Ahmad Atif Ahmad
’s Pitfalls of Scholarship: Lessons from Islamic Studies
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) is a unique reflection on the field of Islamic studies. It is not quite a memoir, although it is reflective of Islamic studies, academia, and higher education in general. It is also not quite a book of theory, although it offers several deep readings of various figures in the Muslim intellectual canon. Rather, it is a collection of essays. Chapter 1, for example is a rumination the humanities and its place in the modern academy. Ahmad then goes on to concept of academic frustration. He builds on this in the third chapter by examining the iconic Muslim intellectual al-Ghazali. The final chapter ties the wider world into the academy and considers themes of nationalism and democracy. In this interview, we talk to Ahmad about what it is to be a scholar in 21st-century America (and specifically a scholar of Islam in 21st-century America), the politics of the field, what it is to be bold in academia, and the value of curiosity, all with Ahmad’s jocular cheer and sage advice.
Ahmad Atif Ahmad
is professor of religious studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB). He also serves on UCSB’s 'Council on Faculty Issues and Awards' and the UC-System wide Academic Advisory Committee for Internship Programs in the University Center in Washington, DC. He previously served as associate director of the University of California Center in Washington, Sultan Qaboos Chair of Mideast Studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and as visiting associate professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The author of ‘Islamic Law: Cases, Authorities, and Worldview (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), ‘The Fatigue of the Sharia’ (NYC: Palgrave, 2012), and ‘Structural Interrelations of Theory and Practice in Islamic Law' (Leiden: Brill, 2006), Ahmad teaches courses on Islamic legal reasoning in medieval Islam and early modern Egypt.
Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.