Dr Omar Anchassi

Research Fellow - Understanding Shari'a Project

I am primarily interested in Islamic Law and Legal Theory and their intersections with Kalām-theology in various periods.  I also entertain interests in Qur’ānic hermeneutics (particularly feminist), the social history of science in the Muslim world and the category of ‘Modernity’.  My current project explores shifts in the legal discourse on slavery from approximately the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, using late post-classical texts such as the Radd al-Muhtār of Ibn `Ābidīn (d. 1252/1836) to examine the place slave-concubinage and related practices occupied in the thought of jurists around the time of the early colonial European penetration of Islamdom.  Working on sources from a range of genres in the Arabophone Middle East, I aim to track changing patterns of argument and to explain how discursive transformations led from a point at which sexual access to slave-woman was seen as completely unremarkable to one in which it was regarded with a certain moral outrage.

My doctoral thesis explored the life and work of the seminal Islamicist Fazlur Rahman (d. 1988).   It examined his contribution to a variety of the field’s sub-disciplines and brought his work into conversation with more recent developments in scholarship.  It argued that he sought the integration of different knowledge systems; that he was, to deploy the term used by Ebrahim Moosa, a thinker of the dihlīz, or interstitial space.  The thesis was also concerned with the question(s) of Orientalism; with the notion of ‘commitment’ and its complex interfaces with the academy, and with the emic/etic binary.  Fazlur Rahman is understood to have sought to overcome many of the challenges these categories presented; he was dismissed by some in the Western academic tradition as irredeemably biased, while being demonised as an Orientalist by others.

I have taught undergraduate classes on Islamic social and political history and on gender and sexuality in pre-modern Islam.  I have received training in codicology and have worked extensively with Arabic manuscripts.  I consider myself to be a medievalist who happens to work on the modern period.


Book Reviews

Behnam Sadeghi, ‘The Logic of Law Making in Islam: Women and Prayer in the Legal Tradition’, in the Journal of Shi`a Islamic Studies, vol. VIII, no. 1, 2015, pp. 99-101.

Ulrich Rudolph (Rodrigo Adem trans.), ‘Al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand’, in the Journal of Shi`a Islamic Studies vol. VIII, no. 4, 2015, pp. 512-515.

Sadek Hamid, ‘Sufis, Salafis and Islamists: the Contested Ground of British Islamic Activism’, available online at: http://islamicate.co.uk/sufis-salafis-and-islamists/

Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim, ‘Pragmatism in Islamic Law: A Social and Intellectual History’, in the Journal of Islam and Muslim-Christian Relations (forthcoming).


BA English Literature and History, Joint Honours (QMUL)

MA Intellectual History (University of London, Intercollegiate)

PhD (QMUL, pending viva)