Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Dogs in ancient Islamic culture

Dogs in Islam, as they are in Rabbinic Judaism, are conventionally thought of as ritually impure. This idea taps into a long tradition that considers even the mere sight of a dog during prayer to have the power to nullify a pious Muslim’s supplications. Similar to many other mistakenly viewed aspects of Islamic history, today both most Muslims and non-Muslims think that Islam and dogs don’t mix.

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Marc Chagall, religious artist

One hundred thirty years after the birth of Moishe Shagall, as he was known in his small Hasidic neighborhood on the outskirts of Vitebsk, and thirty-two years after the death of Marc Chagall, as he came to be known in the modern art world, we are starting to understand his vision.

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Ezra’s executive order

In one form or another, executive orders have long been issued by the highest office in the land to implement policy or highlight priorities. In theory, an executive order is not new law, yet a controversial aspect is the power of an individual to control the laws of the land with the stroke of a pen and the net effect may be an actual change in law.

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How well do you know the foods of Ramadan? [quiz]

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Muslim calendar and a period of 29 or 30 days each year in which practicing Muslims fast during daylight hours. The morning meal, suhur, must be finished before dawn, and iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast (sawm), cannot occur until after dusk. While the commitment to prayer and hours of fasting build community, so do the extensive preparations for the breaking of the fast with friends and family at iftar each night.

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How well do you know Swami Vivekānanda [quiz]

This June, the OUP Philosophy team honors Swami Vivekānanda (born Narendranath Datta, 1863–1902) as their Philosopher of the Month. Born in Calcutta under colonial rule, Vivekānanda became a Hindu religious leader, and one of the most prominent disciples of guru and mystic Śri Rāmakṛṣṇa.

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Divine powers

What do we think of when we think of ‘God’? Any answer to this question will include the idea that the divine is powerful. God creates, God is in charge of the world. If we think that the concept of God doesn’t make sense, that may be partly because the concept of God’s power doesn’t make sense: how can a good God be powerful whilst the world contains this much suffering?

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“Finding Clarity” [an extract from Martin Luther]

The foundation of Protestantism changed the religious landscape of Europe, and subsequently the world, Heinz Schilling traces the life of Martin Luther and shows him not simply as a reformer, but also as an individual. The following extract looks at the consequences following the publication of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.

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Accommodating religion in the workplace

In March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) generated controversy (and confusion) when it ruled that a workplace ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf did not necessarily constitute direct discrimination. Employers could not single out Muslim employees, the ECJ found, but they could enforce general policies restricting religious dress so long as they applied equally to all.

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Dying to prove themselves

The Wonder, the latest work of Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue to light up the fiction best sellers’ list (Donoghue’s prize-winning 2010 novel Room was the basis for the 2015 Academy-Award winning film), draws upon a very real, very disturbing Victorian phenomenon: the young women and men—but mostly pubescent females—who starved themselves to death to prove some kind of divine or spiritual presence in their lives.

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Asking Gandhi tough questions

Why did Gandhi exclude black South Africans from his movement? Could Gandhi reconcile his service in the Boer War with his later anti-imperialism? Why did Gandhi oppose untouchability, but not caste?

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The historical roots of Iran: an interview

In April 2017 Bridget Kendall, former BBC diplomatic correspondent and now Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, interviewed Michael Axworthy, author of Iran: What Everyone Needs to Know® about the history of Iran, the characterization of Iran as an aggressive expansionist power, and the current challenges and developments in the country today. Below is a transcribed version of part of the interview.

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Reading landscapes of violence

The Mewatis sought shelter on the Kala Pahar, the Black Mountain, as the Aravallis are called, but the very next day there was firing from an aircraft sent by the Bharatpur State. Azadi was no freedom but is instead locally called bhaga-bhagi (exodus) and kati (killing) in 1947.

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What are ‘political’ black churches?

Much attention has been given to white evangelical congregations and parachurch groups in studies of so-called “political churches” and politically active Christians. While studies of such white evangelical congregations have been at the forefront of scholarly attention to religious politics, the historic participation (and debate over the participation) of black churches in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s…

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Whose Qur’an?

The Qur’an has emerged as a rich resource for liberation. Over the past several decades, Muslims across the world have interpreted the Qur’an to address the pressing problem of oppression. Whereas privileged groups have historically interpreted the Qur’an, it is imperative for marginalized communities to enter the interpretive circle, to partake in the task of producing normative Islamic thought and practice. In terms of gender, Wadud and Barlas have emphasized, time and again, that women need to participate fully

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