30 J I M C A R R O L L “Please close the door behind you.” Already a full day faced me with several new classes, but it was no time for excuses. In the evening I settled in my room to read her paper. It was highly technical and dealt with many areas with which I was not yet familiar. Her topic was the Hanbali School of Sharia, or Islam- ic Law, which at least I recognized as the major line of thought in Saudi Arabia. I had been taught it was extremely conservative. Her thesis, however, was that Ahmad ibn Hanbal had traveled about indiscriminately collecting hadiths from many sources and then crafting his own ideas into law. This idea was offensive. The idea of holy law being constructed by the view of one man, how- ever brilliant he was, was ridiculous, and my critique of her pa- per reflected this. In the morning I dropped off the material and went to class. Midday, Professor Allison spotted me on campus and sum- moned me. She employed an upright motion of the fingers of her extended hand, palm up. In the Arab world, such a hand motion would be deemed vulgar. Did she know this? The proper Arab mannerism was similar but with the fingers and palm pointed down, the critical difference. We talked under a tree to escape the desert sun. “Yacoub, I’m disappointed in your write-up. I think I may have made a mistake accepting you into my program. What you wrote was immature. I can only say you have a great deal of work to do. We shall have to spend time working this simpleton streak out of your mind. I’m afraid you’re stranded in fiqh.” I didn’t grasp the full meaning of the Arabic word. “Get settled in, get your mind down to the real world, and we’ll talk again.” I looked at her, and she looked at me for a moment. Academic reproach was unfamiliar to me, and I had no response. Was my critique too severe? I failed to apprehend the point of her little tirade.