Abstract: Salafis explicitly base their legitimacy on continuity with the Quran and the Sunna, and their distinctive practices—praying in shoes, wearing long beards and short pants, and observing gender segregation—are understood to have a similarly ancient pedigree. In this talk, which is based on his new book In the Shade of the Sunna: Salafi Piety in the 20th Century Middle East,Aaron Rock-Singer argues that Salafism is a creation of the twentieth century and that its signature practices emerged primarily out of Salafis’ competition with other social movements amid the intellectual and social upheavals of modernity. In doing so, he moves beyond the surface claims of Salafism’s own proponents—and the academics who often reproduce them—into the larger sociocultural and intellectual forces that have shaped Islam’s fastest growing revivalist movement.
A short biography of Dr Aaron Rock-Singer, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Aaron Rock-Singer is a historian of the modern Middle East, with a research focus on 20th century Islamic movements and states. He received his BA at the University of Pennsylvania, his M.Phil at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford and his Ph.D. at Princeton University. In his first book, Practicing Islam in Egypt: Print Media and Islamic Revival (Cambridge, 2019), he drew on ideologically diverse Islamic magazines from this period to chart the rise of an Islamic Revival in 1970s Egypt within a larger global story of religious contestation and change. He is currently an assistant professor in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.