Writing


My first book--Hadith as Scripture: Discussions on the Authority of Prophetic Traditions in Islam (Palgrave, 2008)--explores the development of the doctrine of duality of revelation and issues surrounding the relative authority of the Qur'an and the Prophetic Traditions (Hadith), through an examination of early Islamic texts in a variety of genres from the 8th -11th centuries CE, and compares the early controversies to their contemporary counterparts.  In exploring the early discussions, I also examine the parallel debates between Karaite and Rabbinate Jews that were occurring at the same time. The question of the relative authority of the Qur'an and the Prophetic Traditions is part of usul al-fiqh (the roots of jurisprudential methodology).  How early Muslims answered that question has helped to shape Islamic  doctrine, law, and practice throughout the Muslim world for the past 1200 years.  As part of that work, I produced the first English translation of al-Shafi’i’s Kitab Jima’ al ‘ilm, one of the most important early texts addressing the issue of the authority of Prophetic Traditions. The current resurgence of debates over the authority of Prophetic Traditions makes it a contemporary question of both academic interest and personal importance to Muslims.  Prior to the upheavals of the Arab Spring, challenges to the Hadith were particularly evident in Egypt, where Muslims who rejected the scriptural status and authority of Hadith faced arrest and imprisonment for offending religion. In 2003, the conviction and imprisonment of eight Egyptian “Quranists” for offending religion made headlines across the Arab world. In 2007, former Deputy Rector of al-Azhar, the Muslim world’s most respected religious university, Mahmoud Ashour, was quoted in the Egyptian press saying that the Quranists “are more dangerous to Islam than any other group.”  One of the most frequent criticisms contemporary opposition to the scriptural status and authority of the Hadith is that it is a modern-day, Western, Orientalist influenced heresy.  However, my work clearly demonstrates that such opposition existed in the formative period of Islamic history, and in doing so, my work challenges the long and deeply held notions that Hadith have always enjoyed scriptural authority second only to the Quran among Muslims .

My second book, Securing Knowledge al-Khatib al-Baghdadi's Taqyid al-'Ilm,  expands on my work in Hadith as Scripture (Palgrave, 2008)--a seminal work on Muslim attitudes toward the authority of Hadith—Securing Knowledge both translates the latest extant work dealing with objections to the authority of Hadith in pre-modern Islam and attempts to situate it within the broader context of the process of canonization of Hadith.

Expanding on my work in classical texts, my articles and book chapters reflect the breadth of my research interests and bridge the divide between the past and the present.  My article, "Al-Shafi'i, the Hadith, and the Concept of Duality of Revelation," Islamic Studies, vol. 46, issue no.2, (2007), 163-215, is an in depth discussion of the development of the concept of duality of revelation articulated by al-Shafi’I (d. 820 CE), which is aimed at an audience with a background in Islamic Studies.  My article, “The Qur’anists,” Religion Compass 4/1 (2010): 12–21, is intended to introduce scholars of religion who are not specialists in Islam to the contemporary “Quran alone” movements.  My book chapter, “Hadith Studies,” in Bloomsbury Companion to Islamic Studies (Continuum Press, 2013) is meant to introduce a more general audience to the topic.  “The Hadithification of Sunna an the Sunnafication of Hadith,” in The Sunna and its Status in Islamic Law: The Search for a Sound Hadith (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015), is aimed at a more specialized audience, providing a detailed analysis of the development of the epistemological linkage of  precedent setting behaviors—known as sunna in Islam lawwith the Hadith, through a detailed analysis of the structure, organization, and content of Hadith collections together with an examination of the occurrences and usage of the word “sunna” in those collections. 

My keen interest in Quranic exegesis and constructive theology is demonstrated in my article, “Jizya: Toward a more Quranically based Understanding of a Historically Problematic Term,” in Transcendent Thought (November, 2011). 98-107, and my book chapter, “....A Thousand Years, Less Fifty: Toward a Quranic View of Extreme Longevity,"  in Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2009),123-131.  The former offers an alternative understanding of the term “jizya” based on a detailed linguistic analysis of the Arabic term and related words as they are used in the Quran, while the latter explores the twenty-first century question of extreme longevity from the standpoint of the Quran and classical Muslim exegesis.