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Islamic History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Adam J. Silverstein
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Jan 2010 Very Short Introductions
Does history matter? This book argues not that history matters, but that Islamic history does. This Very Short Introduction introduces the story of Islamic history; the controversies surrounding its study; and the significance that it holds - for Muslims and for non-Muslims alike. Opening with a lucid overview of the rise and spread of Islam, from the seventh to twenty first century, the book charts the evolution of what was originally a small, localised community of believers into an international religion with over a billion adherents. Chapters are also dedicated to the peoples - Arabs, Persians, and Turks - who shaped Islamic history, and to three representative institutions - the mosque, jihad, and the caliphate - that highlight Islam's diversity over time. Finally, the roles that Islamic history has played in both religious and political contexts are analysed, while stressing the unique status that history enjoys amongst Muslims, especially compared to its lowly place in Western societies where history is often seen as little more than something that is not to be repeated. Some of the questions that will be answered are: * How did Islam arise from the obscurity of seventh century Arabia to the headlines of twenty first century media? * How do we know what we claim to know about Islam's rise and development? * Why does any of this matter, either to Muslims or to non-Muslims? ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (21 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199545723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199545728
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.9 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

The book is extremely lucid, readable, sensibly organised, and wears its considerable learning, as they say, 'lightly'. BBC History Magazine I cannot imagine any reader not profiting from this tight-packed and intelligently presented text. BBC History Magazine Brilliant little book...This highly approachable text is evidently backed by a deep scholarship and is full of eye-catching perspectives. Steven Poole, The Guardian Silverstein, who teaches the subject at Oxford University, is up-to-date, shrewd and often witty... the book's lucidity, intelligence and indeed its brevity make it an ideal introduction to the field of study... The book is a gem, and it deserves a wide readership well beyond the academic community. David Morgan, TLS

About the Author

Adam Silverstein has taught Islamic history at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. He is University Research Lecturer in Near and Middle Eastern Studies, and a Fellow of The Queen's College, Oxford. He is also Fellow in Jewish-Muslim Relations at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and a member of The Magic Circle.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good History Book 14 Oct 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The predominantly Islamic lands and cultures have gained a lot of prominence in public consciousness in the West over the last ten years. Consequently there have been an untold number of books and articles published with the aim to explain Islamic history and hopefully elucidate how that history bears on the recent geopolitical events. Even thought this very short introduction also addresses those concerns, it does so in a very limited way in the last brief chapter. The primary purpose of the book, however, is to present Islamic History in its own right as a very fascinating and vast subject in its own right.

Islam is a religion that originated in 7th century Arabian Peninsula. In many respects Islam is unique in that it very closely intertwines the politics and religion, and hence it makes much more sense to talk about Islamic History than for instance Buddhist history or even Christian history. The author of this book does not endorse the idea that there is no "separation of church and state" in Islam, and he provides ample historical evidence to support that view. However, it is hard to argue that Islam is not an all-encompassing religious system that aims to shape the society in all of its aspects. For centuries caliphs/imams have served as both heads of state and the principle religious authorities. In fact most of the divisions in Islam can be traced to various historic divisions based on who was thought to poses the rightful claims to this religious/political authority. There are hardly any doctrinal differences between Sunnis and Shias for instance.

The book strikes the right tone between being unduly politically correct at one extreme, and having a completely uncritical negative knee-jerk reaction to everything that has to do with Islam.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Not the one to read many historical books I was tempted to buy this 'introductory' version and found it highly well researched and pleasure to read. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good history book 22 Mar 2010
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The predominantly Islamic lands and cultures have gained a lot of prominence in public consciousness in the West over the last ten years. Consequently there have been an untold number of books and articles published with the aim to explain Islamic history and hopefully elucidate how that history bears on the recent geopolitical events. Even thought this very short introduction also addresses those concerns, it does so in a very limited way in the last brief chapter. The primary purpose of the book, however, is to present Islamic History in its own right as a very fascinating and vast subject in its own right.

Islam is a religion that originated in 7th century Arabian Peninsula. In many respects Islam is unique in that it very closely intertwines the politics and religion, and hence it makes much more sense to talk about Islamic History than for instance Buddhist history or even Christian history. The author of this book does not endorse the idea that there is no "separation of church and state" in Islam, and he provides ample historical evidence to support that view. However, it is hard to argue that Islam is not an all-encompassing religious system that aims to shape the society in all of its aspects. For centuries caliphs/imams have served as both heads of state and the principle religious authorities. In fact most of the divisions in Islam can be traced to various historic divisions based on who was thought to poses the rightful claims to this religious/political authority. There are hardly any doctrinal differences between Sunnis and Shias for instance.

The book strikes the right tone between being unduly politically correct at one extreme, and having a completely uncritical negative knee-jerk reaction to everything that has to do with Islam. Unfortunately these two extreme viewpoints have been dominant in the media, and in the case of the former have even entered the academic discussions of Islam. Silverstein rejects this notion that Islam and Islamic history should be viewed uncritically, and succeeds in providing a highly plausible and interesting view of this subject. Some of the ideas presented in the book are very intriguing (like the observation that the use of camels was crucial for the early Islamic expansion) and will probably make you think. In the end, whether you are interested in Islam, history or are just a generally curious person, you will enjoy reading this very well written short book.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but enlightening. 6 Mar 2011
By F.Hoffman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is valuable not only for a historical overview of Islamic tradition, but for the insightful last chapter on current Islam and world perception of it. This book is respectful of the religion while being forthright about some of the less pretty parts of its history. The style of the book is very accessible... some scholars may say it is too broad and not deep enough, but it met my needs... I may want to read a multi-volume work in Islam in the future, but not this weekend.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Focuses to much on the modern Islamic world and is way to vague about the rich history of Islamic Civilization 24 Nov 2013
By AndrewGoering1990 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I felt the author did not really focus on the HISTORY of Islam and Islamic Civilization, instead he gave an extremely vague overview of certain peoples of the Islamic World, after which he proceeded to focus on MODERN Islam and the controversies surrounding the Islamic World today, which he assumes (probably correctly) the reader would really be interested in.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather Specialized 8 July 2013
By RL - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Little more emphasis on historiography itself than I expected. Seemed aimed at a somewhat specialized readership. More analytic than synthetic -- and the latter is what I expect from these Very Short Introductions. Worth reading, nevertheless.
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected 12 May 2014
By Mushfique - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most people are surprised that I am reading a book on Islam written by a westerner, that too, being a Muslim myself. But this is a very honest summary of the cultural and historical impact and importance of Islam. Its a very honest assessment and it got me hooked on Islamic history so much that I couldnt stop browsing the net for two weeks, scouring for more info. Very informative and provides several arguments and counter arguments, so that you can decide for yourself.
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