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Lecture (in Arabic): “Radd al-Fiqh fī `Aṣr al-Sharī`a: Revisiting Islamic law in Colonial Africa” with Matthew Steele (PhD Student, Harvard) (virtual)
November 4, 2021 | 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Matthew Steels is a Ph.D. student in Islamic Studies at Harvard University. His research explores the intersections of Islamic law, literature, and religion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Focusing on Sudan, Mauritania, and Guinea, he considers the ways in which texts live in communities, and likewise, communities in texts. His work seeks to rethink how books of positive law (furu` al-fiqh) become part of a scholarly canon, the production of meaning through their transmission, and how both are instructive for reimagining Islamic law and scholasticism in Africa. His dissertation employs ethnography of teaching circles and close readings of unpublished manuscripts to explore a notoriously difficult example of such a work, the fourteenth century law manual, Mukhtasar Khalil. Sitting at the juncture of anthropology and history, the project aims to trace the reception of the Khalil as it evolved, contracted, and expanded by way of hundreds of glosses over nearly seven centuries. He questions how, and why, glossing the Khalil became a favorite method for reinterpreting genre and authority in late Maliki legal thought, and how communities continue to reconstruct the text across Islamic Africa today.
Sponsored by the Duke Arabic HalaQa and Duke Middle East Studies Center.