Pamela Klasova (Macalester College)
Arabic Poetry in Late Antiquity: The Rāʾiyya of Imruʾ al-Qays (Online talk)
Arabic poetry was born and flourished during Late Antiquity, a period of empires and monotheistic religions on the rise. Yet, early Arab poets have traditionally been seen as having little awareness of the wider world, expressing the values and worldview of a nomadic, tribal society embroiled in local feuds. This article explores the early Arab poets' relationship with the wider Late Antique world through one of the master poems by Imruʾ al-Qays, his rāʾiyya. I will argue that the rāʾiyya is fully embedded in Late Antiquity but indifferent to its fundamental aspect—religion—and as such it has the potential to nuance our understanding of Late Antiquity in the Arabian context and beyond. I will talk about how Aziz al-Azmeh's polygenetic model of the emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity has helped me think through the relationship of the pre-Islamic Arabic poetic tradition with the world that surrounded it.
Pamela Klasova is Assistant Professor of the Classical Mediterranean and Middle East at Macalester College. She works at the intersection of classical Arabic literature, Islamic history, and Late Antiquity. She is currently preparing a book on public speech under the Umayyad dynasty (661-750) through the case study of its famous governor, al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf al-Thaqafī. She has published and worked in different fields of Arabic and Islamic studies: oratory, poetry, hadith, history (and historiography), and divination. She holds a PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Georgetown University, MA from Leiden University, and Magistr from Charles University.
Mushegh Asatryan (University of Calgary)
Muslim Prophecy after Muhammad: The View from Late Antiquity
My paper explores several rebel-prophets active in the early decades of the 2nd/8th century in Iraq, situating their beliefs and claims to authority in the socio-religious milieu of Mesopotamia in the first Islamic century and, broader still, of the Late Antique and Ancient Near East. Prior scholarship has chiefly presented these prophets – Abu l-Khattab al-Asadi, Mughira b. Sa'id and several others – as deranged heretics and bizarre deviants, following later Muslim heresiographic standards of correct belief and practice. Meanwhile, a cursory glance at the first century of Islamic history reveals a bevy of individuals who made prophetic claims, both in Muhammad's time, such as Musaylima and Sajah, and in the century after his death, such as Mukhtar al-Thaqafi and Hamza b. 'Amara al-Barbari. Thus, far from being marginal, these prophets were an organic part of the early Islamic socio-religious environment; and far from being bizarre, their prophetic claims relied on a tradition of authoritative, prophetic discourse that was widely spread in the first Islamic century. As I will show further, this tradition was much older and stretched back into the Late Antique and Ancient Near East.
Mushegh Asatryan is Associate Professor of Arabic and Muslim Cultures and Director of the Language Research Centre at the University of Calgary (Canada). His interests include medieval Islamic sectarianism, Muslim constructions of heresy and orthodoxy, antinomianism, and the culture of debate and polemics in the Abbasid empire. He is the author of Controversies in Formative Shi'i Islam, "How to Read Muslim Heresiology," and the forthcoming "Of Wine, Sex, and Other Abominations: The Meanings of Antinomianism in Early Islamic Iraq," among other works. He is currently working on the development of the concept of "Sunnism" as an exclusive sectarian designation in Abbasid religious circles.
Reyhan Durmaz (Pennsylvania State University)
The Late Antique World of Exegetical Storytelling
Since the early systematic studies of Late Antiquity, exegetical storytelling, performed in textual, pictorial, and embodied ways, has been identified as one of the main characteristics of the period that ties early Christianity to the emergence of Islam. Scholars have in fact described Late Antiquity as a scriptural universe in which interpretations of biblical passages, ever-changing and expanding, led to a rich reservoir of competing images, representations, practices, and concepts that speak a shared language of the divine past. How does the Qurʾān nuance our conceptualization of this scriptural universe? And how can this context help us understand the Qurʾān better? This paper contextualizes Muhammad and the early Islamic community in that world of exegetical storytelling and pietistic speculation in Late Antiquity. By focusing on an underexplored section in Sūrat al-Kahf, Q18:27–59, I will present the ways in which the Qurʾān, with its narrative ambiguity and cooperative interpretation, participated in the creation of the concept of unlimited and ever-expanding scripture in the historical context it emerged.
Reyhan Durmaz is an Assistant Professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania and an NEH Faculty Research Fellow at Fordham University's Orthodox Christian Studies Center (AY 2022–23). Her research interests include religion in Late Antiquity, the history of Syriac Christianity, and Christianity and Christian-Muslim relations in the medieval Middle East. She is the author of Stories between Christianity and Islam: Saints, Memory, and Cultural Exchange in Late Antiquity and Beyond (University of California Press, 2022).
Finbarr Barry Flood (New York University)
Legalism, Iconoclasm, and Anti-colonialism – Other Statue Histories
In one of his seminal works, Islams and Modernities (3rd ed. 2009), Aziz Al-Azmeh wrote that "contrary to political and ideological pretensions, the historical reality of the practice of Islamic law has been one of wide latitude in opinions over specific points of law ..." Taking its cue from this insight, my lecture revisits the 'Urabi Revolt of 1882, an anti-colonial revolt which resonated globally with opponents of British colonialism, but which has largely been forgotten outside of Egypt. During the revolt, a series of monumental bronze figurative sculptures commissioned from France and erected in Cairo by the Khedive Isma'il Pasha (r.1863-1879) as part of a major program of modernization became a flashpoint for the rebels, who sought a fatwa prescribing their destruction. The fatwa has often been read as attesting to a traditional legalism that was monolithic in its opposition to modernization. A less essentialist reading might see it as mobilizing legalism in the service of anti-colonialism. Arguing the point, the lecture suggests that historical precedents, intra-juridical rivalries, and contemporary geopolitics all played their part in the role that public statuary assumed in the polemics of the 1882 revolt.
Finbarr Barry Flood is director of Silsila: Center for Material Histories, and William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the Humanities at the Institute of Fine Arts and Department of Art History, New York University. Recent work includes Technologies de dévotion dans les arts de l'Islam: pèlerins, reliques, copies (Musée du Louvre/Hazan, 2019) and Archives of Flotsam – Objects and Early Globalism, co-written with Beate Fricke, University of Bern, which will be published by Princeton University Press. He is in the final stages of a long-term book project, provisionally entitled Islam and Image: Contested Histories, which formed the basis of the Slade Lectures, delivered at the University of Oxford in spring 2019.
Alba Fedeli (Universität Hamburg)
Early Qur'anic Artefacts and their Social History: Manuscript A.Perg.2 and the Event that happened in its Parchment
Early Qur'anic manuscripts as material informants are investigated through the study of their materials, assembling, layout planning, and a thorough comprehension of their script styles. Little is known about the manufacturing environment and the social dynamics at the basis of the making of Qur'anic manuscripts. From medieval treatises and commentaries, manuscript inventories, and physical and textual elements of the objects, scholars can reconstruct the characteristics of the commodification of the Qur'an as an object in terms of production and distribution (Cortese 2013); the relationship between size and costs (Déroche 2013); the conditions under which the copyists were working and their working pace (Déroche 2007); the status of copyists and Qur'anic copies' patrons (Blair 2006); the organization of the work in teams (Déroche 2009, Fedeli 2015); the production process of Qur'anic manuscripts, and their use in teaching (Hilali 2017).
A small piece of parchment measuring 237 x 205 mm can add further details about the event that happened in and around the leaf during the physical moment of the writing performed by two people. The object, A.Perg.2, are the remains of a bifolium described in the catalogue of Qur'anic fragments from the Papyrussammlung of the Austrian National Library as a very unusual palimpsest (Löbenstein 1980) but its nature as a palimpsest is a controversial issue (Fedeli 2005). A recent re-imaging of the fragment with post-processing of the multispectral images (Phelps, Easton, Knox and Kasotakis 2020) allowed a re-reading of the manuscript text in its cultural context and its page, recognized as a dynamic space of cognition (Nichols' Material Philology).
Alba Fedeli is a research associate at the Asien-Afrika-Institut, Universität Hamburg, working on the transmission of early Qur'anic manuscripts and their writing system. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, UK, at the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing, after studies in Italy with Sergio Noja Noseda, and has first-hand knowledge of manuscript collections scattered all over the world, from Yemen to Ireland, from Russia to Qatar and Egypt. Her works include the edition of the Mingana-Lewis Qur'anic palimpsest. She is the co-PI of InterSaME Project ("The intertwined world of the oral and written transmission of sacred traditions in the Middle East"), a DFG-AHRC joint project in cooperation with Geoffrey Khan at the University of Cambridge.
Bilal Orfali (American University of Beirut)
Qur'an and Adab: Select Stories from Kitāb al-Bukhalāʾ of al-Jāḥiẓ
In the maqāma of Mosul by al-Hamadhānī (d. 398/1008), a mad healer prophet and his partner, ʿĪsā b. Hishām, intervene in a funeral claiming to be able to revive the dead man. In the course of the story, this prophet figure transforms the somber scene of mourning into a comedy in which baffled onlookers from the town are seized by the possibility of the miracle. Will this stranger bring the corpse back to life? Is he truly a healer or a prophet? Is the man truly dead?
Bilal Orfali, Ph.D. (2009), Yale University, is Sheikh Zayed Chair for Arabic and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut and a Visiting Professor at New York University Abu Dhabi. He specializes in Arabic literature, Sufism, and Qurʾānic Studies. He co-edits al-Abhath Journal, al-Markaz: Majallat al-dirāsāt al-ʿArabiyya, Brill's book series Texts and Studies on the Qur'an, and Handbooks on Islamic Mysticism. He is Associate Editor for the Journal of Arabic Literature, member of the editorial board of the Library of Arabic Literature at NYUAD, member of the scientific committee for the Abu Dhabi Center of Arabic Language and serves on the advisory boards of many international Journals and academic projects in the Middle East, Europe, USA, and beyond. Orfali is the author and editor of more than twenty books on Arabic Studies.
Shady Nasser (Harvard University)
Reciting the Qurʾān with Melodies
The paper explores Muslim scholars' opinions on the permissibility of using melodies and music in the recitation of the Qurʾān. The paper will focus on the modern rivalry between the two trends of recitation (with and without melody) and discuss the reasons behind the so-called decline of the Egyptian school of recitation (melodic) vis-à-vis the increasing popularity of the Saudi school (non-melodic).
Shady Nasser is an associate professor of Near Eastern languages and civilizations at Harvard university. His research focuses on the transmission and reception history of the Quran, its variant readings, and the standardization of the Arabic language.
Ramzi Baalbaki (American University of Beirut)
The Centrality of the Qurʾan to the Arabic Lexicographical Tradition
Early linguistic activity, in both naḥw (grammar) and luġa (lexicography), is inextricably linked to the study of the Qurʾān. Modern scholarship has given more attention to naḥw than luġa in this respect. This paper briefly discusses the relationship between early grammatical activity and the Qurʾān but examines in more detail the role of the Qurʾān in and its influence on the lexicographical tradition. The lexicographical tradition as a whole cannot be understood without taking into consideration the influence of the Qurʾānic text on its emergence and subject matter. But whereas the impact of the Qurʾān is obvious on the emergence of both mubawwab (onomasiological) and muǧannas (semasiological) lexica and their material, it is the former type that holds the key to appreciating how profound the influence of Qurʾān was on lexicography. This will be demonstrated by a brief examination of the following genres of mubawwab lexica: ġarīb (strange usage), muʿarrab (Arabized words), aḍdād (words with two contradictory meanings), ḥurūf/aṣwāt (letters of the alphabet), and abniya (morphological patterns).
Ramzi Baalbaki is the Margaret Weyerhaeuser Jewett Chair of Arabic at the American University of Beirut and the Head of the Academic Council of the Doha Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language. He has published extensively on Arabic Grammatical Theory and Arabic lexicography. His books include The Legacy of the Kitāb: Sībawayhi's Analytical Methods within the Context of the Arabic Grammatical Theory (Brill, 2008) and The Arabic Lexicographical Tradition from the 2nd/8th to the 12th/18th Century (Brill, 2014). He has also produced critical editions of numerous classical Arabic texts and co-authored, with his late father Mounir Baalbaki, the famous English-Arabic dictionary, al-Mawrid, and its comprehensive counterpart, al-Mawrid al-Akbar (Beirut, 2005).
Saïd Amir Arjomand (State University of New York at Stony Brook)
Transcendence and Secularity in Persianate Islam (online talk)
Secularity is here conceived not as generic but subject to variety in different regions of the modern world. This paper examines the pattern of secularity in the history of Iran that is culturally distinctive. This distinctive pattern derives from the two major components of Persianate Islam: Sufism and kingship. With respect to the first component, my finding is that this pattern of secularity is rooted in the idea of transcendence in two aspects of Sufism--antinomian love mysticism and gnostic theosophy that transformed them from religion to culture. Regarding kingship as the second component of Persianate Islam, I have traced the historical of kingship in the heritage of ancient Iran and examined its rethinking by a group of contemporary Iranian intellectuals as a key to the reform of Islam.
Saïd Amir Arjomand (Ph.D, University of Chicago, 1980) has been at Stony Brook since 1978, and is currently the Editor of the Journal of Persianate Studies. Arjomand is the author of The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Organization and Societal Change in Shi'ite Iran from the Beginning to l890, the University of Chicago Press, l984; The Turban for the Crown. The Islamic revolution in Iran, Oxford University Press, 1988; and After Khomeini, Iran under his Successors, Oxford University Press, 2009. Arjomand is concurrently Director of the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies, guiding its project on the integration of social theory and regional studies.
Azmi Bishara (The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies)
Secularisation without Secularism (online talk)
Secularisation comprises two historical processes of differentiation between the mundane and the sacred. The first is the secularisation of forms of knowledge, while the second is the secularisation of the state. Bishara argues that both processes took place in the East and the West with different results. The major differences had to do with the scientific and industrial revolution and the legal neutrality of the state with respect to religion in the West. Modern secularisation in the Muslim world took place in the context of an asymmetric interaction with a secularised, hegemonic West and did not entail the gradual secularisation of culture that followed those revolutions in Europe.
The sciences are used to understand nature, society, and the human body in the Muslim world, and there are no theocracies (except maybe Iran, which is also secular in the sense that it uses religion as an ideology), but the religious culture still prevails, and religion is entrenched at the level of identity. The struggle over the values of pluralism and the rejection of state dictates continue, but secularism as an ideology that calls for the removal of religion from the public sphere provokes reactions on the level of identity and mass culture.
Azmi Bishara is an Arab researcher, one of the most prominent intellectuals in the Arab world, known for his work in political philosophy on civil society, religion, and secularism, particularly pertaining to the Arabs. Bishara is one of the most influential critics of authoritarianism and colonialism and a staunch supporter of democratic transition in the region. Bishara has published extensively on political thought, social theory, and philosophy, and has produced several literary works in various languages. His Arabic publications include: Civil Society: A Critical Study (1996); On the Arab Question: An Introduction to an Arab Democratic Manifesto (2007); Religion and Secularism in Historical Context (3 volumes 2011-2013); On Revolution and Susceptibility to Revolution (2012); The Army and Political Power in the Arab Context: Theoretical Problems (2017); What is Populism? (2019); and The Transition to Democracy and its Problematique: a Theoretical and Applied Comparative Study (2020). Some of these works have become key references within their respective field. Bishara's writings have been published in English, including Sectarianism without Sects (Oxford/Hurst); Palestine: Matters of Truth and Justice (Hurst); On Salafism: Concepts and Contexts (forthcoming in Stanford University Press) which was also published in Arabic and French; and a trilogy on Arab revolutions (I. B. Tauris): Understanding Revolutions: Opening Acts in Tunisia, Egypt: Revolution, Failed Transition and Counter-Revolution and the soon to be published Syria 2011-2013: Revolution and Tyranny before the Mayhem.
Hammoud Hammoud (Freie Universität Berlin)
Secularism and the State: An Attempt to Understand al-Azmeh's Approach
Considering that secularism is not an ideological recipe, nor is it a list of assumptions, but rather an objective historical process embedded in a global context and therefore requires to be seen with regard to historical and social science categories, Aziz al-Azmeh had in many of his writings since the beginning of the 1990s revisited this concept by studying its historical features in the Arab world. Although modernity (correlative with the process of secularization) is of European origin, it, with its secular consequences, permeated the whole world. Secularization is an objective historical process, conducting the differentiation and institutionalization of social, political, and religious functions based upon the objective forces of modernity. Secularism in this sense was also rooted, as elsewhere, in the Arab and Islamic world for over a century and a half. In this approach, Azmeh stands against the anti-modernist, vitalist, organismic, and culturalist claims that treat the Arabs as an Exception from the very concept of the secular, being regarded as "post-Christianity continuous with its Christian parent". This is the first question to be discussed in my contribution. The second is Azmeh's approach regarding the role of the state in processes of secularization (The state is regarded as the institutional and organizational vehicle of modernization, the regulator, the integrator, and the big factor in producing a national consensus based on citizenship), and why this role of the Arab state had vanished, a situation, which paved the way for the so-termed "Islamic revival". Finally, there will be a brief discussion of why it is necessary, as intellectuals, to rethink the relationship between religion and secularism in historical terms and deepen our thinking about the importance of secularism as a historical necessity to re-engage with instead of leaving it.
Hammoud Hamoud is a writer and researcher in the early late antique Islamic thought and theology and in contemporary Islamism and fundamentalism. He holds a master's degree in religious sciences (Freie Universität Berlin). He currently writes his Ph.D. thesis on the formative stage and the rise of the concept of Islamic God, Allah in Late Antiquity out of the Arab pagan and polytheistic context. Among his published writings is his book: بحثاً عن المقدس: البعث والأصولية, A Quest for The Sacred: The Baath and Fundamentalism (Dar Jadawel, Beirut, 2014.). He conducted and edited a book-long interview with Aziz al-Azmeh: سورية والصعود الأصولي (Syria and the rise of fundamentalism (Riad El-Rayyes, 2015)). He had recently finished the abridged Arabic translation of al-Azmeh's book entitled The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allah and His People.
Gilbert Achcar (SOAS, University of London)
Orientalism in Reverse and Surreptitious Religiosity
Orientalism in reverse, first defined by the late Syrian philosopher Sadik Jalal al-Azm, was a major "secular" manifestation of the global phenomenon dubbed "God's revenge" in the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle East. Aziz al-Azmeh has been one of the foremost intellectual critics of this surreptitious sacralisation of religion and its political uses, which bestowed a new populist legitimation on the prohibition of "blasphemy" and freethinking.
Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon, researched and taught in Beirut, Paris, and Berlin, before joining SOAS, University of London, where he has been Professor of Development Studies and International Relations since 2007. He is the author of several books, published in over 15 languages, including The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder (2002, 2006); Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-authored with Noam Chomsky (2007, 2008); The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010); Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism (2013); The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising (2013, 2022); and Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising (2016).
Sona Grigoryan (Central European University)
Receptions of Abbasid Freethinking: The Case of al-Maʿarrī
The paper looks at the various definitions of freethinking in the Islamicate world and examines how the notion was applied to some prominent thinkers by modern scholarship. The specific aim, however, is to reevaluate al-Maʿarrī's place in the Arab freethinking tradition and in the history of unbelief. Modern and contemporary scholarship on al-Maʿarrī, specifically on one of his best-known works- Luzūm mā lā yalzam (The Self-Imposed Unnecessity), is divided into two camps. One sought to explain away contradictions and establish coherence in order to prove al-Maʿarrī's freethinking and unbelief. The notion of taqīya (dissimulation) has served as a useful device here, allowing scholars to argue that the poet had to conceal (or at least obfuscate) his unorthodox ideas to avoid persecution. Yet the other current, in somewhat apologist terms, strived to present him as a sincere believer and to protect him from the stain of unbelief. Scholars in this camp, as we shall see, have portrayed al-Maʿarrī not only as a fervent believer but also specifically as a Sunnī Muslim believer. This paper will show why both readings are reductive and bear poor analytical leverage and how an alternative paradigm based on the notion of ambivalence can help to undertake an inclusive and non-reductive interpretation of the work.
Sona Grigoryan is a researcher with a focus on the Arab and Muslim history of the Middle Ages. Her doctoral research at CEU explored notions of unbelief and freethinking in the writings of the eleventh-century Syrian poet Abū l-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī (d.1058). Her first MA research at the Yerevan State University dealt with modern Sunni fundamentalist thought, whereas her second MA research at CEU explored the anti-Christian polemics of the famous Muslim thinker Ibn Taymiyya (d.1328). Sona's broader fields of research interest are critique of religion, religious polemics, and Muslim-Christian relationships in the Middle Ages. She is the author of Neither Belief nor Unbelief: Intentional Ambivalence in al-Maʿarrī's Luzūm (De Gruyter, 2022).
Stefan Leder (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)
Violence, Power, and Legitimacy: How adab literature contributes to political discourse
The adabized version of the Polis-oriented philosophical concept of good rule presented by al-Wazir al-Maghribi (d. 418/1027) in a splendid small book may exemplify one strand within the varied and composite political advice leanings of Arabic adab literature. We outline its relevance for political thought and its stance with respect to tenets of justified rule and operational governance, and we sketch its particular approach to literary expression. Our findings may contribute to the current conceptualization of the secular in Islamicate history and to our perception of its political literature.
Stefan Leder's research mainly regards the history of the Middle East largely from the Abbasid to the Mamluk periods dealing with literary, intellectual, and political dynamics. Besides the study of discourses and cultural trends, it gives ample space to the text-based analysis of the individual authors' voices, endeavors, and literary and technical means. Current work regards the impact of the strong nomadic presence during the middle period, and the significance of the elaborate chancery prose for governmental practice and a professional code. Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg until 2017 and during this time Director of the Orient-Institut at Beirut, and Chairman of the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Centre dealing with nomad-sedentary interrelations in past and presence at the Universities of Halle and Leipzig, he spent many years in Arabic countries on teaching and academic assignments.
Ebrahim Moosa (University of Notre Dame)
Ghazālī and the Law: Alterity, Reason, and Universality
I will argue that Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d.1111) in the later phase of his life linked law to a deeper understanding of the self. Ghazālī placed the interiorized alterity of the law above reason and universality. The self-comprehending and self-understanding subject bypasses the universalizing narrative of reason and takes refuge in the aesthetics of a beautified self. This is how Ghazālī articulates the discernment of the self, fiqh al-nafs, or the self-intelligibility of the subject. This move allows Ghazālī to highlight the efficacy of the interiorization of ethics against some of the black-letter jurists whom he criticized for claiming that the law only obliges the will to in its external action, but Ghazālī counters by arguing that the law also obliges the inner posture and obliges the moral subject to submit to the ontological call.
Ebrahim Moosa is the Mirza Family Professor in Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies and co-director of the Contending Modernities program at the University of Notre Dame. Moosa's interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics, and theology. His book What Is a Madrasa? was published in 2015 by the University of North Carolina Press. Moosa also is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination (2005). More details: https://keough.nd.edu/profile/ebrahim-moosa/
Adam Mestyan (Duke University)
Islamic Law Under Occupation: A Week In the Damascus Shari'a Court, October 1918
Building on the insights from my forthcoming monograph Modern Arab Kingship – Remaking the Ottoman Political Order in the Interwar Middle East (Princeton UP, 2023), this paper is a glimpse into my next project, a microhistory about the workings of the Damascus shari'a court between 1918 and 1925. In this talk, I zoom in on cases adjudicated during the first seven days after the shari'a court restarted its activity (9-16 Muharram 1337 / 15-22 October 1918), after the Allied occupation of the city in the First World War. Occupied Damascus in October 1918 was administered by the army of the Hijaz, headed by Sharif Faysal, the legendary son of al-Husayn, the former Ottoman emir of Mecca who revolted against the empire. But this talk is not about great men. Rather I focus on Muslim jurists, poor women, and their ways of protecting their family and wealth through Islamic law in a moment of political chaos. By a close reading of the court's extensive hand-written Arabic records (sijillat), at the center of my analysis is the judge Muhammad Khayri al-Mahasini and his mostly female clients, the litigants, and the changes in the court's personnel, bureaucratic procedures, legal codes, and adjudications.
Adam Mestyan is Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Duke University. He is a graduate of CEU and ELTE (Budapest). He taught at Oxford University and subsequently was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. In addition to several articles in flagship journals, his previous works in political and cultural history include Modern Arab Kingship – Remaking the Ottoman Political Order in the Interwar Middle East (Princeton University Press, forthcoming in 2023), Primordial History, Print Capitalism, and Egyptology in Nineteenth-Century Cairo (Ifao, 2021); and Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt (Princeton University Press, 2017). He is the PI of the collaborative Islamic digital humanities project, Digital Cairo - Studying Urban Transformation through a TEI XML Database, 1828-1914, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and L'Institut français d'archéologie orientale du Caire (Ifao).
Sami Zubaida (Birkbeck, University of London)
Mezze, Drink and the Meal (online talk)
I have chosen to celebrate Aziz's brilliant career of scholarship and enlightenment, not with a contribution on shared interests in politics and histories, but in another shared field of endeavour, good living, food, and drink. Drink and mezze are fields of social and cultural life in much of the Middle East. I examine some aspects of the connections between food and drink, in a comparative discourse on the varying structures of the meal in histories and regions. I explore patterns of consumption and sociability emerging from historical and literary sources and conclude with a consideration of the modern period and emergent forms of food, drink, and sociability. I take up, in particular, the concept and practice of mezze in association with drink, and emergent patterns of meals and entertainments. I note that the combination with drink leads to a more leisurely and 'civilized' form of the meal.
Sami Zubaida is Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck, University of London, Fellow of Birkbeck College, Professorial Research Associate of the Food Studies Centre, at SOAS. He has held visiting positions in Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, Aix-en-Provence, Paris, Berkley CA, and NYU, written and lectured widely on themes of religion, culture, law, and politics in the Middle East, with particular attention to Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. His other work is on food history and culture. Books: Islam, the People and the State: Political Ideas and Movements in the Middle East (3rd edition 2009; translated in Arabic, Hebrew, Italian and Turkish); A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (edited, with R. Tapper, 2nd edition 2000; translated in Arabic and Turkish); Law and Power in the Islamic World (2003; translated in Arabic, Danish and Turkish) and Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East (2011); Food, Politics and Society: Social Theory and the Modern Food System, with Alex Colas, Jason Edwards and Jane Levi (2018).