Latest publications by Institute of Islamic Studies’ faculty members

Congratulations to Prof. Michelle Hartman, Prof. Laila Parsons and Prof. Robert Wisnowsky on their latest publications:

  • Ḥumaydān, Īmān, and Michelle Hartman (translation). The Weight of Paradise. Northampton, MA: Interlink Books, 2016.

Iman Humaydan’s Weight of Paradise narrates the story of two women set against the post-war backdrop of 1990s Beirut. While making a documentary film about the reconstruction of downtown Beirut, Maya Amer stumbles upon a battered leather suitcase that will change her life forever. Inside it she finds letters, photographs, a diary, and an envelope labeled: Letters from Istanbul. The Weight of Paradise is both the story of Maya and her discovery, and also the story of the owner of these papers, Noura Abu Sawwan. A journalist, Noura fled Syria just before the Lebanese civil war to find greater freedom of expression. But as we learn from her diaries, her flight was also precipitated by her family’s denial of her sister’s suicide after she fell pregnant by a mukhabarat officer. The diaries lead us through the turmoil of Noura’s life first in Syria and then in Beirut: her family’s resistance to political repression in her childhood and adolescence, the passionate love story she lived with Kemal Firat, her Turkish soul mate and the author of the Letters from Istanbul and her commitment to writing against injustice, including publishing her sister’s tragic story. A multi-voiced, multi-genre narration, The Weight of Paradise interweaves the stories of these two women and the people who surround them within the fabric of Beirut in the civil war and its immediate aftermath. A love story as well as a story of women’s liberation and political freedom, the novel is also the tale of a city and country torn apart by repression, occupation, and war. Beirut, Damascus, and Istanbul are shown as vibrant locations where people resist state violence trying to live and thrive together across linguistic, ethnic, religious, and communitarian differences.

The Commander: Fawzi al-Qawuqji and the Fight for Arab Independence, 1914-1948 (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux/Hill & Wang, 2016) focuses on the life of Fawzi al-Qawuqji, the Arab nationalist and soldier who served as an officer in the Ottoman army during World War I; fought against the French in Syria during the rebellion of 1925-1927; fought against the British in Palestine during the Palestinian Revolt of 1936-39, and again in Iraq during the Rashid ‘Ali Coup of 1941; lived in exile in Nazi Germany during World War II; and led the Arab Salvation Army (Jaysh al-inqâdh) against the Haganah/IDF during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Using Qawuqji’s own archive to construct a detailed and carefully contextualized narrative of the journey that he made through certain moments, Parsons offers a glimpse of the complexity and contingency of the historical worlds he inhabited. The book has already been reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly (starred review), Kirkus, Booklist, and the New Yorker. It will also come out in the UK in January with Saqi Books.

Understanding how medieval textual cultures engaged with the heritage of antiquity (transmission and translation) depends on recognizing that reception is a creative cultural act (transformation). The essays in this volume focus on the people, societies and institutions who were doing the transmitting, translating, and transforming — the “agents”. The subject matter ranges from medicine to astronomy, literature to magic, while the cultural context encompasses Islamic and Jewish societies, as well as Byzantium and the Latin West. What unites these studies is their attention to the methodological and conceptual challenges of thinking about agency. Not every agent acted with an agenda, and agenda were sometimes driven by immediate needs or religious considerations that while compelling to the actors, are more opaque to us. What does it mean to say that a text becomes “available” for transmission or translation? And why do some texts, once transmitted, fail to thrive in their new milieu? This collection thus points toward a more sophisticated “ecology” of transmission, where not only individuals and teams of individuals, but also social spaces and local cultures, act as the agents of cultural creativity.

Electronic Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

Electronic Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (EJIMEL) is an online Open Access journal started in 2012 by the Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Legal Studies (CIMELS) at University of Zurich (Switzerland).

UZH - Electronic Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern LawEJIMEL publishes articles, primarily in English and German, focusing on : democracy, constitutional law, Islamic law theory, family law, human rights, as well as the relations between Islam and national and international law orders. As explained on EJIMEL’s website: “the editors aim is to foster a vivid debate focusing on the correlation between Islam as a religion with a distinct body of legal norms and the paramount principles and guarantees of current international law, as well as to inquire into key phenomena in Muslim-majority law orders such as, e.g., “Re-Islamisation”, which have influenced both codifications and scholarly discourse in a significant way.”

Published once a year, EJIMEL is referenced in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Articles, are preserved in PDF in the University of Zurich institution repository ZORA, are given a DOI and published under the Creative Commons Licence. As long as properly cited and used, every article can be copied, shared, or printed.

Check it out!

Book launch: The Herbal of al-Ghafiqi. A Facsimile Edition of MS 7508 in the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University

Hi friends!

Next Wednesday, 14 January, a book launch and manuscript viewing will be held in the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at 5pm.

McGill-Queen’s University Press has just published The Herbal of al-Ghafiqi. A Facsimile Edition of MS 7508 in the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, with Critical Essays, edited by F. Jamil Ragep (Director of McGill’s Institute for Islamic Studies) and Faith Wallis (McGill, History and Classical Studies/Social Studies of Medicine).

The manuscript in question is exceptional: a 13th-century illustrated copy of the treatise on materia medica by a physician and scholar from al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia), Abū Jaʿfar al-Ghāfiqī (d. ca. 1165 CE).The Osler manuscript has 468 primary entries for mainly herbal, but also mineral and animal, drugs. It also includes around 2200 secondary entries that provide synonyms in a staggering assortment of languages, including Greek, Sanskrit, Syriac, Persian, Berber, Old Spanish, Latin, Coptic, and Armenian, reflecting the international character of medicine and pharmacy at the time. Complementing the facsimile edition are six essays by eminent scholars who deal with the physical features and history of the manuscript, the philological complexity of the text, Ghāfiqī’s sources, the Andalusian as well as the larger global context of the herbal, and the illustrations accompanying the text.

The production and dissemination of the Ghafiqi facsimile would not have been possible without the support and generosity of McGill’s Class of Medicine of 1961. Thank you.

Ghafiqi_book

Meetings with Books Special Collections in the 21st Century. With a Tribute to Raymond Klibansky Illustrated Survey of Special Collections at McGill University Library and Archives

The holiday season is upon us and the ISL will be closed as of 3pm today only to re-open its doors on the 5th of January 2015 at 9am. This has been another successful year for the ISL in terms of attendance (over 61,700 unique visitors), collection development (close to 3,000 items added including approximately 150 reference materials) and a number of additional activities (exhibitions, talks, information sessions, etc.). It’s been a busy year! Thank you for your support and enthusiasm in the ISL’s activities!

MeetingsOn a different note, a new publication has been released entitled: “Meetings with Books: Special Collections in the 21st Century. With a Tribute to Raymond Klibansky.  Illustrated Survey of Special Collections at McGill University Library and Archives.” This collaborative effort led by Drs. Jillian Tomm and Richard Virr of McGill’s RBSC provides an enlightening survey of the magnificent collections housed in RBSC. Included in those collections are many Islamic materials inclusive of Manuscripts (the image comes from the Dalāʼil al-khayrāt, RBD A6), Calligraphy, Lithographs and Rare Books. One is able to order a physical copy through contacting Dr. Tomm but there’s also an online open access version here.

Happy Holidays from the ISL’s staff and we look forward to seeing you in 2015!

 

Dr. Walter Young “Uṣūl al-fiqh”

Oxford Islamic Studies Online

OISO, a major reference tool for Islamic Studies as it covers the whole Muslim world from Indonesia to Morocco and everything in between. The reference tool’s usefulness just increased with the recent publication of Dr. Walter Young, a recent IIS graduate. His article entitled “Uṣūl al-fiqh” provides a concise overview of the subject as well as a splendid bibliography for further reading.

To access the article you must login to your McGill account (or your local institution): Uṣūl al-fiqh.

Walter’s PhD thesis The Dialectical Forge: proto-system juridical disputation in the Kitāb Ikhtilāf al-‘Irāqiyyīn (2 vols.) is freely accessible via McGill’s escholarship platform.

Congratulations, Dr. Young!

Robert Wisnovsky & Institute of Islamic Studies News

Hi friends!

Recently, Dr. Robert Wisnovsky of the IIS of McGill was promoted to full professor and has also been appointed to a James McGill professorship. This is of course wonderful news and a much deserved recognition for his individual achievements, but it also is an important milestone for the Institute for which we can all be proud.

In related news, Dr. Wisnovsky was recently interviewed by the Montreal newspaper, Le Devoir: Humanités 2.0 – Le zéro et l’infini McGill numérise la science et la philosophie islamiques.

In addition, Dr. Wisnovsky has an article in the forthcoming Cambridge University Press publication entitled Interpreting Avicenna Critical Essays.

Many congratulations, Dr. Wisnovsky!

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Khalid Medani: “Between Grievances and State Violence Sudan’s Youth Movement and Islamist Activism Beyond the “Arab Spring””

Hi friends! This has proven a great week for IIS members: Congratulations to Dr. Khalid Medani on his latest publication in MERIP (Summer 2013). The article is entitled “Between Grievances and State Violence Sudan’s Youth Movement and Islamist Activism Beyond the “Arab Spring”

 

New publication

Hi friends! Dr. Robert Wisnovsky has published a collaborative work with many different colleagues, including McGill’s Dr. Faith Wallis.

“This volume contains case studies that examine how medieval cultures (western European, Arab/Islamic and Jewish) adopted ideas from the past and from each other in fields such as philosophy, literature, religion, and medicine.

In this volume the McGill University Research Group on Transmission, Translation, and Transformation in Medieval Cultures and their collaborators initiate a new reflection on the dynamics involved in receiving texts and ideas from antiquity or from other contemporary cultures. For all their historic specificity, the western European, Arab/Islamic and Jewish civilizations of the Middle Ages were nonetheless co-participants in a complex web of cultural transmission that operated via translation and inevitably involved the transformation of what had been received. This three-fold process is what defines medieval intellectual history. Every act of transmission presumes the existence of some ‘efficient cause’ – a translation, a commentary, a book, a library, etc. Such vehicles of transmission, however, are not passive containers in which cultural products are transported. On the contrary: the vehicles themselves select, shape, and transform the material transmitted, making ancient or alien cultural products usable and attractive in another milieu. The case studies contained in this volume attempt to bring these larger processes into the foreground.  They lay the groundwork for a new intellectual history of medieval civilizations in all their variety, based on the core premise that these shared not only a cultural heritage from antiquity but, more importantly, a broadly comparable ‘operating system’ for engaging with that heritage.  Each was a culture of transmission, claiming ownership over the prestigious knowledge inherited from the past. Each depended on translation. Finally, each transformed what it appropriated.”

Vehicles of Transmission, Translation, and Transformation in Medieval Textual Culture