Katz, “Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice”

NYU’s Marion Holmes Katz has written a new monograph on the understanding of prayer in Islamic law and mysticism, Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice (Cambridge 2013). The publisher’s description follows:

The five daily prayers (ṣalāt) that constitute the second pillar of Islam deeply pervade the everyday life of observant Muslims. Until now, however, no general study has analyzed the rules governing ṣalāt, the historical dimensions of its practice, and the rich variety of ways that it has been interpreted within the Islamic tradition. Marion Holmes Katz’s richly textured book offers a broad historical survey of the rules, values, and interpretations relating to ṣalāt. This innovative study on the subject examines the different ways in which prayer has been understood in Islamic law, Sufi mysticism, and Islamic philosophy. Katz’s book also goes beyond the spiritual realm to analyze the political dimensions of prayer, including scholars’ concerns about the righteousness and piety of rulers. The last chapter raises significant issues around gender roles, including the question of women’s participating in and leading public worship. Katz persuasively describes ṣalāt as both an egalitarian practice and one that can lead to extraordinary religious experience and spiritual distinction. This book will resonate with students of Islamic history and comparative religion.

McMahon, “Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa”

From Cambridge University Press, a new monograph on the abolition of slavery in Africa 100 years ago, Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa (2013), by Tulane professor Elizabeth McMahon. The publisher’s description follows:

Examining the process of abolition on the island of Pemba off the East African coast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this book demonstrates the links between emancipation and the redefinition of honor among all classes of people on the island. By examining the social vulnerability of ex-slaves and the former slave-owning elite caused by the Abolition order of 1897, this study argues that moments of resistance on Pemba reflected an effort to mitigate vulnerability rather than resist the hegemonic power of elites or the colonial state. As the meanings of the Swahili word heshima shifted from honor to respectability, individuals’ reputations came under scrutiny and the Islamic kadhi and colonial courts became an integral location for interrogating reputations in the community. This study illustrates the ways in which former slaves used piety, reputation, gossip, education, kinship, and witchcraft to negotiate the gap between emancipation and local notions of belonging.