John P. Turner

View on Amazon

[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] Scholars of Islam and historians have frequently pointed to the Miḥna, translated as ‘trial’ or ‘test,’ as a crossroad in the landscape of Islamic history. Professor John P. Turner of Colby College is among those who challenge the long held assumption that the Miḥna was a uniquely pivotal event in his work Inquisition in Early Islam: The Competition for Political and Religious Authority in the Abbasid Empire (I. B. Tauris, 2013). In his book, Turner explores issues of heresy, orthodoxy, and caliphal authority. He investigates how Muslim doxographers, a term Professor employs instead of heresiographers, defined orthodoxy not by what orthodoxy is but what orthodoxy is not. Defining the limits of orthodoxy allowed scholars and caliphs to become the arbiters of orthodoxy. This discussion sets the stage for his examination of heresy trials that took place under both the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. Of particular importance is the heresy trial of Aḥmad ibn Hanbal, whose name is carried on by the Hanbalī madhhab. Turner demonstrates that heresy trials were instituted by caliphs to consolidate their power and authority as the ‘Commnder of the Faithful’ by establishing and enforcing religious normativity. Thus, heresy trials, like the Miḥna, should not be understood as exceptional events, but one of the methods caliphs employed to solidify control of the Muslim polity. Professor Turner provides his readers with a clear and well argued revision of the understanding of the Miḥna in the history of Islam. All scholars of Islam will benefit from this work, but those with interests related to Islamic doxographies or political authority will thoroughly enjoy this book.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Kevin SchilbrackPhilosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto

July 18, 2014

Very often evaluative questions about cultural phenomena are avoided for more descriptive or explanatory goals when approaching religions. Traditionally, this set of concerns has been left to philosophers of religion. In Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), Kevin Schilbrack, professor of Religious Studies at Appalachian State University, argues that philosophical approaches [...]

Read the full article →

Dr. Craig MartinSubverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science

July 14, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] Craig Martin’s new book carefully traces religious arguments for and against Aristotelianism from the eleventh through the eighteenth centuries. Based on a close reading of a staggering array of primary sources, Subverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014) in turn subverts several [...]

Read the full article →

Edmund LevinA Child of Christian Blood: Murder and Conspiracy in Tsarist Russia: The Beilis Blood Libel

July 13, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] There is a lot of nasty mythology about Jews, but surely the most heinous and ridiculous is the bizarre notion that “they” (as if Jews were all the same) have long been in the habit of murdering Christian children, draining them of blood, and mixing said blood into Passover matzo. We [...]

Read the full article →

Brian A. CatlosMuslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, c.1050-1614

July 8, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] In the current political climate it might be easy to assume that Muslims in the ‘West’ have always been viewed in a negative light. However, when we examine the historical relationship between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors we find a much more complicated picture. In Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, c.1050-1614 (Cambridge [...]

Read the full article →

Jacqueline E. WhittBringing God to Men: American Military Chaplains and the Vietnam War

July 5, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Military History] In this original and innovative study of the American military chaplaincy, Jacqueline E. Whitt examines the institution’s challenges and struggles in the post-World War II era, with the Vietnam War acting as the fulcrum for existential change in its identity and mission.  By all accounts a largely ecumenical based ministry [...]

Read the full article →

William Arnal and Russell T. McCutcheonThe Sacred is the Profane: The Political Nature of “Religion”

June 27, 2014

What brings us together as scholars in Religious Studies? Are the various social phenomena commonly grouped together as religion really that similar? The Sacred Is the Profane: The Political Nature of “Religion” (Oxford University Press, 2012) adds to this ongoing debate over whether ‘religion’ is a useful explanatory term. In general, issues of classification and [...]

Read the full article →

Luke E. HarlowReligion, Race and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880

June 26, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] Luke E. Harlow, Religion, Race and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880 (Cambridge University Press, 2014) examines the role of religion, and more specifically, conservative evangelical Protestant theology, in the struggle over slavery and abolition in a crucial period of American history. The book makes an impressive case that we cannot really understand [...]

Read the full article →

Rachel RinaldoMobilizing Piety: Islam and Feminism in Indonesia

June 23, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] Are Islam and feminism inherently at odds? Is there a contradiction between piety and gender justice? This is the guiding theme for Rachel Rinaldo, professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, in her book Mobilizing Piety: Islam and Feminism in Indonesia (Oxford University Press, 2013). After more than eighteen months of [...]

Read the full article →

Thomas McFaul and Al BrunstingGod is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God

June 19, 2014

The book discussed in this interview is God is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God (Wipf and Stock, 2014) by Thomas McFaul and Al Brunsting, two authors with very different backgrounds. McFaul is a college professor specializing in philosophy and religion, Brunsting a physicist with numerous publications and patents, many in applied optics.  [...]

Read the full article →