Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ahmed on Islamic law and empire in Afghanistan


Faiz Ahmed, Brown University, published Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires with Harvard University Press in 2017. From the publisher:
Cover: Afghanistan Rising in HARDCOVERDebunking conventional narratives of Afghanistan as a perennial war zone and  the rule of law as a secular-liberal monopoly, Faiz Ahmed presents a vibrant account of the first Muslim-majority country to gain independence, codify its own laws, and ratify a constitution after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
 Afghanistan Rising illustrates how turn-of-the-twentieth-century Kabul—far from being a landlocked wilderness or remote frontier—became a magnet for itinerant scholars and statesmen shuttling between Ottoman and British imperial domains. Tracing the country’s longstanding but often ignored scholarly and educational ties to Baghdad, Damascus, and Istanbul as well as greater Delhi and Lahore, Ahmed explains how the court of Kabul attracted thinkers eager to craft a modern state within the interpretive traditions of Islamic law and ethics, or shariʿa, and international norms of legality. From Turkish lawyers and Arab officers to Pashtun clerics and Indian bureaucrats, this rich narrative focuses on encounters between divergent streams of modern Muslim thought and politics, beginning with the Sublime Porte’s first mission to Afghanistan in 1877 and concluding with the collapse of Ottoman rule after World War I. By unearthing a lost history behind Afghanistan’s founding national charter, Ahmed shows how debates today on Islam, governance, and the rule of law have deep roots in a beleaguered land. Based on archival research in six countries and as many languages, Afghanistan Rising rediscovers a time when Kabul stood proudly as a center of constitutional politics, Muslim cosmopolitanism, and contested visions of reform in the greater Islamicate world.
Praise for the book:

“A groundbreaking book that will reorient the way we think about not only Afghan modernity, but also political and legal thought in Muslim societies during the twentieth century. Ahmed describes the emergence of a modern Islamicate region during the age of imperial globalization and demonstrates the appeal of multiple governance models in the ideas exchanged within this region among different Muslim publics. More importantly, he shows how Afghan kings experimented with novel legal and political models to assert their legitimacy while establishing on the global stage Afghanistan’s sovereignty as a modern nation state. The book persuasively shows us how Afghanistan’s transformation exemplifies a model of Muslim modernity that was not Eurocentric.”—Cemil Aydin

“Afghanistan Rising uncovers the lost history behind the first constitution of Afghanistan and that country’s evolution into a modern Islamic state. Ahmed provides highly original insights into Muslim legal history, modernization in non-European contexts, and transnational Muslim networks. Exploring the ideological and social factors that shaped Afghanistan during an age of turmoil and transformation, the work is conceived on a broad scale. This is a well-crafted, theoretically rich, tightly argued, and rigorously executed book. In addition, its lucid style makes for enjoyable reading.”—M. Şükrü Hanioğlu

Here is the Table of Contents:

Introduction
1. An Ottoman Scholar in Victorian Kabul: The First Ottoman Mission to Afghanistan
2. A Damascene Road Meets a Passage to India: Ottoman and Indian Experts in Afghanistan
3. Exit Great Game, Enter Great War: Afghanistan and the Ottoman Empire during World War I
4. Converging Crescents: Turco-Afghan Entente and an Indian Exodus to Kabul
5. Legalizing Afghanistan: Islamic Legal Modernism and the Making of the 1923 Constitution
6. Turkish Tremors, Afghan Aftershocks: Anatolia and Afghanistan after the Ottomans
Conclusion

Further information is available here.

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