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The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity's Moral Predicament Hardcover – November 20, 2012


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The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity's Moral Predicament + Questioning Secularism: Islam, Sovereignty, and the Rule of Law in Modern Egypt (Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning) + Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age: Religious Authority and Internal Criticism
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This is a bracing, erudite, and compelling account of the moral, political, and structural features of Islamic governance and the modern state, as well as of the multiple incongruities that hamper any attempt to establish one in terms of the other. Wael Hallaq delivers a welcome rejoinder to much of the dogmatic bluster swirling around the subject of shari'a and the Islamic state. At the same time, he brings into sharp focus the often overlooked resources for reconceptualizing 'the modern project' from within both Islamic and Euro-American traditions of moral and political thought. The historical, theoretical, and political richness of this account makes The Impossible State a new standard against which any claims about the possibility of establishing Islamic governance in the contemporary world must now be evaluated.

(Roxanne L. Euben, Wellesley College)

A provocative and wide-ranging rumination by one of the leading scholars of Islamic law, this book poses tough questions to champions and critics of shari'a alike. Wael Hallaq makes a powerful argument for the relevance of shari'a as a moral discourse while remaining critical of its compatibility with the modern state. The Impossible State is bound to elicit debate among scholars of Islam, moral philosophy, and modernity across the Western and non-Western divide.

(Saba Mahmood, author of Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject)

It is an important contribution to understanding the role and potential of the shari'a in the modern world.

(Mark D. Welton Middle East Journal 1900-01-00)

A philosophical and rhetorical tour de force.

(Choice)

A refreshing take on the modern state and Islamic governance...

(Middle East Media and Book Reviews 1900-01-00)

This book brings a detailed and impassioned exploration of key debates in Islamic law and governance into sustained conversation with canonical texts in Western political and legal theory.... The Impossible State makes an important theoretical contribution.

(Iza Hussin Perspectives on Politics 1900-01-00)

An important, bold, and courageous intervention that stands out not just in contemporary debates on the Shari'ah in the West and the Muslim world, but in all modern writing about the subject.

(American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 1900-01-00)

Review

In this fascinating work, one of our most influential historians of Islamic law and society draws carefully elaborated and sure-to-be controversial conclusions about the merits of the premodern Islamic worldview and the problems of both modern Western and Islamic political thought. An important and thought-provoking work, it is sure to engender productive debate.

(Clark Lombardi, University of Washington School of Law)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (November 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231162561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231162562
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Roode_Afzah on January 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Philosophical, critical, moral, bold, and brilliant, Wael Hallaq's The Impossible State is, in one word, epic. An essential read for everyone -- Muslim or not, "religious" or otherwise, whether you care about anything or nothing or just post-apocalyptic Twinkies -- so much so that no discussion about, well, anything, really, can be absent of at the very least a recognition of the arguments put forth in Hallaq's latest book, whether you agree with him or not. "Modernity's moral predicament," as Hallaq calls it, penetrates to the core of everything we do, we are, we inhabit, we sense -- politically, socially, psychologically, morally. Kinda like Ubik (#philipKdick #okNoOneActuallyGotThatReferenceDidThey?).

The Impossible State is about much more than Islamic law or Sharia -- that's a cool topic too, but this is not a history book or a work on a singular vein of legal thought. Rather, Hallaq questions the very bases upon which we live our lives and govern ourselves. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from Hobbes to Kant to Nietzsche to Foucault to Stiglitz to al-Ghazali to Asad to Abu El-Haj, The Impossible State is really about the underlying structure (weltanschauung) upon which our society, economy, and politic operates. Hallaq demonstrates that morality (and its absence) is not some vague, phantasmal force but a very real, epistemic, and systemic source which manifests itself, deeply and interdependently, throughout our philosophy, psychology, science, society, economics, and politics. The problems Islam and Muslims face today are everyone's problems, and they are not timeless: Hallaq takes apart our Western, modern conceptions of society and politics, right down to the Enlightenment itself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Mahmoud on June 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thus is a great book and explains the difference between Shariah and the modern and why they are incompatible. They are incompatible because the modern state lacks moral foundations needed for Islamic governance. There are a few issues in the final chapter which I have criticised. For a comprehensive review, follow the link below where I discuss the book in detail on my blog.
[...]
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This is a book that takes courage to understand because it challenges all that we take for granted. For those who have a sense of discomfort this books will articulate your predicament. For those who feel the modern world is their oister
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Paolini on August 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This contention of this book has enormous implications plus describing concepts and their implications for nations with large Muslim populations and Western nations. The author is Wael B. Hallaq is a scholar of Islamic law and Islamic intellectual history. He is currently the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Obviously the editor of his book was too intimidated to suggest any changes to Hallaq's writing style which is so abstract and esoteric that one has to ponder almost every sentence to grasp its meaning. After a while, one's mind becomes numb and one questions whether continuing is worth the effort.
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