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The History of Islamic Political Thought: From the Prophet to the Present Hardcover – 19 Jul 2011


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An impressive synthesis that will open up this field to non-Islamicists ! the only book of its kind, done by a political theorist who brings that discipline's approach and comparative background to bear on the subject -- Jury of the BKFS Book Prize in Middle Eastern Studies This is a remarkably good book. The author covers a long period, from the jahaliyya up to today, and the coverage is uniformly clear and judicious ... Black is to be congratulated for having provided such an extended discussion of high quality ... his comparative touch is light and inevitably illuminating ... a lot of books have appeared in recent years on Islamic political thought, and this is undoubtedly one of the best. It will play an important role in the teaching of the subject for many years to come An impressive synthesis that will open up this field to non-Islamicists ! the only book of its kind, done by a political theorist who brings that discipline's approach and comparative background to bear on the subject This is a remarkably good book. The author covers a long period, from the jahaliyya up to today, and the coverage is uniformly clear and judicious ... Black is to be congratulated for having provided such an extended discussion of high quality ... his comparative touch is light and inevitably illuminating ... a lot of books have appeared in recent years on Islamic political thought, and this is undoubtedly one of the best. It will play an important role in the teaching of the subject for many years to come --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Professor Antony Black has lectured in Politics at University of Dundee from 1963 until retirement in 2000, covering most aspects of political theory from Plato to contemporary international relations and social philosophy. Done research on and published on wide range of topics from medieval ecclesiastical theories to contemporary political philosophy. 1975-76 Visiting associate professor, School of Government and Public Administration, The American University, Washington DC., USA. 1980-81 Senior Research Fellow, Nuffield Foundation. March-April 1993 Visiting Professor, Faculty of Jurisprudence, University of Trento, Italy. 1993-7. Head of Dept. of Politics, University of Dundee 1995-9 Book Review Editor of Early Modern History: Contacts, Contrasts and Comparisons (Brill).

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A great work poorly executed 8 Sept. 2013
By Listo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE FIRST EDITION, NOT THE SECOND

Antony Black is a brilliant scholar. His 'A World History of Ancient Political Thought' was lucid, informative, balanced, and thoughtful. This was informative, balanced, and thoughtful, but incredibly poorly edited. It could have done with far more care and thought for the reader-- Are we going to define terms? Are we going to use those terms consistently? Basic titles like Caliph, Imam, and Emir are tossed around interchangeably with their translation, not to mentioned lesser-known titles, concepts, and institutions from the Islamic political experience. The editing comes across as rushed and the text as unduly confused. This book could be far more readable with a good developmental edit. I'm hoping that's what the second edition received aside from a post-9/11 update. Had it a few more months editing, the author, publisher, and audience would have had a better product for the English-speaking world to better understand the Islamic world when it most needed to. Instead it had very sloppy book on a very relevant topic by a very intelligent scholar.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Rare Masterpiece 8 May 2008
By Jamal Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I stumbled upon this book for one of my early research papers about Islam, and I was amazed. This is truly an academically honest masterpiece. It covers everything from the political system created in Islam right after Muhammad's death to the contemporary Salafi movement including the work of Maududi, Qutb, and Khomeini. It also references common hadiths, fikh, and the Sira, which is a breath of freash air because recently everybody believes they are an Islamic scholar but they've only remotely studied books about the Qur'an (not even the Qur'an itself, seriously it's frustrating in academia).

The bottom line is if you're a student (informal or formal) of Middle Eastern and Islamic politics you need this book.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
On recognizing the Other 28 Jun. 2013
By greg taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first thing I should state is that I am no expert in Islamic studies. I have dabbled in reading the Qur'an and the Falsafa. I do not know enough about the history of the Near East and North Africa do consider myself conversant in it. But I am well versed in the history of Europe and its philosophy
The point I am making is that I cannot state that Black's presentation is accurate and illuminating. I can say that it fits in with what I did know and introduced me to any number of thinkers and issues worth studying.
There are people these days (like Fred Dallmayr) who are trying to make Western political philosophy less provincial. Not just in the sense of looking at the history of other peoples as providing source material to discuss but in the sense of absorbing the political philosophies of other peoples to use on our own source material. In other words, to try to see our own history or the history of the world in terms of the conceptual apparatuses of other peoples.
And herein lies my problem. If Black's book is a fair and judicious presentation of the history of Islamic political thought, then I do not see that it contributes much to that effort to create a worldly or cosmopolitan political philosophy.
And I suspect that Black doesn't either.
Consider this from p. 345: "The political thought of Muslims has been significantly changed by encounter with the West. A new chapter in the history of Islamic political thought has begun." Notice the direction of influence- from West to Islam. On p. 351, he sums up what Islam has to offer today with three ideas. The first is that the Royal Advice literature offers a storehouse of prudential ethics and political realism. The second is the concept of mizan (balance)"as a guide to rational calculation in practical affairs". The third is that Ibn Khaldun is still a pretty darn good read (I agree).
This hardly seems like much after 350 pages of what seems to be well organized and lucid exposition on dozens of thinkers.
In my reading of the book, the main problem with Islamic political thought is three-fold.
1. Everything we need to know is in the Qu'ran or the Hadith. All arguments must be grounded on these two great sources.
2. There is no concept of humanity in Islamic thought. There are Muslims and non-Muslims. The House of Islam and the House of Strife.
3. Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong. This central concept in Islamic ethics can be read as making every Muslim the enforcer of Shari'a. This encourages acts of both great heroism and incredible tyranny.
Having said all that, Black's work is a work of seemingly impeccable scholarship. He is an outstanding scholar of Medieval and Early Modern Western Political Thought and often finds very telling points of comparison between the two traditions. He introduces many different figures and gives enough exposition to determine who and what you want to further explore.
For me, it highlighted a central tension in all political thought- that between our community and our humanity. Each can be a source of freedom, strength and knowledge. Each can be a source of tyranny and exclusion. Islam, for the most part, is my Other. And as a secular humanist social democrat tree-hugging sarcastic rationalist, I appear to be its Other as well. I feel like I need to know more so that I can get to see the common ground.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Political history mixed with political thought 11 Sept. 2013
By T. Carlsson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It is certainly admirable that the author carries through his ambitious project of working through all of Islamic political thought "from the prophet to the present", and he's clearly an accomplished scholar. He has done an immense amount of work in synthesizing 1400 years of Islamic political thought into 350 pages. The bibliography in this book is also very useful for those looking to go deeper into the subject.

However, I think the author has done himself a disservice in conceiving "political thought" very broadly. I didn't notice it so much in parts I and II, which included good chapters on the classical thinkers: Ibn Rush, Ibn Khaldun, Al-Ghazali and so on. But especially in parts III and IV he delves into much more obscure literature: "advice-to-the-king" treatises, the legitimating ideologies of various dynasties and administrative works on practical government. I think he should have been more discriminate in separating the classics from such peripheral and mediocre writings, and he should have focused much more on the former. I like to read about ideas that were new and original when they were conceived, not about old ideas being repeated over and over again.

Perhaps this is an impossible requirement due to the intellectual stupor of Islamic societies after the classical period. There simply weren't many original ideas to begin with. The author resolves this conundrum in parts III and IV by including a lot of second-rate material, as I already mentioned, but also by narrating the political history of later Islamic societies at some length. I did not like this approach at all. Political thought and political history are related, of course, but they are not interchangeable. I don't think a book on the history of political thought should shift its emphasis over to political history the way this one does. Part V deals with Islamic responses to western ideas and dominance. This part was better than parts III and IV since it stayed more faithful to political thought, but I would have preferred to read part V as a longer, separate book. Its subject seems to be too complex to be condensed into just 70 pages.

In conclusion I think this is a good scholarly work, but too broad for my liking. The author stretches "political thought" beyond reasonable limits in trying to give equal coverage to all periods of Islamic history. The detailed references in this book might be useful for scholars, but general readers would learn more from books that focus on just one period.
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