Around the Web This Week

Here are some interesting stories involving law and religion from this past week:

Coope, “The Most Noble of People”

In April, the University of Michigan Press will release The Most Noble of People: Religious, Ethnic, and Gender Identity in Muslim Spain by Jessica A. Coope (University of Nebraska). The publisher’s description follows:

noble-peopleThe Most Noble of People presents a nuanced look at questions of identity in Muslim Spain under the Umayyads, an Arab dynasty that ruled from 756 to 1031. With a social historical emphasis on relations among different religious and ethnic groups, and between men and women, Jessica A. Coope considers the ways in which personal and cultural identity in al-Andalus could be alternately fluid and contentious.

The opening chapters define Arab and Muslim identity as those categories were understood in Muslim Spain, highlighting the unique aspects of this society as well as its similarities with other parts of the medieval Islamic world.The book goes on to discuss what it meant to be a Jew or Christian in Spain under Islamic rule, and the degree to which non-Muslims were full participants in society. Following this is a consideration of gender identity as defined by Islamic law and by less normative sources like literature and mystical texts. It concludes by focusing on internal rebellions against the government of Muslim Spain, particularly the conflicts between Muslims who were ethnically Arab and those who were Berber or native Iberian, pointing to the limits of Muslim solidarity.

Drawn from an unusually broad array of sources—including legal texts, religious polemic, chronicles, mystical texts, prose literature, and poetry, in both Arabic and Latin—many of Coope’s illustrations of life in al-Andalus also reflect something of the larger medieval world. Further, some key questions about gender, ethnicity, and religious identity that concerned people in Muslim Spain—for example, women’s status under Islamic law, or what it means to be a Muslim in different contexts and societies around the world—remain relevant today.

Belloc, “Characters of the Reformation”

In April, Ignatius Press will release a new paperback edition of Characters of the Reformation by Hilaire Belloc. The publisher’s description follows:

characters-of-the-reformationOne of the most fascinating books ever written by the great Catholic historian Belloc, he presents  in bold colors the 23 principal characters of the Protestant Reformation, focusing primarily on those figures concerned with the events in England, analyzing their strengths, mistakes, motives and deeds which changed the course of history.

Among the characters he examines are Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, St. Thomas More, Mary Tudor, Thomas Cromwell, William Cecil, Mary Stuart, Cardinal Richelieu and many more. Belloc illustrates how the motives of the Protestant leaders were rarely religious in nature, but usually political or economic. He underscores the fact that European Christendom was once a single united entity, under the authority of the Catholic Church, each country viewing itself as a single “province” of the whole.

Many of Europe’s Princes resented the power that the Bishop of Rome held in their own lands. The Reformation, aided by the rise of Nationalism, was a means for the nobles of Europe to shake off Papal authority and rule their territory independently. It also gave European monarchs control over the Church and all of its property in their realm, including the taxes that would normally be sent to Rome.

The nobles grew rich by confiscating the wealth of the Church, and resisted reconciliation if that meant returning the wealth to its rightful owner. In subsequent generations, the fear of this possibility gave the noble classes an incentive to remain in the Protestant camp. Belloc warns that this breakup of Christendom may still destroy our Christian civilization.

Even those who think they do not like history will be unable to put this book down as it brings history vividly to life. As usual, Belloc’s historical perspective offers timeless wisdom and insight rarely seen in modern times.

Neale, “Jihad in Premodern Sufi Writings”

In December, Palgrave MacMillan released Jihad in Premodern Sufi Writings by Harry S. Neale (UC Berkley). The publisher’s description follows:

jihad-in-premodernThis book is the only comprehensive study in a European language that analyzes how Sufi treatises, Qur’anic commentary, letters, hagiography, and poetry define and depict jihad. Harry S. Neale analyzes Sufi jihad discourse in Arabic and Persian texts composed between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries, providing access to many writings that have hitherto been unavailable in English. Despite the diversity of practice within Sufism that existed throughout the premodern period, Sufi writings consistently promulgated a complementary understanding of jihad as both a spiritual and military endeavor. Neale discusses the disparity between contemporary academic Sufi jihad discourse in European languages, which generally presents Sufis as peaceful mystics, and contemporary academic writing in Arabic that depicts Sufis as exemplary warriors who combine spiritual discipline with martial zeal. The book concludes that historically, Sufi writings never espoused a purely spiritual interpretation of the doctrine of jihad.

Braunstein, “Prophets and Patriots”

In April, the University of California Press will release Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide by Ruth Braunstein (University of Connecticut). The publisher’s description follows:

prophets-and-patriotsProphets and Patriots takes readers inside two of the most active populist movements of the Obama era and highlights cultural convergences and contradictions at the heart of American political life. In the wake of the Great Recession and amidst rising discontent with government responsiveness to ordinary citizens, the book follows participants in two very different groups—a progressive faith-based community organization and a conservative Tea Party group—as they set out to become active and informed citizens, put their faith into action, and hold government accountable. They viewed themselves as the latest in a long line of prophetic voices and patriotic heroes who were carrying forward the promise of the American democratic project. Yet the practical ways in which they each pursued this common vision reflected subtly different understandings of American democracy and citizenship.

Rahemtulla, “Qur’an of the Oppressed”

In April, Oxford University Press will release Qur’an of the Oppressed: Liberation Theology and Gender Justice in Islam by Shadaab Rahemtulla (University of Wales). The publisher’s description follows:

Quran of the Oppressed.jpgThis study analyzes the commentaries of four Muslim intellectuals who have turned to scripture as a liberating text to confront an array of problems, from patriarchy, racism, and empire to poverty and interreligious communal violence. Shadaab Rahemtulla considers the exegeses of the South African Farid Esack (b. 1956), the Indian Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013), the African American Amina Wadud (b. 1952), and the Pakistani American Asma Barlas (b. 1950). Rahemtulla examines how these intellectuals have been able to expound this seventh-century Arabian text in a socially liberating way, addressing their own lived realities of oppression, and thus contexts that are worlds removed from that of the text’s immediate audience. Through a close reading of their works, he underlines the importance of both the ethico-social content of the Qur’an and their usage of new and innovative reading practices.

This work provides a rich analysis of the thought-ways of specific Muslim intellectuals, thereby substantiating a broadly framed school of thought. Rahemtulla draws out their specific and general importance without displaying an uncritical sympathy. He sheds light on the impact of modern exegetical commentary which is more self-consciously concerned with historical context and present realities. In a mutually reinforcing way, this work thus illuminates both the role of agency and hermeneutical approaches in modern Islamic thought.

“The English Province of the Franciscans” (Robson, ed.)

In April, Brill Publishers will release The English Province of the Franciscans (1224-c. 1350) edited by Michael J. P. Robson (Cambridge University). The publisher’s description follows:

english-friars-provinceThis volume explores the rich diversity of the Franciscan contribution to the life of the order and its ministry throughout England between 1224 and c. 1350. The 21 contributions examine the friars’ impact across the different strata of English society, from the parish churches, the missions, the royal courts and the universities. Friars were ubiquitous in England throughout this period and they participated in various programmes of renewal.Contributors are (in order of appearance) Amanda Power, Philippa M. Hoskin, Jens Röhrkasten, Michael F. Custato, OFM, Michael W. Blastic, OFM, Jean-François Godet-Calogeras, Peter V. Loewen, Lesley Smith, Eleonora Lombardo, Nigel Morgan, Cecilia Panti, Hubert Philipp Weber, Timothy J. Johnson, Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ, Takashi Shogimen, Susan J. Ridyard, Michael J. Haren, Christian Steer, Anna Campbell, and Michael J. P. Robson.

Call for Papers on Eastern Christianity – American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting

aar_logoFordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center has passed along a call for papers from the American Academy of Religion. The Academy seeks papers on the topic of Eastern Orthodox Studies, and the deadline for submissions is March 1. Three primary subtopics have been identified: “Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and ‘Traditional Values’: A Global Alliance?”; “Sergii Bulgakov and Modern Western Theology”; and “Peacemaking and Hospitality in Middle Eastern Christianity: Accommodating Difference in the Eastern Christian Traditions.” More information is available here. Those interested in submitting proposals can do so here.

 

Napoleoni, “ISIS: The Terror Nation”

Next month, Penguin Random House will release ISIS: The Terror Nation by Loretta Napoleoni (The Guardian). The publisher’s description follows:

Jory, “Thailand’s Theory of Monarchy”

Last month, SUNY Press released the paperback edition of Thailand’s Theory of Monarchy: The Vessantara Jataka and the Idea of the Perfect Man by Patrick Jory (University of Queensland). The publisher’s description follows:

thailandSince the 2006 coup d’état, Thailand has been riven by two opposing political visions: one which aspires to a modern democracy and the rule of law, and another which holds to the traditional conception of a kingdom ruled by an exemplary Buddhist monarch. Thailand has one of the world’s largest populations of observant Buddhists and one of its last politically active monarchies. This book examines the Theravada Buddhist foundations of Thailand’s longstanding institution of monarchy. Patrick Jory states that the storehouse of monarchical ideology is to be found in the popular literary genre known as the Jātakas, tales of the Buddha’s past lives. The best-known of these, the Vessantara Jātaka, disseminated an ideal of an infinitely generous prince as a bodhisatta or future Buddha—an ideal which remains influential in Thailand today. Using primary and secondary source materials largely unknown in Western scholarship, Jory traces the history of the Vessantara Jātaka and its political-cultural importance from the ancient to the modern period. Although pressures from European colonial powers and Buddhist reformers led eventually to a revised political conception of the monarchy, the older Buddhist ideal of kingship has yet endured.

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