Ibadi Theology: Rereading Sources and Scholarly Works. Edited by ERSILIA FRANCESCA. Studies on Ibadism and Oman, vol. 4. Hildesheim: GEORG OLMS, 2015. Pp. 331. [euro]68.
The study of Ibahism has matured considerably in past decades; the inevitable impact of this fact on Islamic studies is only "a question of when." This collection of twenty-seven contributions from a 2012 conference gives much cause for optimism in that regard. Scholars of Islam--both well established and aspiring, with academic and confessional approaches (these not being mutually exclusive categories)--have joined here to give a representative depiction of the state of Ibahi studies in its greater discursive emphases and topical concerns. The success of such an initiative will ultimately be measured by the field's willingness not only to engage with the historiographical implications of this research, but also to expand our understanding of the development of Islamic theology along a broader textual and conceptual basis than has been the norm.
In light of the conference's convening in Naples, we are reminded by Ersilia Francesca (pp. 13-20) of the need to recall the pioneering contributions of Italian scholars such as C. A. Nallino, L. Veccia Vaglieri, and R. Rubinacci in using Ibadi sources for the study of early Islam. Their boldness and creativity in utilizing the writings of a group ordinarily categorized as a Kharijite heresy are felt even today. This same fact explains a recurring point of emphasis found in the articles in this volume, namely, the rehabilitation of Ibahism as more "moderate" or "rationalist" than is commonly believed--a matter of concern in justifying the study of a topic that might otherwise induce prejudice or squeamishness.
Key Ibahi discourses of "anathemization" (takfir), in fact, do not stray far from either of these two poles, as theological rationalism may create new exclusivist forms of orthodoxy even as it opens new intellectual horizons; likewise, a rigorous public discourse of takfir may invite soteriological gradations perceivable as a gray area of moderate pragmatism. Precisely such matters are helpfully problematized by John Wilkinson (pp. 47-52) in an article that emphasizes the need both for historical contextualization and for grounding our own analytical categories in specifically Ibahi terminology, e.g., "affiliation" (walaya), "disavowal" (barana), and "suspension of judgment" (wuquf). Readers who would pursue this line of inquiry would be well advised to refer to Yohei Kondo's excellent exposition of the early...