Afghanistan Rising

This week’s review looks back at Afghanistan’s history, revealing its role as a hub of scholarly and political thought during the formation of its government and constitution following independence

Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires

Ahmed, Faiz. Harvard, 2017
430p index, 9780674971943 $49.95, 9780674982147

Was Afghanistan a landlocked backwater in the early 20th century? Historian Ahmed (Brown) demonstrates that Afghanistan was the first Islamic country to emerge after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and, as a result, was the focus of scholars from around the Islamic world. The Afghan constitution—written by Aman Allah Khan, King of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929—and other governing documents were, the author argues, ahead of their time in bringing together Hanafi Sharia with the latest thinking of scholars from the Ottoman Empire and Islamic scholars from British India. The author’s exhaustive research uses British, Indian, Afghan, and Turkish sources. This important book is very well resourced and well written. Its research and conclusions should lead to the rethinking of the historical role of Afghanistan. But it is not for everyone. Readers will be expected to know about such things as Hanafi Fiqh, Sharia law, the history of the Ottoman Empire, the role of the British in India, and the major events and individuals in Afghanistan’s history.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries and professionals.
G. M. Farr, emeritus, Portland State University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Asian and Asian American Studies, Islamic Studies, Law & Society, Middle Eastern Studies
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – Asia & Oceania
Choice Issue: May 2018

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