Alef Is for Allah is the first groundbreaking study of the emotional space occupied by children in modern Islamic societies. Focusing primarily on visual representations of children from modern Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, the book examines these materials to investigate concepts such as innocence, cuteness, gender, virtue, and devotion, as well as community, nationhood, violence, and sacrifice. In addition to exploring a subject that has never been studied comparatively before, Alef Is for Allah extends the boundaries of scholarship on emotion, religion, and visual culture and provides unique insight into Islam as it is lived and experienced in the modern world.
Jamal J. Elias is Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies and South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous publications on a broad range of subjects relevant to the medieval and modern Islamic world.
“This beautifully written and tightly argued book marks an entirely new departure in the study of Islam. Jamal Elias advances theoretical work in multiple fields through a focus on material culture directed at children. The analysis highlights emotional forces that bind human beings to each other from the level of family intimacy to local identity, the nation, and the worldwide Islamic community. The book is indispensable for a sophisticated understanding of Islamic visual cultures, childhood as the crucial locus for articulating gender, and contemporary society in Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey.”—Shahzad Bashir, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Brown University
“The study of childhood has become an important field in academic research over the last two decades but one imbalanced by the preponderance of work done on European and North American childhood. Jamal Elias makes a critical intervention with this fascinating, well-informed study of the subject in three national traditions that are variously Muslim—Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran. His book is a compelling contribution to the literature, which will also expand Islamic Studies in a vital new direction.”—David Morgan, Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University
“A brilliant study of the construction and representation of childhood in Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. This interdisciplinary masterpiece sheds light on the intersection of emotion, gender, and visual culture as powerful indices of social and political change within the Muslim world. Moving from stamps to textbooks and posters, and from discussions of nationhood to religious networks, Jamal Elias provides vivid and erudite insights into the place of art and religion in the contemporary world.”—Kishwar Rizvi, Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, Yale University
“Elias brilliantly melds discussions that have always taken place separately (if even at all)—the nature, production, and politics of childhood, visual culture, and emotion in Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran—to address fundamental questions about Islamic ethics and identity. This academic page-turner is a stunning achievement!”—Andy Rotman, Professor of Religion, Smith College