Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Islamic Societies in Practice, 2nd Edition by Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban (University Press of Florida) Originally written in the wake of the Gulf War, this book introduced the West to everyday Arab-Islamic cultures and societies, humanizing the region and its people. It ventured behind the headlines to offer a positive, constructive view of Islam and Muslims, showing how Islam is lived and practiced in daily life.

Now revised and expanded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Islamic Societies in Practice embraces the breadth of global Islam with significant new material on Islam in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States, as well as the Middle East. New maps and illustrations are included, detailing the diversity and representation of Islam and Muslims throughout the world. Additional material includes discussions of male and female relations; folk Islam, popular expressions of faith, and the five pillars; Sufism, including the Turkish Dervishes; ethnic and racial differences in the Muslim world; Islamic law and the application of harsh punishments; political Islam and the future of the state in the Islamic world; and the many voices of progressive Muslims--feminists, human rights activists, and anti-extremist writers.

Excerpt: The interconnected relationship between the West and the Arab-Islamic world changed after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, and relations among Arab and Muslim nations became vastly more complex. The crises deepened as the United States launched its "war on terrorism" in the fall of 2001, then invaded Afghanistan later that year and Iraq in 2003, while Americans struggled to understand why Middle Easterners and Muslims are so angry with the United States. The media and the American general public grew more concerned with understanding Islam and Muslims after President George W. Bush announced that the United States was fighting a war against terrorists, not Muslims. At the same time Reuters, a major European and international news agency, announced that it would no longer use the words terrorism or terrorist in reference to actions or actors, as these are highly subjective terms that depend upon the perspective of those using them. Calling to mind the adage that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, their position was one that sought to maintain the greatest objectivity.

The second edition of this book seeks to accomplish the same ends as the first edition, that is, to humanize the peoples of the Middle East and the diverse societies in which Muslims live. The first edition was begun in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War when the U.S. "star wars" offensive directed against a demonized individual, Saddam Hussein, failed to take any account of the "collateral damage" done to the Iraqi people. It did not seem to matter how many Iraqis died, and in the decade after the war the United States turned a blind eye to the suffering of Iraqis, especially women and children, who were harmed by the total embargo imposed upon Iraq. The second edition is written as another war on Iraq has been waged. In the face of strong international and domestic opposition, the fate of the Iraqi people became more of a factor in the political equation.

This perceived attitude toward Iraqis and the conditions that Palestinians chronically suffer are recognized as issues that have inflamed anger at the United States. It is clear that we must study the region and understand its history and worldviews. This second edition is dedicated to the hope for peace that might flow from a more enlightened understanding of Middle Eastern perspectives.

The current complicated relations and associated tension between the Western world and Christianity and the Arab world and Islam are deeply rooted in history and have been marked by political and cultural struggles often waged in the name of religion. The last decades of the twentieth century reawakened this tension and struggle between the East and the West with many dramatic events, most notably the Arab defeat in the June 1967 war; the 1979 popular Islamic revolution in Iran and the taking of American hostages; the assassination of the West's most charismatic Arab ally, Anwar al-Sadat, in 1981; the attacks on American barracks in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s; the Gulf War of 1991; the two major intifadas, or uprisings, of Palestinians in Israel198793 and resuming in 2000 after the failure of the Oslo Peace talks; the bombings of the American embassies in East Africa in 1998, allegedly by followers of Osama bin Laden; and the spread of extremist groups, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan or the National Islamic Front in Sudan, who directly threatened the United States. The attacks on the World Trade Center, with limited damage in 1993 and with devastating effect in 2001, were indisputable turning points, the effects of which are still unfolding as this second edition goes to press. As the first decade of the twenty-first century unfolds, we in the West will have to decide whether we will demonize the Muslim and Arab worlds or humanize them.

The Islamist upsurge has as much to do with political realities internal to Arab and Muslim states and their failed undemocratic regimes as it has to do with anti-Western and anti-American attitudes. The term Islamism has evolved from the term Islamic fundamentalism, meaning the use of Islamic ideas in the political realm. Many in the West do not distinguish between Islamism, or political Islam, in the Muslim world and Arab nationalism (one nation of the Arabic-speaking peoples) in the Middle East, and they tend to make facile generalizations and stereotypes that associate Islam with terror-ism and Arab politics with an automatic anti-Western bias. As Edward Said pointed out in Covering Islam, for the general public in Europe and America, Islam is news of a particularly unpleasant sort (1981, 136). Islam is perceived as a threat to Western civilization. The "clash of civilizations" view appeared to assume the upper hand in the wake of the attacks on the

World Trade Center, while the divide between the civilized "us" and the uncivilized "them" has become more pronounced as the whole of the Arab-Islamic world is judged by the actions of the violent extremists. Americans have not judged Christianity by the violent actions of a few extremist anti-abortionist groups or the racist attacks by members of the World Church of the Creator. And it was homegrown terrorism that was responsible for the bombing of the Murra Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Tied to this perception is a fear of Islam in the West, a fear rooted in the complex history of contact and conflict between the Islamic world and Europe. Before European hegemony on the eve of 1492, the global economic system was dominated by empires to the east, a significant portion of which were Islamic. From the eleventh through the thirteen centuries, the Crusades pitted the Christian West against the Muslim East in an effort to regain the Holy Land and Jerusalem. The Muslim occupation of the Iberian peninsula for eight centuries is viewed as an aberration from which Christianity was liberated after the 1492 expulsion of Muslims and Jews and the ensuing Inquisition. Orientalist scholar Bernard Lewis has asked "What Went Wrong?" (2002) in the fall of the once grand Islamic civilization that it has devolved to despotic regimes and terrorist cells. European colonial occupation of most of the Middle East and much of the Islamic world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries set the tone of European-Christian superiority and Muslim-Arab inferiority that has yet to be fundamentally altered. Today, fear of Islam has added the negative stereo-types of fanaticism, terrorism, and barbarism to the Arab and Muslim.

Although militant political Islamic movements, now widely referred to as Islamist, have captured the attention of the West, the overwhelming majority of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims have nothing to do with these events. Most Muslims are not Arabs, and they live outside the Middle East, mainly in countries that were colonized by one of the European powers and possess knowledge and experience with the West, yet are among the world's poorest countries. The mantle of European imperialism has been largely inherited by the United States.

Islam is now the second most practiced faith in the United States, after Christianity. While all are part of the world community of Muslims, the Umma, each region has distinctive ties to the spread of Islam, and cultural and linguistic diversity is the norm rather than the exception. The faith of Islam is a basic unifier, as is the Arabic language, valued by all Muslims because it was the language in which the Holy Book, the Qur'an, was revealed to Muhammad nearly six centuries after the introduction of Christianity. Islam has been a powerful unifier because its theology has been, perhaps, less subject to the doctrinal disputes that Christianity has witnessed, and because its teachings blend religious, moral, and social practice into an indivisible whole for the believer-practitioner.

Islam, as lived and practiced by Muslims in everyday life and society, is the focus of this book. My principal goal is to bring out the human dimension of regions and cultural traditions that have been stereotyped and maligned in the West, on the one hand, or simplified and romanticized, on the other. This book is an effort to get behind the headlines that have focused on war, conflict, terrorism, and religious fanaticism and to make accessible to a Western audience the everyday lives of the people of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The Orient in a Mirror by Roland Michaud, Sabrina Michaud (Harry N. Abrams) Inspired by a series of journeys to the Middle East and Asia, photographers Roland and Sabrina Michaud offer striking testimony to the endurance of Islamic cultures with The Orient in a Mirror. Using the mirror as their motif, the Michauds pair traditional Islamic art miniatures, some of which date back eight centuries, with their own photographs of the Middle East taken over a period of nearly 50 years, beautifully evoking a lasting civilization rooted in faith and tradition.

People and landscapes, souks and bazaars, beggars and children: one is struck by the unchanged character of the faces, the lives, and the land, hundreds of years apart. A photograph of a barber performing a "bleeding" in Morocco in 1958, for example, faces a painted miniature of virtually the same scene, created in Iraq in 1240. Through their pairings, the photographers provoke a fascinating interplay between past and present, art and reality. Furthering the timeless feel of the photographs and the miniatures are extracts from the Koran and The Thousand and One Nights, as well as beautiful examples of Arab calligraphy.

The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror by Stephen Schwartz (Doubleday) The social and political consequences of Wahhabism are shown to have created a climate of intolerance and oppression that has warped the fabric of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Now with an excess of petrol dollars, this Wahhabism gives succor and support to ideologies of hatred and terror throughout the Islamic world.  This story needs to be understood as some form of Wahhabism is often at the root of extremist Islam. Another feature of The Two Faces of Islam is that moderate Muslims have strong populist traditions that are assaulted by Wahhabi triumphalist deep pockets. A good read about one important thread in the extremist politics of Islam. Recommended.

The hostility of some other reviews shows, in my opinion, how polemic breeds extremer polemic. This work is definitely polemical. The central message about the pernicious effects of Wahhabism on Saudi society and politics, as well as its warping effect on liberal democratic tendencies in Islam remain the pillars of good sense upon which this work is constructed. Judge for yourself and do not let the name-callers blind you from learning important consequences of Wahhabi extremism for international terrorism.

 In this informed, compelling exploration of Moslem beliefs and of the sectarian conflicts within the community, a Jewish historian paints a sympathetic portrait of mainstream Islam and exposes the centuries-old roots of Osama bin Ladens extremism.

The difficult, protracted war against terrorism has raised unsettling questions about the nature of Islam and its influence on Americas declared enemies. In The Two Faces of Islam, Stephen Schwartz, who has devoted years to the study of Islam, explains its complex history and describes the profound philosophical and religious differences that distinguish traditional beliefs from the radical sects that have sprung up over the past fifteen hundred years. He focuses on Wahhabism, the puritanical sect to which Osama bin Laden belongs. Founded in the eighteenth century by a radical cleric, this intolerant Islamo-fascist sect became the official creed of the Saudi Arabian state and has been exported to Moslem countries from the Balkans to the Philippines, as well as to Islamic communities in Western Europe and the United States.

By setting the current upheavals within an historical and religious context, Schwartz demonstrates that Osama bin Laden and his followers are not really fighting a war against America. Rather, they are engaged in a revolution within Islam itselfa movement that parallels the turmoil within Christianity during the sixteenth century. Schwartz not only exposes the collusion of the Saudi Arabian government in the spread of radical Islam (which makes them at best reluctant allies of the West), he shows that the majority of Moslems have little sympathy for the Wahhabis and that many openly denounce their motivations and goals.

A riveting narrative that never smacks of propaganda, The Two Faces of Islam is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand who we are fighting, what our enemies believe, and who our friends in the Moslem world really are.

Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Islamic Spain by Ross Brann (Princeton University Press) unveils a fresh and vital perspective on power relations in eleventh- and twelfth-century Muslim Spain as reflected in historical and literary texts of the period. Employing the methods of the new historical literary study in looking at a range of texts, Ross Brann reveals the paradoxical relations between the Andalusi Muslim and Jewish elites in an era when long periods of tolerance and respect were punctuated by outbreaks of tension and hostility.

The examined Arabic texts reveal a fragmented perception of the Jew in eleventh-century al-Andalus. They depict seemingly contradictory figures at whose poles are an intelligent, skilled, and noble Jew deserving of homage and a vile, stupid, and fiendish enemy of God and Islam. For their part, the Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic texts display a deep-seated reluctance to portray Muslims in any light at all. Brann cogently demonstrates that these representations of Jews and Muslims-each of which is concerned with issues of sovereignty and the exercise of power-reflect the shifting, fluctuating, and ambivalent relations between elite members of two of the ethno-religious communities of al-Andalus.

Brann's accessible prose is enriched by his splendid translations; the original texts are also included. Power in the Portrayal is the first to study the construction of social meaning in Andalusi Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, and Hebrew literary texts and historical chronicles. The novel approach illuminates nuances of respect, disinterest, contempt, and hatred reflected in the relationship between Muslims and Jews in medieval Spain.

Ross Brann is the Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies and the Chair of Near-Eastern Studies at Cornell University. His books include The Compunctious Poet, recipient of the 1992 National Jewish Book Award in Sephardic Studies. He wrote Power in the Portrayal with the support of the Guggenheim Foundation.


A Muslim Primer: Beginner's Guide to Islam (2nd Edition) by Ira G. Zepp Jr. (University of Arkansas Press) is a superb introduction to Islam for the non-Islamic reader, including a brief history of the Prophet Muhammad and his ideas, the beliefs of Islam, divisions within the community, the role of women, and other topics. Scarcely less useful and informative are short sections on Islamic art, medicine, science, and architecture and hints for dialog between Islam and other religious traditions. The general reader could hardly do better than Zepp's thoughtful and careful primer. Highly recommended.

Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought by Michael A. Cook (Cambridge University Press) is likely to be highly regarded as the study to consult for understanding the unique contribution of Islam to ethical norms. It is a large work that surely shows the classical formulations of principled action as sacred duty. It does not cover, of course, later developments nor are there ready explanations that might tempt the idly curious. However as a work Cook does provide a general survey of the chief intellectual currents in Islam through the establishment of the classical period.

What kind of duty do we have to try to stop other people doing wrong? The question is intelligible in just about any culture, but few of them seek to answer it in a rigorous fashion. The most striking exception is found in the Islamic tradition, where `commanding right and forbidding wrong' is a central moral tenet already mentioned in the Koran. As a historian of Islam whose research has ranged widely over space and time, Michael Cook is well placed to interpret this complex yet fascinating subject. His book, which represents the first sustained attempt to map the history of Islamic reflection on this obligation, covers the origins of Muslim thinking about `forbidding wrong', the relevant doctrinal developments over the centuries in all the major Islamic sects and schools, and its significance in Sunni and Shiite thought today. In this way, the book contributes to the understanding of contemporary Islamic politics and ideology and raises fundamental questions for the comparative study of ethics.

Excerpt: Islam provides both a name and a doctrine for a broad moral duty of this kind. The name -- al-amr bi'lma`ruf wa'l-nahy an al-munkar -- is somewhat unwieldy, as is its literal translation, `commanding right and forbidding wrong'. In my text, where I try as far as possible to avoid inflicting naked Arabic on the reader, I will normally refer to the duty as `forbidding wrong'; this sounds less awkward in English than `commanding right'. The existence and general character of the duty is well known to Islamicists. It has received passing attention in one connection or another from a good many scholars, and is the subject of a concise but informative encyclopaedia article.  It is the purpose of this book to build on this by providing a full monographic treatment of forbidding wrong. `1 I should make it clear from the start that my interest here is in the duty of individual believers; this book is only tangentially concerned with the place of rulers in forbidding wrong, or with the officially appointed censor and his administrative role.

The first objective of the book is to set out an intelligible account of the duty as it appears in the scholastic literature of Islam. In one way this prosaic task is simple enough. A typical account of the duty in this literature will run to no more than a few pages, and these will rarely be characterized by the baffling abstraction of discussions of divine attributes, or the excruciating technicality of the law of inheritance. What makes the research time‑consuming and its presentation complicated is the fact that there are very many such accounts, and that the doctrine they present is far from uniform. It varies with time and place, from sect to sect, from school to school, and from scholar to scholar. As a glance at the table of contents will show, I have chosen to present the bulk of the material by schools and sects; within them, the organisation is largely chronological. Not all readers will want to read all of this material; but those that do will find that, while some of it is tedious, most of it is reasonably accessible.
The book has further objectives which go beyond the modest aim of describing a scholastic tradition. As a historian of ideas, I naturally aspire to explain why Islam came to have such a doctrine, and why this doctrine varied as it did from one milieu to another. As a historian of society, I would like to know how this intellectual tradition was related to the society in which it flourished, and what difference it made to life on the street. It will not surprise anyone that my achievement in these respects is a much more limited one. The limitations are sometimes those of my own knowledge. For example, I would never have completed this book had I not in many cases confined my reading of a work to its chapter on forbidding wrong; this undoubtedly means that I have on occasion missed other relevant features of an author's thought. Sometimes the limitations are those of the sources. For example, it is notorious that we tend to know too much about scholars in the pre-modern Islamic world and too little about anyone else - apart from rulers. Moreover, `practice' in this book almost invariably means practice as described in Islamic literary sources. And sometimes the limitations we are up against arise from the inherent murkiness of historical causality, even where information is vastly more abundant than it is for most of Islamic history.

The overall structure of the book should be seen against this background. Part I is intended to lay the descriptive foundations; its core is the analysis of the normative material found in the Koran, Koranic exegesis, tradition and biographical literature about early Muslims. Part II is devoted to the Hanbalites; the reason for this lengthy treatment is not any intellectual sophistication in Hanbalite doctrine, but rather the relative abundance of material which can be used to relate the doctrine to practice. Part III, by contrast, is concerned with the groups that offer the richest documentation for the intellectual history of the duty- the Mu'tazihtes and their Zaydi and Imami heirs. Part IV collects the remaining sects and schools, and ends with a chapter pulling together the discussion of classical Islam. Part V is more ambitious. It starts by surveying the place of forbidding wrong in modern Islam; the scope of the survey is limited, however, by the fact that the only Islamic languages I read in some fashion, other than Arabic and English, are Persian and Turkish. In the last two chapters I take up the question of the pre‑Islamic antecedents of the duty, and offer some comparisons with non‑Islamic cultures, including that of the modern West.

The structure of the book is perhaps less in need of apology than its dimensions. In the decade since I began serious work on the project, I have watched the growth of the typescript with increasing alarm, and my attempts to cut it back in the final stages of editing have met with only limited success. The result of my labors is not, I think, the largest book on forbidding wrong ever written; for this, the prize still goes to the Damascene Zayn al-Din al-Salihi (d. 856/1452). But mine may well retain for some considerable time the distinction of being the largest in a Western languages If it is any consolation to my colleagues, I have no intention of writing a book of this length again.

Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices by Andrew Rippin (Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices: Routledge) is superb contribution to Islamic studies, one that will be essential reading not only for its intended student audience, but also for advanced readers and researchers as well.The revised, second edition of this authoritative and accessible text combines the previous two separate volumes, providing a survey of Islamic history and thought from its formative period to the present day. Many aspects of the discussion have been updated and there are two new chapters on intellectual thought and medieval developments. In seeking to redress the lack of critical thought that appears in so many introductory textbooks on Islam, Andrew Rippin examines the elements which come together to form Islam, in particular the Qur'an and the traditions from Muhammad. He traces the way these sources have interacted through history to create the disciplines of theology and law, as well as provide the basis for the 'alternative visions' of Islam found in Shi'ism and Sufism. The trajectory of Muslim interaction with these sources is followed down through the medieval period to contemporary times, with speculation on what the future might hold for Islam.

With a combination of well-documented source material, recent research in the field and thorough critical analysis, Andrew Rippin provides an introduction to this important and frequently misunderstood religious group in a concise, challenging and refreshing way. Teachers, students and interested laypeople will find this an invaluable introduction to the subject.

Andrew Rippin is Professor of History and Dean of Humanities at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and author of many works on the Qur'an and its interpretation.

Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity Among the Daudi Bohras by Jonah Blank (University of Chicago Press) a community of Shia Ismaili Muslims from Gujarat numbering upwards of a million worldwide. Mullahs on the Mainframe is a groundbreaking work for two reasons: it is the first full description of a community never before studied from outside, and it demonstrates that an orthodox Islamic community can also embrace Western ideas and technology by adopting all aspects of modern culture that are not forbidden to it. The Daudi Bohras are both "traditional" and "modern." Blank reviews the community's history, organizational structure, rituals, domestic life, orthopraxy, and maintenance of community boundaries. The Bohra have dramatically improved orthopraxy among members, creating a high level of observance of basics while increasing the educational level and scientific sophistication of the community ("there is no conflict whatsoever between science and faith"). The author demonstrates the extent to which Westerners have adopted a view of Islam distorted by stereotypes, fostered by media reports, and sustained by a triumphalism about values that Westerners believe are exclusively theirs. What the Bohras have done, Blank concludes, is to "break down the false dichotomy between modernity and tradition, to let members of the community revel in both." This brilliant study is both academically rigorous and a welcome introduction to the real success of this Islamic community in the modern world. Highly recommended.

Muhammad and the Golden Bough: Reconstructing Arabian Myth by Jaroslav Stetkevych (Indiana University Press) provides important cultural perspectives toward a deeper appreciation of Arab myth, especially the rich poetic traditions that flourished before Muhammad. The richness of myth in Arab-Islamic culture has long been ignored or even denied. In Muhammad and the Golden Bough Jaroslav Stetkevych demonstrates the existence of a coherent pre-Islamic Arabian myth that was subsequently incorporated into Islamic poetic tradition.

Myth as a constituent of Arab‑Islamic culture has long been ignored or even denied. Prodded, indeed, irked, by this stance exhibited by scholarship on the one hand and by a dogmatic theology or ideology on the other, I attempt in this study, first of all, to demonstrate the existence of a culture‑specific, coherent pre‑Islamic Arabian myth‑which deserves to be qualified as autochthonous‑and, further, to engage that Arabian myth in the dynamism of subsequent Islamic myth‑building and mythopoesis. The study first identifies as an autochthonous Arab‑Islamic myth Muhammad's unearthing of a golden bough from the grave of the last survivor of the divine scourge that destroyed the ancient race of the Thamud. It then proceeds to establish a ground of comparison between this myth and the literary and religious traditions contained in kindred structures and symbolic systems that range from Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible to Homer and Vergil. On its concrete, traceable level, this study thus intends to introduce the corpus of largely unrecognized Arabian myth into the purview of a much broader comparative world of myth and symbol.

As its starting point the study takes an incident in the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, in which, in the course of his raid against the Byzantine outpost in Northern Arabia, Tabuk, he discovered a bough of gold. It was unearthed from the grave of the last survivor of the Thamizd, an ancient Arabian people who once had prospered in their rock city of al‑Hijr. The history of the Thamud‑apart from their myth‑we can actually follow from as far back as the eighth century B.C. to the threshold (fourth/fifth century A.D.) of the Byzantine period. Myth and repeated qur'anic notices, however, tell us that at a historically unspecified time they were smitten by a divine scourge for their iniquity and for having defied their prophet, Salih, and that their ultimate destruction was precipitated by their supreme abomination, the slaying of the Divine She‑Camel, known in myth more commonly as the SheCamel of Salih. In a direct way, Arabian myth makes Qudar, the "marked" champion of the Thamud, the tragic perpetrator of this fateful abomination. Under the byname of Abu Righal, this Qudar is then also identified as the one who was buried together with the golden bough of the Thamud.

Various directions of inquiry have made possible the reconstruction of the underlying Thamudic myth. They involved the drawing together of the lore of pre‑Islamic Arabia, the Qur'an, the Biography of the Prophet, and the Stories of the Prophets, the major Islamic works written in the manner of hagiographies. Once reconstructed, and deconstructed (chapter 6), this Arabian myth then serves as the basis for a comparative study of myth and symbol, beginning with the unearthed golden bough of the Thamud itself (and with James G. Frazer's The Golden Bough), but moving quickly to a more focused literary discussion of archaic, classical primary, and classical secondary epic (Gilgamesh, Homer, and Vergil).

The Introduction argues in behalf of an Arabian mythology. For the most part it pursues the traces of the scattered morphology of myth in Arabic culture. Chapter 1 presents the essential textual sources for the unearthing of the golden bough‑among them the Qur'an, the Traditions of the Prophet, the Biography of the Prophet, the Stories of the Prophets, and encyclopedic and exegetical compendia. On the basis of these materials, some of which offer no more than detached brief episodes or scattered tesserae of a shattered ancient verbal mosaic, we can reconstruct the overarching Arabian myth of the Thamfrd‑and within it begin to place the puzzle of the Thamudic golden bough. Chapter 2 provides further background to the myth of the fall of the autochthonous Arabian race of the Thamud to allow for the construction of a narrative around the mythic slaying of the She‑Camel of Salih. Chapter 3 offers an interpretation of Muhammad's raid on Tabuk as a reenactment of the trials of the Thamudic prophet Salih. In Chapter 4 the bivalent identity of Abu Righal, in whose grave the Thamudic golden bough was discovered, is explored in terms of the ambiguity of totem and taboo. Chapter 5 demonstrates how in classical Arabic poetry the tragic dimension of the Thamudic myth comes to the fore, as opposed to the exegetical moral dimension of the Qur'an and qur'anic materials. Chapter 6 presents the history‑as opposed to the mythography‑of the downfall of the caravan city of the Thamud. Chapter 7 discusses the mythic and seismic aspect of the Thamudic final "scream" that marked the moment of their destruction. Chapter 8 takes Frazer's Golden Bough as the starting point for an excursus into the comparative sphere of archaic and classical epic with a view to the further identification and interpretation of the symbol of the golden bough. Finally, the Conclusion places the Arabian golden bough at the core of an Arabian myth that produces a symbolic identification of Qudar, the slayer of the She‑Camel of Salih, Salih, the Thamudic prophet himself, and Muhammad, the discoverer of the golden bough.

Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850 by Ayesha Jalal (Routledge) explores the role of individual Muslim men and women within India and Pakistan from 1850 through to decolonization and the partition period.

Commencing in colonial times, Jalal explores and interprets the historical processes through which the perception of the Muslim individual and the community of Islam have been reconfigured over time. She examines the relationship between Islam and nationalism and the individual, regional, class and cultural differences that have shaped the discourse and politics of Muslim identity.

As well as fascinating discussion of political and religious movements, culture and art, this book includes analysis of:

  • -press, poetry and politics of late nineteenth century India
  • -the politics of language and identity - Hindu, Urdu and Punjabi
  • -Muslim identity, cultural difference and nationalism
  • -the Punjab and the politics of Union and Disunion
  • -the creation of Pakistan
Covering a period of immense upheaval and sometimes-devastating violence, this work is an important and enlightening insight into the history of Muslims in South Asia.

The Vision of Islam: Reflecting on the Hadith of Gabriel by Sachiko Murata,  with William Chittick ($18.95, tradepaper; 368 pages, Paragon House, ISBN:1557785163)

Murata and Chittick supply an exemplary introduction to Islam through the classic modes of practice, faith and spirituality as well as the Islamic view of history. Interweaving the principle teaching of the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet, the wellsprings of the tradition, the authors provide intellectual and aesthetic appreciation of these principles and historical context as well. It is the most successful introduction to Islam for a Western audience produced to date and should become a widely use text. It has good trade potential because of its versatile style and authoritative nature.

Special Contents

insert content here