Al-Rasheed, “Muted Modernists”

This month, the Oxford University Press will release “Muted Modernists: The Struggle over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia,” by Madawi Al-Rasheed (London School of Economics).  The publisher’s description follows:

Analysis of both official and opposition Saudi divine politics is often monolithic, conjuring images of conservatism, radicalism, misogyny and 519q28vpqzl-_sx320_bo1204203200_resistance to democracy. Madawi Al-Rasheed challenges this stereotype as she examines a long tradition of engaging with modernism that gathered momentum with the Arab uprisings and incurred the wrath of both the regime and its Wahhabi supporters. With this nascent modernism, constructions of new divine politics, anchored in a rigorous reinterpretation of foundational Islamic texts and civil society activism are emerging in a context where authoritarian rule prefers its advocates to remain muted. The author challenges scholarly wisdom on Islamism in general and blurs the boundaries between secular and religious politics.

Ismail, “Saudi Clerics and Shi’a Islam”

In March, Oxford University Press will release “Saudi Clerics and Shi’a Islam” by Raihan Ismail (Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies). The publisher’s description follows:

The Saudi “ulama” are known for their strong opposition to Shi’a theology, Shi’a communities in Saudi Arabia, and external Shi’a influences such as Iran and Hezbollah. Their potent hostility, combined with the influence of the ‘ulama’ within the Saudi state and the Muslim world, has led some commentators to blame the Saudi ‘ulama’ for what they see as growing sectarian conflict in the Middle East. However, there is very little understanding of what reasoning lies behind the positions of the ‘ulama’ and there is a significant gap in the literature dealing with the polemics directed at the Shi’a by the Saudi religious establishment.

In Saudi Clerics and Shi’a Islam, Raihan Ismail looks at the discourse of the Saudi “ulama” regarding Shiism and Shi’a communities, analysing their sermons, lectures, publications and religious rulings. The book finds that the attitudes of the “ulama” are not only governed by their theological convictions regarding Shiism, but are motivated by political events involving the Shi’a within the Saudi state and abroad. It also discovers that political events affect the intensity and frequency of the rhetoric of the ulama at any given time.

Matthiesen, “The Other Saudis”

This past December, Cambridge University Press released “The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism” by Tobias Matthiesen (University of Cambridge).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Other SaudisToby Matthiesen traces the politics of the Shia in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia from the nineteenth century until the present day. This book outlines the difficult experiences of being Shia in a Wahhabi state, and casts new light on how the Shia have mobilised politically to change their position. Shia petitioned the rulers, joined secular opposition parties and founded Islamist movements. Most Saudi Shia opposition activists profited from an amnesty in 1993 and subsequently found a place in civil society and the public sphere. However, since 2011 a new Shia protest movement has again challenged the state. The Other Saudis shows how exclusionary state practices created an internal Other and how sectarian discrimination has strengthened Shia communal identities. The book is based on little-known Arabic sources, extensive fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and interviews with key activists. Of immense geopolitical importance, the oil-rich Eastern Province is a crucial but little known factor in regional politics and Gulf security.

Mouline, “The Clerics of Islam”

This November, Yale University Press will release “The Clerics of Islam: Religious Authority and Political Power in Saudi Arabia” by Nabil Mouline (French National Center for Scientific Research).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Clerics of IslamFollowers of Muhammad b. ’Abd al-Wahhab, often considered to be Islam’s Martin Luther, shaped the political and religious identity of the Saudi state while also enabling the significant worldwide expansion of Salafist Islam. Studies of the movement he inspired, however, have often been limited by scholars’ insufficient access to key sources within Saudi Arabia. Nabil Mouline was granted rare interviews and admittance to important Saudi archives in preparation for this groundbreaking book, the first in-depth study of the Wahhabi religious movement from its founding to the modern day. Gleaning information from both written and oral sources and employing a multidisciplinary approach that combines history, sociology, and Islamic studies, Mouline presents a new reading of this movement that transcends the usual resort to polemics.

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