Up to the twentieth century, Islamic charitable endowments provided the material foundation of the Muslim world. In Lebanon, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the imposition of French colonial rule, many of these endowments reverted to private property circulating in the marketplace. In contemporary Beirut, however, charitable endowments have resurged as mosques, Islamic centers, and nonprofit organizations. A historical anthropology in dialogue with Islamic law, God’s Property demonstrates how these endowments have been drawn into secular logics— no longer the property of God but of the Muslim community—and shaped by the modern state and modern understandings of charity and property. Although these transformations have produced new kinds of loyalties and ways of being in society, Nada Moumtaz’s ethnography reveals the furtive persistence of endowment practices that perpetuate older ways of thinking of one’s self and one’s responsibilities to family and state.
“A brilliant conceptual history and historical anthropology, God’s Property is a genealogy of waqfs (religious endowments) in modern Lebanon. Attentive to both continuities and ruptures, Nada Moumtaz traces the grammar of concepts within this Islamic tradition under regimes of modern governmentality, secularization, and capitalism. A must-read for scholars of anthropology, history, and law.” OMNIA EL SHAKRY, Professor of History, University of California, Davis
“With considerable erudition and a finely tuned ethnographic sensibility, Moumtaz traces subtle and profound historical shifts in Islamic concepts of debt, interest, and motivation, showing how they were shaped into modern notions of self and state. This book will provide provocative, valuable lessons to fields from economic and political anthropology to Islamic and Middle East studies.” HUSSEIN ALI AGRAMA, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago
NADA MOUMTAZ is Assistant Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and in the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto.
Moumtaz, N. 2021. God’s Property: Islam, Charity, and the Modern State. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.100
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