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Humanistic inquiry is not just about timeless questions and human experience. Viewed historically, it is equally about working within the constraints of a world of ideas shaped by a small set of exemplars. In this chapter I look at concrete instances of the use of canons in the history of the humanities. Different cultures designate different works as canonical. The point is not that everyone interested in the questions posed by the humanities should be reading the same works, but rather that humanistic inquiry in each community (however defined) must designate certain works as canonical in order to reap the scholarly benefits of a shared world.
This Element examines the semiotics of Sino-Muslim heritage literacy in a way that integrates its Perso-Arabic textual qualities with broader cultural semiotic forms. Using data from images of the linguistic landscape of Sino-Muslim life alongside interviews with Sino-Muslims about their heritage, the author examines how signs of 'Muslimness' are displayed and manipulated in both covert and overt means in different contexts. In so doing the author offers a 'semiotics of Muslimness' in China and considers how forms of language and materiality have the power to inspire meanings and identifications for Sino-Muslims and understanding of their heritage literacy. The author employs theoretical tools from linguistic anthropology and an understanding of semiotic assemblage to demonstrate how signifiers of Chinese Muslimness are invoked to substantiate heritage and Sino-Muslim identity constructions even when its expression must be covert, liminal, and unconventional.
Investigating the relationship between Islamic religiosity and electoral participation amongst Muslim citizens in Western Europe, this study combines insights from the sociology of religion and Islamic studies with political behavior literature thus creating an improved theoretical framework and a richer empirical understanding surrounding the electoral participation of religious minorities. First, we theorize about three underlying dimensions of Islamic religiosity: frequency of mosque attendance, religious identification, and frequency of prayer. Subsequently, we consider how the religiosity–voting relationship is bolstered or hindered by hostile national environments such as more exclusionary policies and practices (e.g., veil banning or exclusionary citizenship laws).
Empirically, we use a unique dataset that harmonizes five European surveys, resulting in a sample size of just under 8,000 European Muslims. Using multi-level techniques, we find, contrary to research on majority religiosity, that communal religiosity is unrelated to electoral participation. However, individual religiosity bolsters voting in particular among the second generation. Opposite to our expectation, we find that hostile environments do not seem to lead to different impacts of Islamic religiosity within Western Europe. Our results support the taking of a more fine-grained approach when measuring religiosity and also highlight how the impact varies across genders and generations.
Religious believers are often commanded to love like God. On classical accounts, God seems a poor model for human beings: an immutable and impassable being seems incapable of the kind of episodic emotion (sympathy, empathy) that seems required for the best sorts of human love. Models more conducive to human love, on the other hand, are often rejected because they seem to limit God's power and glory. This Element looks first at God and then divine love within the Abrahamic traditions—Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It will then turn to love and the problem of hell, which is argued as primarily a problem for Christians. The author discusses the kind of love each tradition asks of humans and wonders, given recent work in the relevant cognitive and social sciences, if such love is even humanly possible. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
The epilogue sketches, in broad brushstrokes, the afterlives of the Greater India discourse in the postcolonial period, with particular reference to the writings and politics of Jawaharlal Nehru, the academic realm, and the Hindu nationalist imagination. It examines how the Greater India imagination reconfigured Nehru’s understanding of India’s ancient past and future role in global politics. It also shows that the story of the ‘glorious’ spread of Indian culture became a canonized theme in post-independence nationalist historiography and was promulgated by influential historians including R.C. Majumdar and K.M. Panikkar. Yet although the ‘discovery’ of Greater India had opened a new window on the ancient past, it also marginalized histories of connection and entanglement, most notably pertaining to India’s Islamic traditions, that did not fit the master narrative that celebrated an expansive ancient India as Asia’s cultural and spiritual fount. Finally, the epilogue reflects on how the legacies of the Greater India movement are mobilized in contemporary India to bolster visions of Akhand Bharat and position India as a civilizational actor on the global plane.
Within Muslim populations, debates about the compatibility between science and religion tend to be framed by the long-standing competition between modernizing reformers, particularly westernizers, and theological conservatives. Much like their liberal Christian counterparts, reformers propose to embrace technical knowledge and reinterpret traditional beliefs undermined by modern science. Conservatives are more open to challenging the content of science, especially when science appears to support materialist views. Islamists promote an alternative, non-western style of modernity, nurturing a more pious professional class that contrasts with westernized elites. By scientific standards, westernizers appear to have the upper hand, especially as conservative apologetics is drawn toward distortions of science such as creationism, or fruitless attempts to Islamize science. But conservatives can also point to some success in defusing tensions between scientific and religious institutions without adopting the full secularization of science seen in post-Christian countries.
Chapter 1 offers a brief historical overview of nineteenth-century urban Senegal, with a focus on Saint-Louis. It begins with the never-ending territorial rivalry between the Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch, which ended with French dominance in the eighteenth century. It discusses the ethno-cultural groups who lived in and contributed to the economic life of the region. These were the originaires or first inhabitants of Saint-Louis, European merchants, traders, administrators, civil servants, and the métis – the product of mariage à la mode du pays (marriage according to the custom of the country) between European men and African women, whose female offspring became known as signares. The French referred to these groups collectively as habitants. Of the habitants, the signares played a significant role in the economic development of the region, and feature prominently in the chapter. They engaged in trade, including the slave trade, which, in addition to inheritances, enabled them to acquire substantial holdings in real estate, river boats, and slaves, among them children, who remained in their households as wards after the abolition of slavery. The chapter ends with the harmonious coexistence of the habitants who practiced Islam and Christianity and the Catholic religious orders that served the community.
One common argument against taking the notion of divine revelation seriously is the extraordinrary diversity which exists betwen the world's major religions. How can God be thought to have spoken to humanity when the conclusions drawn are so very different? David Brown authoritatively and persuasively tackles this issue head-on. He refutes the idea that all faiths necessarily culminate in Christianity, or that they can be reduced to some facile lowest common denominator, arguing instead that ideas may emerge more naturally in one context than another. Sometimes, because of its own singular situation, another religion has proved to be more perceptive on a particular issue than Christianity. At other times, no religion will hold the ultimate answer because what can be asserted is heavily dependent on what is viable both scientifically and philosophically. Although complete reconciliation is impossible, a richer notion of revelation – so the author suggests – can be the result.
This article investigates the relationship between caste and Islam in Bengal at a time when they acquired heightened significance as markers of identity for the colonial state and between communities. Scholarship, mainly drawing on North India, has emphasised the contrast between the existence in practice of a hierarchical system of social stratification among Muslims and the ideals and traditions of Islamic egalitarianism. This article, however, shows that caste-based struggles and tensions produced a revolutionary Islam. I suggest that the subversive potential of Islamic egalitarianism, described in early Islam by Louise Marlow, was kept alive by low-caste Bengali Muslims. The social reality of caste enabled multiple understandings of what it meant to be a Muslim, and the more radical among them were subaltern ontologies—different meanings of what it was to be a Muslim in the world. Here, I analyse writings on caste by four unreliable narrators around the turn of the twentieth century—a British colonial ethnographer, an ashrāfī Muslim anthropologist, and two Muslim reformers—to describe the politics and lifeworlds of low-caste Muslim groups in Bengal. The article argues for a more nuanced understanding of this period of Islamic reform and development, one that is conscious of the subaltern currents shaping its course. I show how a reformist politics of ‘rejection’ of elite Islam emerged as a response to the problem of caste inequality. These discourses and practices repudiating elite Muslim titles, centring histories of labour, and emphasising equality as an embodied experience reveal the revolutionary potentialities of a subaltern Islam.
Historians of Islamicate intellectual practices in pre-colonial South Asia have long argued that authoritative knowledge was located in persons rather than books, and that religious texts were thus typically transmitted in the context of face-to-face meetings between teacher and student. While it has been noted that some early modern Sufi networks engaged in the remote transmission of authoritative knowledge by means of letters, with reduced emphasis on face-to-face meetings, the causes for this development are still debated.
Looking at the correspondence, theoretical treatises, and authorisations (ijāzas) produced in the circle of the celebrated eighteenth-century Naqshbandi reformer Shah Wali Allah of Delhi, this article argues that the willingness to engage in the transmission of remote knowledge was not simply a product of the changing material conditions of late-Mughal India, but rather was underwritten by emergent spiritual and psychological ideas about the nature of personhood. Because a person was not merely a material entity bounded by a corporeal (living) body, bodily proximity between two individuals was less valuable than their spiritual congruence. This congruence could be strengthened during periods of face-to-face companionship but could also be generated and maintained through letters alone. Indeed, these scholars sometimes assert the superiority of the letter over physical companionship because it allowed for a coming together of two spirits without the intrusion of the gross material body. Working within this intellectual framework, scholars in this network regularly exchanged books of all genres as well as ijāzas remotely (often over vast distances).
Ibadi Muslims, a minority religious community, historically inhabited pockets throughout North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the East African coast. Yet less is known about the community of Ibadi Muslims that relocated to Egypt. Focusing on the history of an Ibadi-run trade depot, school and library that operated in Cairo for over three hundred years, this book shows how the Ibadi Muslims operated in and adapted to the legal, religious, commercial, and political realms of the Ottoman Empire from the seventeenth to early twentieth centuries. Using a unique range of sources, including manuscript notes, family histories and archival correspondence, Paul M. Love, Jr. presents an original history of this Muslim majority told from the bottom up. Whilst illuminating the events that shaped the history of Egypt during these centuries, he also brings to life the lived reality of a Muslim minority community in the Ottoman world.
This chapter focuses on heavy metal music and culture in the Middle East. It provides a summary of previous research on metal in the region and touches upon common clichés of metal as a source of counterculture, revolution and change. It then addresses the complicated relationship between metal studies and Orientalism. It is the author’s contention that research on metal in the Middle East has been directly influenced by Orientalist discourse. The author further argues that the impact of this discourse has led to the politicisation and exoticisation of a particular figure – the ‘Muslim metalhead’. This chapter seeks to contribute to the current discussion on ‘Oriental metal’ as an attempt to exotify the very existence (and art) of metalheads from a region that has been geopolitically framed as the ‘Middle East’.
Clifford Geertz was undoubtedly the leading anthropologist of his generation, a broad-scale thinker whose influence extended far beyond his own discipline. His study of Islam in Indonesia, however, might appear not to have been reprised in his Moroccan work whereas, in fact, one could argue that it was. For in his study of the souk, the Moroccan bazaar, Geertz not only presented one of the most detailed and theoretically sophisticated studies of this form of economic structure but also showed how everyday Islamic assumptions and orientations suffuse that domain. In this sense, Geertz did do a study of Moroccan Islam, indeed one that demonstrates its connection to multiple domains of everyday life. In that sense, too, it is the encounters in this most important realm where religion lives and where it must be understood.
Until recently it was thought that the mathematical solution to the formation of nonreplicating patterns that go on to infinity had not been solved before current advances in Western mathematics. But the discovery of such patterns at several Islamic religious sites prompts us to ask why it mattered to the Muslim artisans of that day to solve the mathematics and create such patterns. Just as Western cathedral art represented a cosmological view so, too, we may conjecture that to these Muslim craftsmen the representation of a world that is full of individual elements that relate to one another in unique ways replicates in the visual world what Allah has created for mankind in the world of social relations. By linking the art form and the mathematics to this broader social vision, we may be able to understand why the masters of that age chose to represent on the walls of their religious structures this particular cosmological pattern.
The article is concerned primarily with Maulana Azad's early political and theological writings with a view to understanding his positions on Islam and the non-Islamic religions. It opens with a brief description of his discussion of Mughal history and religious culture, and then notes his portrayal of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1624) as an exemplary political figure, who raised his voice against Akbar's heresy. This portrayal has had a significant historiographical afterlife. Several modern scholars followed Azad's reading. The article asks whether Azad was truly the first to have such a view of the saint, and thereby influenced the modern writings on Mughal India. We will notice that Sirhindi was already portrayed as a political figure in the Mughal-era historical accounts devoted to him. Azad only chose to work within a certain memory of Sirhindi—but why did he choose to use an earlier tradition and not a purely religious interpretive framework of his own for analysing and presenting the saint's position? The article examines Azad's rationale for such a portrayal in light of his political concerns. It then discusses in some depth the theological discourses in his Tazkira and the early issues of Al-Hilāl.
The rule of law, it has been said, is at best a vague concept and at worst a myth. Yet as one looks at any given society, it is a notion that takes on local meaning, in the Middle East and North Africa no less than elsewhere. In this chapter, it is suggested that there is a significant reality to the concept of the rule of law in Muslim nations but that much of that local meaning turns not on substantive rules or the formal organization of institutions so much as the procedures followed and the cultural presumption that inform the finding of facts. By tracing these features through concrete cases and related sources, we can see that Islamic concepts of the rule of law are mostly about process and the assessment of persons, rather than of material evidence and the structure of judicial power. As such, we can also see that when various Muslim cultures encounter one another and the legal systems of the West, some misunderstanding of why failing to appreciate that no cases are thought to be identical and that persons take precedence overs ‘facts’ can readily lead to misperception and misguided encounters.
Tribes are often seen as territorial, pugnacious, and collectivized. In fact, they are quite resilient, individualistic, and readily accepting of others’ practices. When one turns to the law, we can see these features at work in the Berber and Arab tribes of the Middle East, both currently and historically. By starting with the practices of the Berbers of North Africa and then comparing the features they exhibit in their customary law – both substantive and (more importantly) procedural – the similarities to Islamic law are striking. Moreover, it is suggested, this is not surprising, as much of the procedural aspects of classical and modern Islamic law developed out of the tribal background of the Prophet’s day and finds additional support in the precepts of sacred texts. Thus, the comparison of Berber tribal law and Islamic law underscores the continuity of Islamic law, one reasons why it could spread into diverse regions of the Middle East and North Africa so quickly, and why we need to see the spread of Islam not simply as having been carried by military conquest and economic contact but by a form of law that readily resonated with the tribes the new religion encountered.
European political parties, particularly radical right parties (RRPs), increasingly use religious symbols during elections. Despite the prevalence of these symbols, evidence on the association between religion and far-right vote share is mixed. We compare two leading arguments explaining the relationship between religion and RRPs. We hypothesize that the number of religious buildings, identifiable as Islamic or Catholic, will be associated with higher RRP support. We test this as a most likely crucial case using results from the French 2017 presidential election. Controlling for other demographic factors, more Catholic buildings in a commune are associated with a decrease in votes for the Front Nationale (FN). An increase in the number of mosques in non-urban communes is associated with increased support for FN. We argue these findings are evidence that RRPs use religious symbolism to draw on nativist or anti-Islamic support rather than traditional religious support.
This chapter introduces the book’s main arguments and discusses four interrelated developments as the primary causes ofL6:L8 the resilience of the Islamic Republic. They are: the institutional makeup and legitimacy of the state; the state’s underlying and not always obvious underbelly – the so-called deep state; the dynamics that allow for the management and resolution of intra-elite tensions and conflict, even if only partially, and facilitate intra-elite circulation and rotation; and, the state as an institutional venue for and a profitable source of rent-seeking.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the Iranian political system has been subject to diminishing legitimacy. In recent years, various waves of protest have spread across the country and the question of the resilience of the revolutionary state becomes more pressing by the day. Drawing from extensive fieldwork and rare primary sources, Mehran Kamrava provides here a comprehensive and accessible analysis of the Iranian state and the various formal and informal institutions through which it operates. The book offers an in-depth analysis of the Iranian state, from the Constitution to the powers and offices of the Supreme Leader, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the several intelligence agencies. Paying careful attention to the nuances of Iranian politics, Kamrava also highlights how factional politics and rentierism have served to enhance state resilience. Presenting a range of original insights, this book is invaluable to understanding the inner workings of the contemporary Iranian state.