GU-Q professor’s new book explores influential classical Muslim scholar
March 31 2020 01:38 AM
Sohaira Siddiqui
Sohaira Siddiqui

In her new book, Law and Politics under the Abbasids: An Intellectual Portrait of al-Juwayni, Sohaira Siddiqui, associate professor at Qatar Foundation partner university Georgetown University in Qatar, illuminates the thought of the 11th century scholar, Abu Ma’ali al-Juwayni, whose work has not sufficiently been explored in Western academia. 
In her book, Prof Siddiqui navigates several of al-Juwayni’s texts to locate the key theological, legal and practical questions that animated his thought. By engaging with multiple works, she presents a cross-disciplinary analysis that weaves numerous disciplines in Islamic intellectual thought together, including theology, political thought, and law. 
For Siddiqui, inspiration for studying al-Juwayni arose out of a more fundamental curiosity about the place of Islamic law in the practice and imagination of Muslims today. What drew her to al-Juwayni was his political treatise, ‘Ghiyath al-Umam’, in which he conceptualises the absence of the Calipha and the continuity of society. His reflections on the absence of the Calipha comes at the end of a longer engagement with political contingencies in which he discusses both the ideal political ruler, and what communities should do when an ideal leader is not found. In the absence of the Calipha, al-Juwayni reimagines what role the Shariah plays in communities. 
On the basis of al-Juwayni’s arguments, Siddiqui reconceptualises how to think about the Shari’a and notes that, “his (al-Juwayni’s) conversation about the death of Shariah lets us think in a new way about the life of the sharia today.”
Beyond the specific arguments of the book, Siddiqui seeks to make contributions to the discipline of Islamic Studies more broadly. 
She argues that scholars within Islamic Studies should move beyond their disciplinary silos in Islamic law, Islamic political thought, Islamic theology, to see how ideas within these fields are interrelated. 
She notes that classical Muslim scholars, much like al-Juwayni, wrote in multiple disciplines, therefore their works should be addressed in a multidisciplinary manner. 
“I want scholars to start thinking about how epistemology, law, and political thought are intertwined,” she explained. 
“I hope that from reading this book scholars start to think about ways in which they can move beyond the text and time period in which they work to really think horizontally about how these issues are emerging and how they are constructed.”

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