In her scintillating new book, The Beauty of the Houri: Heavenly Virgins, Feminine Ideals (Oxford UP, 2021), Nerina Rustomji presents a fascinating and multilayered intellectual and cultural history of the category of the “Houri” and the multiple ideological projects in which it has been inserted over time and space. Nimbly moving between a vast range of discursive theaters including Western Islamophobic representations of the Houri in the post 9/11 context, early modern and modern French and English Literature, premodern Muslim intellectual traditions, and popular preachers on the internet, Rustomji shows the complexity of this category and its unavailability for a canonical definition. The Beauty of the Houri is intellectual history at its best that combines philological rigor with astute theoretical reflection. And all this Rustomji accomplishes in prose the delightfulness of which competes fiercely with its lucidity.
SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize and was selected as a finalist for the 2021 American Academy of Religion Book Award. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at [email protected]
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