefining the Muslim Community: Ethnicity, Religion, and Politics in the Thought of Alfarabi" (ALEXANDER ORWIN, PENN PRESS 2017)

"Writing in the cosmopolitan metropolis of Baghdad, Alfarabi (870-950) is unique in the history of premodern political philosophy for his extensive discussion of the nation, or Umma in Arabic. The term Umma may be traced back to the Qur'ān and signifies, then and now, both the Islamic religious community as a whole and the various ethnic nations of which that community is composed, such as the Turks, Persians, and Arabs. Examining Alfarabi's political writings as well as parts of his logical commentaries, his book on music, and other treatises, Alexander Orwin contends that the connections and tensions between ethnic and religious Ummas explored by Alfarabi in his time persist today in the ongoing political and cultural disputes among the various nationalities within Islam. According to Orwin, Alfarabi strove to recast the Islamic Umma as a community in both a religious and cultural sense, encompassing art and poetry as well as law and piety. By proposing to acknowledge and accommodate diverse Ummas rather than ignoring or suppressing them, Alfarabi anticipated the contemporary concept of "Islamic civilization," which emphasizes culture at least as much as religion. Enlisting language experts, jurists, theologians, artists, and rulers in his philosophic enterprise, Alfarabi argued for a new Umma that would be less rigid and more creative than the Muslim community as it has often been understood, and therefore less inclined to force disparate ethnic and religious communities into a single mold. Redefining the Muslim Community demonstrates how Alfarabi's judicious combination of cultural pluralism, religious flexibility, and political prudence could provide a blueprint for reducing communal strife in a region that continues to be plagued by it today."

Alexander Orwin is an assistant professor of Political Science at Louisiana State University.