China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and the Law. By Matthew S. Erie. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Date01 September 2018
Published date01 September 2018
societies. In these places, citizens use a “medieval jurisprudential”
logic—and not constitutional law and its embedded colonial
legacies—to fight for stability and moral order (177). The ideals of
constitutionalism and religion are, however, layered with tradition
and modernity, and both of these ideals may ultimately serve a
“masculinist [and reductionist] account of ” the state, law, and reli-
gion (16).
China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and the Law. By Matthew S.
Erie. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Reviewed by Arzoo Osanloo, Department of Law, Societies, and
Justice, University of Washington.
Among the many qualities and contributions of Matthew Erie’s
rich monograph on Islam, law, and legal practice in China, one of
the most significant is the breadth and depth of the ethnographic
account. The book’s portrayal of an Islam that is dynamic, and yet
not totalizing, is a difficult feat to render, one that requires sus-
tained access, deep commitment, and enduring relationships.
China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and the Law shows the
dynamism of Islam by providing a level of particularity about for-
mal and informal institutions and mechanisms, along with myriad
actors, animating and giving meaning to Islam and law in China.
Through seven substantive chapters that examine history, rituals,
morals, and lawfare, Erie offers nuanced contextualization of how
Hui Chinese Muslims practice Islamic law. It should not go with-
out saying that nuance, context, and detail are de rigueur in socio-
legal studies of civil and common law societies, but have not been
exactly standard fare in analyses where shari‘a is a component of
legal praxis. Ultimately, the work succeeds in providing a rich
example of what we might call Islam in practice.
By crafting vivid narratives around a range of subjects, includ-
ing the relationship and accommodations between the Hui Chinese
Muslims and the Party-State, localized Islamic orthodoxy, marriage,
dispute resolution, adoption of the hijab, and much more, Erie fash-
ions an ethnographic account of the complexity of Islam. Both by
presenting the details of what constitutes its practice and by
highlighting the forces, including individuals, that animate and give
it shape, Erie evokes Islam though a broader world of networks and
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