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The Lighthouse and the Observatory
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    Rock-Singer, Aaron 2019. Practicing Islam in Egypt.


Book description

An observatory and a lighthouse form the nexus of this major new investigation of science, religion, and the state in late Ottoman Egypt. Astronomy, imperial bureaucrats, traditionally educated Muslim scholars, and reformist Islamic publications, such as The Lighthouse, are linked to examine the making of knowledge, the performance of piety, and the operation of political power through scientific practice. Contrary to ideas of Islamic scientific decline, Muslim scholars in the nineteenth century used a dynamic tradition of knowledge to measure time, compute calendars, and predict planetary positions. The rise of a 'new astronomy' is revealed to owe much to projects of political and religious reform: from the strengthening of the multiple empires that exercised power over the Nile Valley; to the 'modernization' of Islamic centers of learning; to the dream of a global Islamic community that would rely on scientific institutions to coordinate the timing of major religious duties.


'Daniel A. Stolz’s study on the history of astronomy in nineteenth-century Egypt is a piece of superb scholarship. It sheds new light on the questions of science and religion, history of science in a non-European context, and of how science changed during a period that saw the rise of new forms of scientific training, politics, techniques and readership.'

Khaled Fahmy - Sultan Qaboos Chair of Modern Arabic Studies, University of Cambridge

'Pace the hallowed historiography of ‘invented traditions', Daniel A. Stolz’s fine-grained analysis shows how modernities contrapuntally were digested by traditions of knowing. In the ‘scholarly astronomy’ of the nineteenth-century Egyptian ‘ulama' he discovers a living tradition of scientific practices that dynamically engaged with modern western sciences. Firmly grounded in the archive and analyzed with aplomb, the book inaugurates an entirely new chapter in the historiography of science beyond the west.'

Projit Bihari Mukharji - University of Pennsylvania

'This eloquent and deeply researched book shows how the technical apparatus and knowledge of modern sciences were drafted into projects of Islamic reform in late Ottoman Egypt around 1900. Science helped redefine communities of knowledge according to diverse and often conflicting geographies of empire and belief, while framing new horizons for historical understanding: practices of worship were modernized even as astronomy was recast within a centuries-old Islamic tradition. Engagingly written, sophisticated and fascinating, Stolz's book is an eye-opening read for historians of science, empire, and religion.'

John Tresch - University of Pennsylvania

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In alphabetizing last names, I have ignored initial articles such as al-, de, and von, but not Ibn. For authors who bore multiple Arabic nisba names, the alphabetization follows the name by which they are most commonly known (e.g., “al-Khudari al-Dimyati, Muhammad,” rather than “al-Dimyati, Muhammad al-Khudari”).

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    • Majlis al-Nuzzar wa-l-Wuzaraʾ

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    • Ethel Mary Smyth letters

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      • Ismail Effendi Moustapha, 1854–61

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