Reading Asad, Ahmed, and Hallaq: What is Islam Today?

Gulnaz Sibgatullina


Full Text:



This essay is a brief review of three books, What is Islam? The importance of being Islamic by Shahab Ahmed (2016), Secular translations: Nation-state, Modern Self, and Calculative Reason by Talal Asad (2018), and Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge by Wael Hallaq (2018). The authors’ arguments are analyzed in terms of the ongoing “linguistic turn” in Western studies of Islam, that is, the creation of a methodological paradigm that recognizes the value of the polysemy of the global Muslim community (past and present) and pays attention to multiple languages (imperial, colonial, academic, etc.) to describe Islam. The essay concludes with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this paradigm and its applicability to studies of Islam in Russia.


linguistic turn; discourse; modernity; secularity; performativity


Ahmed, S. (2016). What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic. Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Asad, T. (1986). The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam. Washington, D.C: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University.

Asad, T. (2018). Secular Translations: Nation-State, Modern Self, and Calculative Reason. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Austin, J.L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford Clarendon Press.

Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York, NY: Routledge. Foucault, M. (1968). Généalogie des Sciences. Paris: Seuil.

Foucault, M. (1975). Surveiller et punir: naissance de la prison. Paris: Gallimard.

Habermas, J. (2006). Religion in the Public Sphere. European Journal of Philosophy, 14(1),


Hallaq, W.B. (2005). What is Shariʿa? Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, 12, 151-

Hallaq, W.B. (2009). Groundwork of the Moral Law: A New Look at the Qurʾān and the

Genesis of Sharīʿa. Islamic Law and Society, 16(3/4), 239-279.

Hallaq, W.B. (2012). The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament.

New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Hallaq, W.B. (2018). Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge. New York, NY:

Columbia University Press.

Ross, D. (2020). Tatar Empire: Kazan’s Muslims and the Making of Imperial Russia. Bloomington,

IN: Indiana University Press.

Said, E.W. (1978). Orientalism. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Spannaus, N. (2019). Preserving Islamic tradition: Abū Naṣr Qūrṣāwī and the Beginnings of

Modern Reformism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.