It’s true, of course, that the modern concept of “the environment” is alien to older understandings of istisqa’. Nevertheless, aspects of it are potentially interesting with respect to the human relationship to the non-human world. Nadia Abu-Zahra argues in a study of istisqa’ rituals in Tunisia (based on fieldwork conducted from the 1960s to the 1980s) that earlier analyses were deficient, in part because they “did not consider the connections people make between the environment (rain, land and agriculture), the socio-moral order and the spiritual order.” Because the prevalent theological assumption has always been that drought is the divine response to human wrongdoing, istisqa’ appears not only as an intervention to elicit a human-friendly response from God (the sending of rain), but also as a means of redressing the wrong that humans have inflicted on other elements of creation.
Marion Holmes Katz
Marion Holmes Katz is a Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. Her research focuses on pre-modern Islamic law, gender, and ritual. She is the author of books including Body of Text: The Emergence of the Sunni Law of Ritual Purity (2002), Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice (2013), and Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice (2014).