Public Violence in Islamic Societies: Power, Discipline, and the Construction of the Public Sphere, 7th-19th Centuries CE

Public Violence in Islamic Societies: Power, Discipline, and the Construction of the Public Sphere, 7th-19th Centuries CE

Public Violence in Islamic Societies: Power, Discipline, and the Construction of the Public Sphere, 7th-19th Centuries CE

Public Violence in Islamic Societies: Power, Discipline, and the Construction of the Public Sphere, 7th-19th Centuries CE

Synopsis

Violence shapes Islam's public and private spheres, and by charting the historical and doctrinal background of violence in this context, this volume displays a spectrum of attitudes that challenge the common belief that Islam is a civilization of violence. Choosing to focus on the role of violence in the political economy of Muslim societies, the book illuminates political uses of violence by the Muslim state and sheds light on the historical struggle of Muslims to defend the private sphere against political authorities.

The book is divided into three parts: public violence and state power; representations of public violence; and public violence and the law.

Excerpt

Christian Lange and Maribel Fierro

Violence as an element in the historical relationships both among Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims has been the object of some scholarly work in the past, as in the case of jihād, the law of rebellion (aḥkām al-bughāt), or penal law. However, the role of violence in the political economy of Muslim societies, especially inasmuch as it was used as a strategy to take possession of the public sphere, has only recently begun to receive the scholarly attention the topic deserves. Few if any attempts have been made to offer a comprehensive picture of the political uses of violence by Muslim states past and present, or of the historical struggle of Muslims to defend the integrity of their bodies, property and honour against violent intrusions by the powers that be. The present volume is conceived as a step in this direction.

No study of public violence in the formation of Islamic societies can take as its point of departure a simple definition of the relationship between Islam and violence; what we are dealing with is, rather, a spectrum of agendas and attitudes which often took centuries to develop. As the essays in this collection demonstrate, state violence in Islam’s early centuries made use of a different register of punishments than in later centuries, and reactions to state violence likewise differed according to temporal and geographical setting.

It would be rash, therefore, to claim that the general Sunnī and Shī ī attitude toward state violence has been one of political quietism, the view that it is better to live with occasional acts of violence and cruelty by the ruler than to risk the break-up of Muslim society. True, a host of traditions similar to the following suggest that “the tyranny of a sulṭan for forty years is preferable to the flock being left without a master for a single hour”. The roots of this attitude, or so the argument goes, stretch back to the collective trauma of the civil wars of the first century of Islam . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.