In This Section:
I. Author Bio
II. Author Letter
I. Author Bio
Alexander (Sasha) Knysh was trained as an Arabist and historian of the Islamic Middle East in the former Soviet Union. He combines expertise in Arabic literature (both pre-modern and modern) with the knowledge of the history, religions, and cultures of the Middle East and Eurasia. He has been teaching and conducting research in these fields of academic endeavor over the past thirty years. In 1994, Professor Knysh joined the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor. In 1998, he was promoted to the rank of Professor of Islamic Studies. From 1998 until 2004, he served as chair of the department. In 1997-1998, he held the Sharjah Chair of Islamic Studies at the Department of Arabic and Middle East Studies, University of Exeter, UK. Although this was a permanent academic appointment, he chose to return to Michigan after one year in England.
More recently, Prof. Knysh has been working on several academic projects, including the history of Islam in Yemen and a study of the changing representations of Islam and the Muslims in Russian academic and popular discourses and mass media following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. His latest project, "Islam and Empire in the Northern Caucasus," explores the history and ideological underpinnings of Muslim resistance to the Russian conquest and subsequent domination of the North Caucasus in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Simultaneously, he continues to pursue his longstanding interest in the history of Sufi movements and thought in Islam; thus, he currently serves as the section editor for “Sufism” on the Editorial Board of the Encyclopedia of Islam (3rd edition), E.J. Brill, Leiden, the Netherlands.
Personal Webpage: http://www.umich.edu/~neareast/faculty/knysh.htm
II. Author Letter
Islam in Historical Perspective
is written in response to the requests of my former students, who wanted to see my numerous lectures and seminars on Islam and Muslim societies systematized and collected under one cover. Some of these students have since themselves become teachers and scholars of Islam and are in need of a general introduction to Islam that would be both historical and topical. However, while writing this book,
I envisioned a much broader audience than just college teachers and their students. I address my book to everyone who seeks to acquire a historically and factually grounded understanding of Islam and the experiences and aspirations of its practitioners.
Contrary to what the book’s title might suggest to an outsider, its principal character is Muslims, not the rather nebulous abstraction called "Islam." I demonstrate how they have made sense of their daily experiences by constantly (re-)interpreting and (re-)adjusting the foundational ideas of their religion in response to ever-changing social, political and economic conditions of their lives. Combining historical and topical approaches, Islam in Historical Perspective offers a concise account of the pivotal moments in the history of Islamic societies, while also addressing dialogues and struggles within the extraordinary rich and variegated Muslim intellectual tradition. I show Islam to be a powerful social, political and intellectual force, while at the same time exploring Muslim devotional practices, artistic creativity and structures of everyday life.
The goal of my book is to help readers to develop personal empathy and enthusiasm for the subject of their study (Islam and the Muslims), which is absolutely indispensible for the success of any college course in the humanities and social sciences. The same applies for any individual seeking knowledge of this subject. To enliven my narrative, I have availed myself of a wealth of historical anecdotes and quotations from original sources that illustrate in a memorable, striking and entertaining way the principal points of my historical survey of Islam and Muslim societies.
As any author, I am anxious to receive feedback from anyone reviewing, teaching or studying this book. Suggestions for improvements are particularly welcome and appreciated. My email is email@example.com.
Very truly yours,
University of Michigan — Ann Arbor