Cover: Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires, from Harvard University PressCover: Afghanistan Rising in HARDCOVER

Afghanistan Rising

Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires

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Product Details


$53.00 • £42.95 • €47.50

ISBN 9780674971943

Publication Date: 11/06/2017


448 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

25 halftones, 5 maps, 1 chart, 2 tables


Afghanistan Rising uncovers the lost history behind the first constitution of Afghanistan and that country’s evolution into a modern Islamic state. Ahmed provides highly original insights into Muslim legal history, modernization in non-European contexts, and transnational Muslim networks. Exploring the ideological and social factors that shaped Afghanistan during an age of turmoil and transformation, the work is conceived on a broad scale. This is a well-crafted, theoretically rich, tightly argued, and rigorously executed book. In addition, its lucid style makes for enjoyable reading.—M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, author of A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire

This remarkable piece of research is based on archival materials in six different languages in six different countries… Among the themes that run through the work are: the role of an interlinked juridical network in fashioning Afghanistan’s first constitution; the fact that the ulema and scholars of the time were flexible and imaginative enough to develop the constitution using Hanafi jurisprudential techniques; and that in the process they produced a form of Islamic modernism to match, if not surpass, those produced in Egypt and India. This is essential reading for those interested in the late Ottoman world, the modern history of Afghanistan, and Islamic modernism.—Francis Robinson, Journal of Islamic Studies

A groundbreaking book that will reorient the way we think about not only Afghan modernity, but also political and legal thought in Muslim societies during the twentieth century. Ahmed describes the emergence of a modern Islamicate region during the age of imperial globalization and demonstrates the appeal of multiple governance models in the ideas exchanged within this region among different Muslim publics. More importantly, he shows how Afghan kings experimented with novel legal and political models to assert their legitimacy while establishing on the global stage Afghanistan’s sovereignty as a modern nation state. The book persuasively shows us how Afghanistan’s transformation exemplifies a model of Muslim modernity that was not Eurocentric.—Cemil Aydin, author of The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History

Ahmed presents a very compelling, accessible, and beautifully written argument in his book. Drawing on Turkish, Afghan, and British archival sources, as well as material in Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, and Urdu, he is highly successful in recovering modern Afghan history from its relegation to the periphery of the Muslim world.—Simon Wolfgang Fuchs, Die Welt des Islams

Ahmed produces a riveting, unexpected history…that is not aligned with standard narratives that we are more familiar with. By capturing the richness and urgency of the development of Islamic law in Afghanistan, Ahmed provides us with a poignant story of a dynamic Muslim-majority country not yet overwhelmed by colonial interests, on the eve of it being overrun by a surfeit of neocolonial jurisdictions.—Nurfadzilah Yahaya, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

If Afghanistan’s place in this wider legal canvas of Islamicate Eurasia was once poorly represented, we have Ahmed to thank for filling in the contours, and with such empirical and theoretical panache. No longer can Afghanistan be seen as merely the passive receptacle of Islamic legal ideas elaborated elsewhere and transplanted to the country, nor does it fit the mold of Kemalist Turkey and Pahlavi Iran. Now we are forced to think of the country as productive of new Islamic legal realities, which, though drawing inspiration from models originating in British India and the Ottoman Empire, achieved something unique.—Michael O’Sullivan, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Ahmed has given us a rich, detailed, and engaging account of how developments in and between the Ottoman Empire and British India are necessary—though not sufficient—to understand developments in Afghanistan’s legal history. Afghanistan Rising is a book that should be engaged not only by scholars of Afghan or Ottoman history, but by anyone interested in the intricacies of Islamic law and the modern state.—Marya Hannun, H-Net Reviews

An outstanding example of how a study, written not from the Orientalist perspective but looking at Afghan leaders seeking to locate a nation state within an Islamic World context, could have disabused Western policymakers of a host of simplistic fallacies.—Sir Roger Tomkys, former ambassador to Bahrain

Very few historians of modern Islam move beyond, as Ahmed does, the artificially constructed regions of area studies. In synthesizing sources not normally put together—Ottoman Turkish documents on Afghanistan alongside British ones, and Afghan treatises on Islamic law that receive little attention at all—Afghanistan Rising illustrates the fruitfulness of transregional historiography.—Amir A. Toft, Law and History Review

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.—G. M. Farr, Choice

We are still building the foundations for a critical, transnational, connected, global, and regional history of Afghanistan in the world, and Ahmed’s work is a significant contribution to that emerging scholarly project. Afghanistan Rising is bound to be of interest to scholars from a wide range of area studies and fields.—Marjan Wardaki, Iranian Studies

Afghanistan Rising restores a largely forgotten history of Muslim modernity that radiates from and converges in late 19th- and early 20th-century Kabul. Unparalleled archival research sustains Faiz Ahmed’s story of diverse actors from Central, South, and West Asia who responded to Afghan rulers’ novel efforts to build an independent Muslim constitutional monarchy. A powerful corrective to dominant narratives, Afghanistan Rising offers a compelling rethinking of the country’s history and of broader Muslim legal and political modernity.—2018 John F. Richards Prize Committee of the American Historical Association

Uses the drafting of the 1923 Afghanistan Constitution—the first for a Muslim majority nation [after World War I]—to not only offer an intellectual and legal history of the country, but also to provide valuable insights into the interactions within the Muslim world at the turn of the 19th century, when the West was gearing up for global wars.—K. K. Shahid, Pakistan Today

This book provides a significant insight…into the role of Muslims from other nations in Afghanistan. It is an antidote to the many books we have that tell us what Westerner workers have done for Afghanistan.—Farrukh Husain, Afghan Eye

Ahmed argues that at the turn of the 20th Century, Afghanistan attempted to create a modern, constitutional state within the Islamic law tradition. Very few Americans know about this historical episode, or why the attempt to modernize the country ultimately failed. This book looks to be a useful resource for scholars and policymakers.—Mark Movsesian, Law and Religion Forum

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