Tradition

Current Projects

Defining Tradition: A Reader

This collection serves as a challenge to the conventional use of ‘tradition’ as a cross-cultural category within Religious Studies. While scholars regularly employ the term they rarely investigate what is at stake by taking it for granted. Therefore, this project is an intervention and guide for rethinking ‘tradition.’ The volume will explore the discursive deployment of ‘tradition’ and the techniques of authorizing items, practices, and discourses as pure, unchanging, and inherited. Chapters will include key moments in  the theoretical examination of ‘tradition,’ including selections from the work of Talal Asad, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Erich Hobsbawm, Alasdair MacIntyre, Paul Ricoeur, Edward Shils, Hayden White, and others. The volume will also include various examples of the valorization and positioning of particular sets of beliefs and actions as ‘traditional’ and thereby requiring deference. Overall, the aim of the collection is to walk the reader through persuasive reappraisals of ‘tradition’ and provide a useful analytical route for approaching  discourses of ‘tradition.’

Future Projects

The Scions of Tradition: Islamic Interpretations of Heritage

A perpetual challenge for Muslims has been the task of engaging their inherited Islamic tradition and making it relevant and meaningful under ever-changing contemporary circumstances within social, political and cultural settings. Few critical voices in Islamic thought have broached a discussion that engages the intellectual tradition of Islam in dialogue with modern western thought. This ongoing long-term project explores the work of modern critical Muslim thinkers, such as Ali Shariati (1933-77), Mahmoud Mohammed Taha ( 1909-85), Muhammad Khalaf-Allah (1916-97), Nurcholish Madjid (1939-2005), Nasr Abu Zayd (1943-2010), Mohammed Arkoun (1928-2010) and Muhammad Abid al-Jabiri (1936-2010), Mohamed Talbi (b. 1921), Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1926), Hassan Hanafi (b. 1935), Abdolkarim Soroush (b. 1945) and Ebrahim Moosa (b. 1958), among others. This project examines their engagement with Islam as a means for understanding “tradition” (turāth) in contemporary society. I intend to extrapolate their methodological contributions in order to broadly understand “tradition” and envisage a rigorous and comprehensive approach for examining “tradition” in Religious Studies more generally. Tradition requires continuous reengagement in order for it to remain relevant for a community of believers. Therefore, these thinkers simultaneously sustained and challenged the Islamic tradition and provide a theoretical model for understanding “tradition” across religions.