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Jacob Olidort

    Position: Graduate Student
    Title: 6th-year graduate student
    Office: Jones Hall

    A.M., Harvard University (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations)
    B.A., Brandeis University (History, Middle Eastern Studies)
    As a student of the modern Middle East, my research focuses primarily on the history of Salafism and modern debates in Islamic legal theory, although I maintain ancillary interests in the early Islamic period, classical Islamic theology, and hadith studies. My dissertation, “In Defense of Tradition: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani and the Salafi Method,” examines the life and legacy of  al-Albani (d. 1999), especially his contribution to the formation of scholastic Salafism. Through a combination of both interviews and of close studies of his writings (written over the the course of the half-century of his career and spanning the various disciplines in which he was active), it is hoped that the work—the first to focus exclusively on al-Albani—will help shed light on his efforts to create an orthodoxy through the definition and application of an alternate methodology of hadith study. The establishment of this new orthodoxy through both the reappraisal of hadith reports and the editing and publishing of particular works from the pre-modern period, I argue, lies at the heart of the iconoclastic strain of Salafism. As one of the first to develop this approach, al-Albani not only disrupted the transmission of learning and the standards of traditional legal authority but also participated in a number of sensitive socio-political debates, where his opinions and argumentation remain highly influential today.
    I came to the subject of Salafism through classical Islamic law and theology.  My interest in Islamic law was born while spending a semester as an undergraduate at the American University in Cairo, and then subsequently through graduate work in Islamic law and theology, hadith studies, and early Islamic history. I also had the privilege to spend time in the Middle East, including a year as a Fulbright scholar in the UAE, where I was based at the College of Sharia and Law in al-Ain, and a semester in Jordan.
    My publications include a contribution to Continuity and Change in the Mediterranean 6th–10th century C.E., proceedings of a conference at Oxford University on Late Antiquity and Early Islam, and an article on "Political Ritual" in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. I have also presented my work at a number of conferences and have been invited to give lectures in various settings. My teaching experience includes an introduction to Islam and a course on political Islam in the modern period.