Islam after Liberalism

In his widely influential monograph, The Impossible State, Wael Hallaq argued that the ‘Islamic State’ is a contradiction in terms. As a form of political organization, the modern nation-state remains fundamentally incompatible with an Islamic mode of governance. Contemporary forms of ‘political Islam’, be they radical Islamist movements or Islamic Republics such as Iran and Pakistan, are thus doomed from the start. At the same time, the global reach of capital has given rise to what scholars are calling ‘consumerist Islam’. In short, the economic and political institutions that historically arose with the rise of liberalism in Europe now dominate the Muslim world. Alongside these, perhaps the most significant pressure on traditional Islamic institutions and values is being exerted by internal and external critics along the lines of gender and sexuality. Can Islamic values such as modesty survive in the modern world? Is there a future of Islam after liberalism? This reading group brings together students and scholars in Religion, History, and Near eastern studies as well as all those interested in the study of Islam in other departments to discuss the place and future of Islam in the modern world.

The reading group will meet twice a month. In the first session, students will discuss a particular text among themselves. In the second session, the author of the book will be invited to join the session virtually.

Readings will come from two different genres. One month, we will read an academic text. The next month, we will read texts written for a broader audience. These might include biographies and novels. The final list of readings will be decided in conversation with the participants. Some sample texts are listed below:

Book list:

Michael Cook, Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islam

Salman Sayyid, Recalling the Caliphate

Jonathan A. C. Brown, Misquoting Muhammad

Wael Hallaq, The Impossible State

Kecia Ali: Sexual Ethics and Islam

Thomas Bauer: A Culture of Ambiguity



Humza Azam Gondal (G2, Near Eastern Studies) [email protected]  - Lead Organizer

Fatima Zaraket (G1, Near Eastern Studies) [email protected] - Co-organizer

Usman Khan (G3, Religion) [email protected] - Co-organizer