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Somewhere Between Islam and Judaism

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One would think that the space between Islam and Judaism would prove fertile enough to engage in questions of social, religious, cultural, and intellectual interactions. Yet, for a variety of political reasons, this is unfortunately rarely the case. In Somewhere Between Islam and Judaism, Hughes reflects on what it means to work in both traditions, but feel at home in neither. The essays collected in this volume provide a set of critical reflections on what it means to study these two religious traditions within the larger context of the academic study of religion. Using case studies that span from the rise of Islam to the current state of Islamic studies and Jewish studies, this work examines the discourses that scholars use to bring Islam and Judaism into what they believe to be sharper focus. In the process, Hughes forces us to confront the countless blindspots, assumptions, and problematic assertions responsible for structuring and framing Islamic and Jewish data.

Somewhere Between Islam and Judaism will be of interest to scholars and students of religion concerned with comparison, and to those studying Islam, Judaism and Jewish–Muslim relations.

Published: Aug 20, 2021

Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Aaron Hughes
Somewhere Between Aaron Hughes
Part One: Disciplinary Overviews
1. The Current State of Islamic Studies Aaron Hughes
2. The Current State of Jewish Studies Aaron Hughes
Part Two: Case Studies
3. Destabilizing "Judaism" in Late Antiquity Aaron Hughes
4. Zindīqs and the Construction of Islamic Orthodoxy Aaron Hughes
5. Modern Back-Projections and their Repercussions Aaron Hughes
Part Three: Reboot
6. The Study of Islam in the Age of Trump Aaron Hughes
7. Abrahamic Religions: The Second Generation Aaron Hughes
8. The Study of Religion as a National and Nationalist Project Aaron Hughes
End Matter
Afterword Aaron Hughes
Notes Aaron Hughes
References Aaron Hughes
Index Aaron Hughes


Aaron W. Hughes emerges as a critic and corrector, alerting scholars of Islam and Judaism to how these two religions should be critically, philologically and historically seen alongside each other…being critical and analytical, Hughes suggests, leads us to be inclusive of other peoples and ideas. Signifying that nothing is “marginal” and that there is no “the other”, this monograph dismantles the “us” versus “them” that structures the field.
Majid Daneshgar, author of Studying the Qur'an in the Muslim Academy

Theoretically and methodologically provoking, this book invites us to reflect critically on the lines that separate and connect Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, and Religious Studies. Hughes’ critique is directed to both the researchers and institutions: given the ideological and political currents that have fraught these fields from the very beginning, where do we locate ourselves? Does our work contribute to problematizing these currents, cementing them, or dismantling them? Conceived as a compilation of delivered lectures and essays, the book prompts us to question everything we write – a privileged position that we must not take lightly as we endeavour to expand, revitalize, and in the current climate even defend, the role of research in Humanities and Social Sciences.
Professor Amila Buturović, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University, Canada

The academic study of Islam and of Judaism have a long, intertwined past. Some of the great early scholars of Islam were Jews and the overlapping nature of these religious traditions has been duly noted for centuries. In this engaging book, Somewhere Between Islam and Judaism: Critical Reflections, Aaron Hughes, who is one of the few scholars who contributes prolifically to both fields, offers personal and scholarly reflections on the nature of both disciplines within in the broader context of the study of religion. Hughes notes that in today’s contested political climate and scholarly biases of the western academy, it is often forgotten what these two religious traditions share and how they differ. The book is not about Islam and Judaism per se but rather the “various genealogies, lenses, terms, and narratives that scholars use to bring Islam and Judaism into what they believe to be sharper focus.” A significant contribution to the critical study of religion.
Shaul Magid, Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

With the essays found in Somewhere between Islam and Judaism, Hughes reminds us just how important it is to re-examine our tools of scholarly inquiry and analysis. Attention to method, theory, and self-reflexivity, as well as a willingness to challenge the scholarly status quo, all remain virtuous traits in the eyes of Hughes—an exhortation to which we might all responsibly cleave. Constituting both a helpful introduction to this scholar’s wide-ranging work and a welcome revisit and refresh for those invested in Hughes’s long-term intellectual project, this volume should find its place easily on the shelves of scholars and students of religion alike.
Reading Religion