- Religious Studies
- IU Bloomington
Sycamore Hall, Rm. 209B
I am interested in the study of medieval Islamic theology and law, especially in how medieval Muslim historians understood and depicted the development of theological and legal institutions between the death of Muḥammad in 632 CE and the late sixteenth century. I primarily focus on various forms of biography (tarjamah), which was one of the most important genres of medieval Muslim historiography. I also have a secondary interest in Islam in Indonesia, especially the stories of the Wali Songo, the nine saints of Javanese Islam that are popularly thought to be responsible of the Islamization of Java in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
I have written two books, Authority, Conflict, and the Transmission of Diversity in Medieval Islamic Law (Brill, 2006) and Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (773-852/1372-1449) (Oxford, 2009). Both texts focus on late medieval Muslim scholars of the Shāfiʿī school of law. The first examines the historical views of Abū Bakr Ibn Qāḍī Shuhbah (d. 1448) as they are depicted in his biographical collection Ṭabaqāt al-fuqahāʾ al-Shāfiʿī (The Generations of the Shāfiʿī Jurists). The second is a biography of the most prominent religious scholars of the fifteenth century, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 1449). In both I argue that the context of their lives and careers: persistent outbreaks of the plague, famine, economic and political instability, constant civil war, and the religious upheavals that resulted from them all shaped their understandings of Islamic history, especially the development of religio-legal authority as a means of meeting the challenges posed by the apocalyptic events of their era. Where Ibn Qāḍī Shuhbah sought to explain the events of his period in the context of legal history and the rise of new models of religious authority Ibn Ḥajar attempted to be a model of authority through his own charismatic leadership as a judge and religious scholar.
My current research focuses on the work of two eleventh-century scholars, Abū Isḥāq al-Shīrāzī (d. 1083) and Aḥmad b. Ḥusyan al-Bayhaqi (1066). I am doing a critical annotated translation of al-Shīrāzī’s Ṭabaqāt al-fuqahāʾ (The Generation of the Jurists) that describes his understanding of the history of Islamic law that begins in the life-time of Muḥammad and continues through the lives of his companions, their successors, and down to the formation of the then five schools of Islamic law. I am also writing an analysis of this work that will appear as a separate book from the translation. I have also begun research on the Mināqib al-Shāfiʿī (The Virtues of al-Shāfiʿī) by al-Bayhaqī. The Mināqib is a massive biography of the eponym of the Shāfiʿī madhhab, Muḥammad b. Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820), that uses a wide range of earlier biographies to build a near-hagiographic study of al-Shāfiʿī’s life and impact and that uses earlier biographies of Muḥammad as a model. My goal is to apply modern hermeneutical and biographical theories to unpack both texts in order to better understand how al-Shīrāzī and al-Bayhaqī understood the history of Islam, especially the nature and development of religio-legal authority.