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Charity in Islamic Societies

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Part of Themes in Islamic History

  • Date Published: September 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521529129

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About the Authors
  • Muslim beliefs have inspired charitable giving for over fourteen centuries, yet Islamic history has rarely been examined from this perspective. In Charity in Islamic Societies, Amy Singer explains the basic concepts and institutions of Muslim charity, including the obligation to give on an annual basis. Charitable endowments shaped Muslim societies and cultures in every era. This book demonstrates how historical circumstances, social status, gender, age and other factors interacted with religious ideals to create a rich variety of charitable practices, from the beginnings of Islam to the present day. Using written texts, buildings, images and objects to anchor the discussions in each chapter, the author explores the motivations for charity, its impact on the rich and the poor, and the politicisation of charity. This lucidly written book will capture the attention of anyone who is interested in the nature of Islamic society and the role of philanthropy throughout history.

    • The first book to explain the concepts and practices that have shaped charity among Muslims from the beginning of Islam until today
    • An enlightened and creative approach to the subject by one of the leading historians in the field
    • This book fills a gap in the subject at introductory level for students of both Islamic history and religious studies
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    Awards

    • ARNOVA Best Book Award 2010

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Weaving many anecdotes and personal experiences into her narrative, in addition to careful textual readings, Singer captures the psychological subtleties that characterise nearly all aspects of charitable giving and demonstrates how these have manifested themselves throughout history. As a consequence, her book has a freshness and relevancy that is not always found in scholarly works.' Haaretz, Israeli Daily Newspaper

    'Undergraduates should find the book a very useful introduction to an aspect of Islamic societies that is rarely discussed historically. Those who are familiar with the general themes of the book, like zakat (alms) and waqf (religious endowment), will still find its broad and comparative framework very stimulating.' Middle East Journal

    '[Singer's] book serves as an effective counterweight to post-9/11 studies that link Islamic charities and jihadist movements. [She] succeeds in decoupling the contemporary association between Islamic charity and violence.' History

    'Amy Singer draws on a vast array of sources, from 10th century jurist Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali to early 20th century Turkish political activist Halide Edip Adavar, in her rich overview of philanthropy in Islamic societies. The work unites religious texts and their meaning with a fascinating analysis of the role and impact of charity in Islamic societies, presenting charity as both religious ideal and social practice.' Alliance

    '… this fine book accomplishes what it sets out to do: to present an overview of Islamic charitable practices through an examination of the texts that have underpinned them and the many ways in which those texts have been examined and re-interpreted over the centuries. One anticipates that many of Singer's readers will heed her challenge to take up where this book, and her questions, leaves off.' Lisa Pollard, English Historical Review

    'Singer attempts to offer an all-encompassing view of a mammoth topic … Singer recognizes that her text is introductory for both scholars of Islam and scholars specializing in charity. In addition to an introduction and conclusion, the book is divided into five chapters - each engaging a particular theme or facet of charitable giving … The author's objectives are admirable: integrating Islamic societies into general scholarship on charity; countering recent negative representations of Muslim charity; filling a perceived gap in Islamic studies; and, perhaps secondarily, blurring a conceptual line between charity and patronage.' The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    'Amy Singer's comprehensive study of Islamic charity and the institution of Islamic pious and charitable foundations (waqf) is a timely and welcome addition to the state of scholarship on this important institution across time and space. It provides background on the normative definition of charity contained in the Qur'an and hadith and takes up the question of praxis across Muslim societies from medieval to modern times.' Journal of the American Oriental Society

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521529129
    • length: 260 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 151 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • contains: 17 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction
    1. Pray and pay alms
    2. Even half a date
    3. The upper hand
    4. The poor and the needy
    5. The mixed economy of charity
    Conclusion: reorienting charity.

  • Author

    Amy Singer, Tel-Aviv University
    Amy Singer is Associate Professor, Ottoman History, in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Her recent publications include Palestinian Peasants and Ottoman Officials (Cambridge University Press, 1994), Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem (2002), Middle East Historiographies (ed., 2006) and Feeding People, Feeding Power: Imarets in the Ottoman Empire (ed., 2007).

    Awards

    • ARNOVA Best Book Award 2010

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