For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan’s Islamic State with author Noah Salomon and discussant Joel Blecher
Institute for Middle East Studies
For some, the idea of an Islamic state serves to fulfill aspirations for cultural sovereignty and new forms of ethical political practice. For others, it violates the proper domains of both religion and politics. Yet, while there has been much discussion of the idea and ideals of the Islamic state, its possibilities and impossibilities, surprisingly little has been written about how this political formation is lived. For Love of the Prophet looks at the Republic of Sudan’s twenty-five-year experiment with Islamic statehood. Focusing not on state institutions, but rather on the daily life that goes on in their shadows, Noah Salomon’s careful ethnography examines the lasting effects of state Islamization on Sudanese society through a study of the individuals and organizations working in its midst.
Salomon investigates Sudan at a crucial moment in its history—balanced between unity and partition, secular and religious politics, peace and war—when those who desired an Islamic state were rethinking the political form under which they had lived for nearly a generation. Countering the dominant discourse, Salomon depicts contemporary Islamic politics not as a response to secularism and Westernization but as a node in a much longer conversation within Islamic thought, augmented and reappropriated as state projects of Islamic reform became objects of debate and controversy.
Among the first books to delve into the making of the modern Islamic state, For Love of the Prophet reveals both novel political ideals and new articulations of Islam as it is rethought through the lens of the nation.
Noah Salomon is Associate Professor of Religion at Carleton College, where he teaches courses in Islamic Studies and the anthropology of religion. His first book, For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan's Islamic State (Princeton University Press 2016), is a study of the implementation and itinerary of Sudan's Islamic state project as it was lived-out and contested over a period of 20 years. It won the 2017 Albert Hourani Prize from the Middle East Studies Association as well as the 2017 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in Analytical-Descriptive Studies from the American Academy of Religion. Subsequent research has focused on the establishment of state secularism in the new nation of South Sudan as a mode of unraveling the Islamic State and the concomitant construction of a Muslim minority as part of a nascent project of nation-building.
Joel Blecher is a scholar of Islamic history and Islamic thought at the George Washington University. His research, which combines methods from social and intellectual history, is grounded in archives and field sites in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, and India, as well as various manuscript libraries across Europe and North America. His first book, Said the Prophet of God: Hadith Commentary across a Millennium (University of California Press, 2018), explores the rich history of the practice of hadith commentary in the times and places it flourished the most—classical Andalusia, medieval Egypt, and early modern India.