In the article “Did Premodern Muslims Distinguish the Religious and Secular? The Dīn–Dunyā Binary in Medieval Islamic Thought” (Journal of Islamic Studies, Volume 31, Issue 2, 2020), Rushain Abbasi challenges the widely-held belief that premodern Muslims did not make a distinction between the religious and secular. After examining several usages of the dīn–dunyā binary across diverse genres of medieval Islamic writings, Abbasi concludes that premodern Muslims did in fact view the world in terms of distinct spheres of religion and non-religion and that this distinction was used to understand phenomena as diverse and significant as politics and prophethood.
Aaron Rock-Singer explores tracing the gradual formation of a distinctly Salafi beard in the 20th century Middle East in the article “Leading with a Fist: A History of the Salafi Beard in the 20th-Century Middle East” (Journal of Islamic Law and Society, Volume 27, Issue 1-2, 2020). By drawing on Salafi scholarly compendia, leading journals, popular pamphlets, and daily newspapers produced primarily in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, he argues that Salafi elites revived a longer Islamic legal tradition in order to distinguish their flock from secular nationalist projects of communal identity and Islamic activists alike. This allows him to highlight Salafism’s interpretative approach, the dynamics that define its development as a social movement, and the broader significance of visual markers in modern projects of Islamic piety.
Michael G. Peletz has a new book out: Sharia Transformations: Cultural Politics and the Rebranding of an Islamic Judiciary(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2020)is an ethnographic, historical, and theoretical study of the practice and lived entailments of sharia in Malaysia, focusing on the routine everyday practices of Malaysia’s sharia courts and the changes that have occurred in the court discourses and practices in recent decade. Michael G. Peletz approaches Malaysia’s sharia judiciary as a global assemblage and addresses important issues in the humanistic and social-scientific literature concerning how Malays and other Muslims engage ethical norms and deal with law, social justice, and governance in a rapidly globalizing world.