A. Nakissa, Anthropology of Islamic Law: Education, Ethics, and Legal Interpretation at Egypt’s Al-Azhar, New York, Oxford University Press, 2019, 312.p
This book shows how hermeneutic theory and practice theory can be brought together to analyze cultural, legal, and religious traditions. These ideas are developed through an analysis of the Islamic legal tradition, which examines both Islamic legal doctrine and religious education. In terms of disciplinary orientation, the book combines anthropology and Islamicist history, utilizing both ethnography and in-depth analysis of Arabic religious texts. The book focuses on higher religious learning in contemporary Egypt, examining its intellectual, ethical, and pedagogical dimensions. Data is drawn from over two years of fieldwork inside al-Azhar University, Cairo University’s Dār al-ʿUlūm, and the network of traditional study circles associated with the al-Azhar mosque. Together these sites constitute the most important venue for the transmission of religious learning in the contemporary Muslim world. Although the book gives special attention to contemporary Egypt, it provides a broader analysis relevant to Islamic legal doctrine and religious education throughout history.