Modern Things on Trial Islam’s Global and Material Reformation in the Age of Rida, 1865-1935 By Leor Halevi (New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. 378 pages.)

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Omar Anchassi



The late writer and intellectual George Ṭarābīshī (d. 1437/2016) observes that when the tomato first made its appearance in late nineteenth century Aleppo, locals took to denouncing it as ‘the Devil’s arse’ (mu’akhirat al-shayṭān) on account of its colour. The muftī of the city, who remains curiously unnamed in this account, is said to have issued a fatwa on its prohibition.1 Unsurprisingly, no source is given for this anecdote, but the point is clear enough: jurists are hidebound creatures, wrong-footed by the advent of modernity and stupid or morally depraved, or perhaps both. One could give many other examples that serve to illustrate the same conclusion. Leor Halevi’s formidable monograph on the fatāwā of Rashīd Riḍā (d.1354/1935) in al-Manār is thus precisely what one would hope for in the study of this much maligned Islamic legal instrument.

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