Episodes
Another Look at Congolese History: Arabic and Swahili Documents in the Belgian Archives (Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, 2020), edited by Xavier Luffin, unlocks an unprecedented journey through the tapestry of Congo's past in Central Africa and the Indian Ocean world. This meticulously compiled collection unveils a trove of Arabic and Swahili archival documents nestled within Belgian archives, presenting an unparalleled lens into a transformative era. Spanning the eve of Belgian...
Published 12/09/23
Despite theories to the contrary, religious nationalism, and the use of religion to determine membership in the national community, has continued to play a role in processes of identification in societies all around the globe ... and such processes seems likely to continue to structure the ways in which communities view themselves even in today’s globalized and seemingly secularized world. – Gregory Goalwin, Borders of Belief: Religious Nationalism and the Formation of Identity in Ireland and...
Published 12/07/23
The story Afsar Mohammad's book Remaking History: 1948 Police Action and the Muslims of Hyderabad (Cambridge UP, 2023) follows begins on August 15, 1947. As the new nation-states of India and Pakistan prepared to negotiate land and power, the citizens of the princely state of Hyderabad experienced the unravelling of an intense political conflict between the Union government of India and the local ruler, the Nizam of Hyderabad. With evidence from the oral histories of various sections - both...
Published 12/06/23
Scholarly discussions on Islam in print have focused predominantly on the role of Urdu in the development of North Indian Muslim publics (Dubrow, 2018; Robb, 2020), ʿulama and Islamic jurisprudence (Tareen, 2020) and relations between Islam and colonial modernity (Robinson, 2008; Osella & Osella, 2008). This special issue of International Journal of Islam in Asia (Sept, 2023) instead offers fine-grained investigations on technology and labour; print landscapes, networks and actors;...
Published 12/04/23
Anti-blackness has until recently been a taboo topic within Arab society. This began to change when Nader Kadhem, a prominent Arab and Muslim thinker from Bahrain, published the first in-depth investigation of anti-black racism in the Arab world in 2004. This translation of the new and revised edition of Kadhem’s influential text brings the conversation to the English-speaking world. Al-Istifraq or Africanism, a term analogous to Orientalism, refers to the discursive elements of perceiving,...
Published 11/25/23
In A Synthesis of Time: Zakat, Islamic Micro-finance and the Question of the Future in 21st-Century Indonesia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), Konstantinos Retsikas has anthropological investigation into the different forms the economy assumes, and the different purposes it serves, when conceived from the perspective of Islamic micro-finance as a field of everyday practice. The book is based on long-term ethnographic research in Java, Indonesia, with Islamic foundations active in managing zakat...
Published 11/17/23
It was common during the years of the U.S. invasion of Iraq to talk about the Sunni-Shia split—and how the sectarian violence was the result of a “centuries-long hatred” between the two different religious schools. But seeing this divide as the result of a longstanding feud—or to see it in the model of other religious schisms, like the Catholic-Protestant split and the centuries of war that followed—would be a mistake, argues Toby Matthiesen. Toby, in his most recent book The Caliph and the...
Published 11/02/23
A wealth of scholarship has highlighted how commercial, political and religious networks expanded across the Arabian Sea during the seventeenth century, as merchants from South Asia traded goods in the ports of Yemen, noblemen from Safavid Iran established themselves in the courts of the Mughal Empire, and scholars from across the region came together to debate the Islamic sciences in the Arabian Peninsula's holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  James White's book Persian and Arabic Literary...
Published 10/29/23
Youcef Soufi's book The Rise of Critical Islam: 10th-13th Century Legal Debate (Oxford University Press, 2023) is a fascinating and engaging exploration of the history of critique in Islamic legal and intellectual history. It does this specifically through a case study of dispensations and disputations, known as munāẓarāt in Arabic. Dispensations were a practice of debates that were an important feature of a jurist's practice and an opportunity for him to showcase his juristic skills – for...
Published 10/27/23
In her sparkling and splendid new book The Afterlife of Ottoman Europe: Muslims in Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina (Stanford University Press, 2023), Leyla Amzi-Erdogdular presents a thorough and deeply layered account of the relationship between the Ottoman and Habsburg empires, and Muslims of Bosnia Herzegovina leading to and beyond the Berlin Treaty of 1878. At the heart of Erdogdular’s project is an argument for taking seriously the significant continuities in the relationship between...
Published 10/20/23
In Dante and the Mediterranean Comedy: From Muslim Spain to Post-Colonial Italy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Andrea Celli explores the complex ways in which Dante’s Comedy could be considered ‘Mediterranean,’ ranging widely from Orientalist scholarship to prison wall graffiti in Palermo. He presents both a history of criticism that explores the 20th-century debates around Dante and Islam as well as a novel approach to interrogating Mediterranean possibilities in the reception and appropriation...
Published 10/11/23
In Gendered Fortunes: Divination, Precarity, and Affect in Postsecular Turkey (Duke UP, 2023), Zeynep K. Korkman examines Turkey’s commercial fortunetelling cafés where secular Muslim women and LGBTIQ individuals navigate the precarities of twenty-first-century life. Criminalized by long-standing secularist laws and disdained by contemporary Islamist government, fortunetelling cafés proliferate in part because they offer shelter from the conservative secularist, Islamist, neoliberal, and...
Published 10/05/23
Marvels like enchanted rings and sorcerers’ stones were topics of fascination in the Middle Ages, not only in romance and travel literature but also in the period’s philosophical writing. Rather than constructions of belief accepted only by simple-minded people, Michelle Karnes shows that these spectacular wonders were near impossibilities that demanded scrutiny and investigation. Medieval Marvels and Fictions in the Latin West and Islamic World (U Chicago Press, 2022) is the first book to...
Published 09/30/23
In August 1972, military leader and despot Idi Amin expelled Asian Ugandans from the country, professing to return control of the economy to "Ugandan citizens." Within ninety days, 50,000 Ugandans of South Asian descent were forced to leave and seek asylum elsewhere; nearly 8,000 resettled in Canada. This major migration event marked the first time Canada accepted a large group of predominantly Muslim, non-European, non-white refugees. Shezan Muhammedi's Gifts from Amin: Ugandan Asian...
Published 09/28/23
For centuries, the Mosque of Eyüp Sultan has been one of Istanbul’s most important pilgrimage destinations, in large part because of the figure buried in the tomb at its center: Halid bin Zeyd Ebû Eyûb el-Ensârî, a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad.  In Placing Islam: Geographies of Connection in Twentieth-Century Istanbul (University of California Press, 2023), Timur Hammond argues here, however, that making a geography of Islam involves considerably more. Following practices of storytelling...
Published 09/27/23
The Persian Gulf today is home to multiple cosmopolitan urban hubs of globalization. This did not start with the discovery of oil. The Medieval Persian Gulf (ARC Humanities Press, 2023) tells of the Gulf from the rise of Islam until the coming of the Portuguese, when port cities such as Siraf, Sohar, and Hormuz were entrepots for trading pearls, horses, spices, and other products across much of Asia and eastern Africa. Indeed, products traded there became a key part of the material culture of...
Published 09/27/23
In her formidable and fiercely well-argued new book Merchants of Virtue: Hindus, Muslims, and Untouchables in Eighteenth-Century South Asia (U California Press, 2022), Divya Cherian shows with meticulous detail and in lyrical prose, the processes and practices that contributed to the emergence and hardening of an exclusivist Hindu identity set in opposition to a notion of Untouchability that also subsumed Muslims. Set in eighteenth century Marwar in the Rathor Kingdom, this book sketches an...
Published 09/22/23
Peter Adamson's book Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna): a Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2023) provides an introduction to the most important philosopher of the Islamic world, Ibn Sīnā, often known in English by his Latinized name Avicenna. After introducing the man and his works, with an overview of the historical context in which he lived, the book devotes chapters to the different areas of Ibn Sīnā's thought. Among the topics covered are his innovations in logic, his theory of the human soul and...
Published 09/17/23
Dženita Karić's new book Bosnian Hajj Literature: Multiple Paths to the Holy (Edinburgh University Press, 2023) maps the diverse understandings of the hajj in relation to Islamic geography by Bosnian Muslim authors who wrote in different genres from the 16th to the 21st centuries. The study captures how hajj was imagined and constructed in relation to Islamic cosmology, rituals, Sufi saints, and political and temporal realities, while remaining unchanged in other ways. The book generatively...
Published 09/15/23
Bookshop.org is an online book retailer that donates more than 80% of its profits to independent bookstores. Launched in 2020, Bookshop.org has already raised more than $27,000,000. In this interview, Andy Hunter, founder and CEO discusses his journey to creating one of the most revolutionary new organizations in the book world. Bookshop has found a way to retain the convenience of online book shopping while also supporting independent bookstores that are the backbones of many local...
Published 09/12/23
Today I talked to Divya Cherian about her article "The Owl and the Occult: Popular Politics and Social Liminality in Early Modern South Asia" published in Comparative Studies in Society and History (June, 2023).  Historians of Islamic occult science and post-Mongol Persianate kingship in the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires have in recent years made clear just how central this body of knowledge was to the exercise of imperial power. Alongside, scholarship on tantra has pointed to its...
Published 09/09/23
In her scintillating and brilliant new book, Colonizing Kashmir: State-Building Under Indian Occupation (Stanford UP, 2023), Hafsa Kanjwal details and showcases the discursive and institutional means and mechanisms through which the Indian state made possible and maintained its occupation and colonization of Kashmir. Focused on the mid twentieth century period of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the Second Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Kanjwal examines a range of arenas including tourism,...
Published 09/08/23
In this interview, I speak with Marion Holmes Katz about her latest book Wives and Work: Islamic Law and Ethics Before Modernity (Columbia UP, 2022). This fascinating book explores the question of wives’ domestic responsibilities from a Sunni Islamic legal perspective, covering scholarship from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries. The book addresses questions such as, does the wife have the obligation to provide housework? What counts as housework? And if it is true that the wife is not...
Published 09/01/23
Carl Ernst’s and Mbaye Lo’s new book I Cannot Write My Life: Islam, Arabic, and Slavery in Omar Ibn Said's America (UNC Press, 2023) is a fascinating and rivetting book that offers the most authoritative account to date of the life and Arabic writings of Omar Ibn Said, a scholar from what is today Senegal who was sold to slavery in the early 19th century and brought to Southern US. Moreover, this path paving book offers critical correctives to dominant perceptions of Said’s remarkable life...
Published 08/25/23
Jamila Rodrigues's new book Sufi Women, Embodiment and the “Self”: Gender in Islamic Ritual (Routledge 2023) uses her dance and performance studies background to study women’s hadra or zikr experiences of a Naqshbandi Sufi community in Cape Town, South Africa. This ritual includes engagement with sacred texts, music, and bodily movement with the aim of reaching union with Allah. This focused study on women’s bodily movement during zikr and women’s understanding of the mind and soul provides...
Published 08/18/23