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Islamic Studies Islam in Middle East and North Africa
by
David Commins

Introduction

Scholarship on Islam in the Middle East and North Africa spans a range of disciplines in the humanities (e.g., religion, art history, literature) and social sciences (e.g., history, anthropology, sociology, political science). Nineteenth-century studies reflected scholarly training in Semitic languages and philology, resulting in close readings of texts. In the 20th century, closer attention to historical context added depth to the field. Since the 1970s, a revisionist school of thought deploying critical literary analysis has challenged established interpretations of early Islamic history, while insights arising from the social sciences and attention to women's roles have enriched scholarship. Due to Islam's genesis as a phenomenon embracing religious teachings, social organization, and political community, studies of Islam frequently disregard topical boundaries, such that theology and political theory, for example, may be treated together in specialized monographs, lending categorical distinctions an arbitrary quality, even if they are necessary in a bibliographic survey.

General Overviews and Textbooks

Introductory works fall into three groupings. Hodgson 1974, Lapidus 2002, Egger 2004, and Egger 2008 treat religious developments within the framework of the history of Islamic civilization in its full geographical extent. Abun-Nasr 1987 and Fisher and Ochsenwald 2003 restrict the scope to North Africa and the Middle East, respectively. Denny 2006 offers fuller discussions of religious thought and institutions along with a synoptic review of political developments.

Reference Works

The major encyclopedia for the field, Bearman, et al. 1954–2008, is the most comprehensive reference work for all facets of Islamic civilization, with exceptional coverage of the Middle East and North Africa. It is available in CD-ROM and online subscription editions. Because it uses European transliteration for non-Western languages, beginners may find it challenging at first. Yarshater 1985–present contains authoritative entries representing the highest standards of international scholarship on Iran. A number of other multivolume reference works offer concise, authoritative surveys. For Iranian history, Bailey 1993 is authoritative. University of Exeter's Arabic, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Resources library supports a well-organized guide to reference works, online publications, media, and topical links. The more specialized University of Georgia Islam and Islamic Studies Resources organizes articles and texts by topic. Oxford Islamic Studies Online (available by subscription) is a good place for beginners to find short articles and searchable text of the Qurʾan.

Anthologies of Primary Sources

One may browse the online items in the Reference Works section to locate a range of primary texts. Among several published collections of texts in translation, Peters 1994, Williams 1994, and Calder, et al. 2003 have an exclusive focus on religious texts. Peters 2005 has a topical focus on jihad.

  • Calder, Norman, Jawid Mojaddedi, and Andre Rippin, eds. Classical Islam: A Sourcebook of Religious Literature. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    The focus is strictly on religious literature from the classical era, with excerpts from the Qurʾan and its exegesis, biographies of Muhammad, hadiths, theology, law, and Sufism. An introduction and a guide to further reading frame each selection.

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  • Peters, F. E., ed. A Reader on Classical Islam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

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    Organizes translations of the Qurʾan, hadiths, and historical and religious writings to develop such themes as the early succession struggles, forms of worship, the afterlife, and mysticism.

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  • Peters, Rudolph, ed. Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2005.

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    This valuable collection includes hadiths on jihad from two classical collections, a treatise in comparative law by Averroes (Ibn Rushd), the influential writings of Ibn Taymiyya, and the interpretation of an Egyptian modernist.

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  • Williams, John Alden, ed. The Word of Islam. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.

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    This compact edition compiles excerpts from the Qurʾan, the Sunna, legal texts on ritual and family, dietary rules, prose and poetry by the mystics, creedal statements by theologians, and distinctive texts of Shiʿite sects and Kharijites.

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Muhammad

Western scholarship on the Prophet Muhammad tends to fall into two camps. The standard view considers the Muslim historical tradition a reliable foundation for research, critical analysis, and interpretation. Watt 1953 and Watt 1956 represent this view's attempt to understand Muhammad and the rise of Islam as a response to social and economic developments in Mecca. Revisionists cast a more skeptical, if not dismissive, eye on the Muslim historical tradition and interpretations based on it. Crone 1987 provides a revisionist critique of Watt and others who emphasize Mecca's role in Arabian and Middle Eastern trade to explain the rise of Islam. Peters 1994 takes stock of revisionist scholarship in his account, which incorporates a critical approach to the Muslim tradition. Ibn Ishaq 1955 is the earliest extant biography of the Prophet, superbly rendered in paraphrase by Lings 2001.

The Qurʾan

In Muslim belief, the Qurʾan is God's word revealed in Arabic to Muhammad. Arberry 1955's rendition excels at capturing the Qurʾan's poetic qualities. McAuliffe 2001–2006 is the essential library reference, published in print and electronic form. Relying on source-critical method, Wansbrough 1977 argues that the Qurʾan evolved over a period of roughly two centuries as a collective composition. Rahman 1989 gives a believer's account of the complex set of ideas embedded in the Qurʾan. While the Western reader approaches the Qurʾan as a written text, for Muslims it is primarily an oral text, the subject of Nelson 1985.

  • Arberry, Arthur J. The Koran Interpreted. New York: Macmillan. 1955.

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    Experts debate the merits of various English translations, but Arberry's skill at conveying the Qurʾan's literary flavor is undisputed.

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  • McAuliffe, Jane Dammen, ed. Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾan. 6 vols. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001–2006.

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    This essential reference work reflects the current state of scholarship. Also available in CD-ROM edition.

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  • Nelson, Kristina. The Art of Reciting the Qurʾan. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1985.

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    The author did not merely study Qurʾan performance and the reception of Qurʾan recitation, she learned the art herself. This monograph, originally published in 1985, excels at interpreting the aesthetics and emotions of reciters and their audience. Reprinted in 2001 (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press).

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  • Rahman, Fazlur. Major Themes of the Qurʾan. 2d ed. Minneapolis, MN: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1989.

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    A sophisticated discussion of theological concepts, views on social relations, and religious diversity by one of modern Islam's original thinkers.

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  • Wansbrough, John. Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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    This controversial revisionist study, based on internal literary evidence, argues the Qurʾan is not the work of a single person, nor even completed in a single lifetime, but is instead a collection of textual fragments produced over nearly two centuries. Densely written, it is impenetrable to any but specialists.

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  • Welch, Alford T., R. Paret, and J. D. Pearson. “The Kurʾan.” In The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 5. Edited by C. E. Bosworth, E. J. van Donzel, B. Lewis and C. Pellat. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1986.

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    This reference article is a small monograph reviewing the Qurʾan's structure, special linguistic qualities, development from oral text to codex, themes, historical circumstances, and translations.

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The Sunna (Prophetic Tradition)

After the Qurʾan, the Sunna is the second major scriptural source for Islamic belief and practice. It comprises reports called “hadiths” that transmit the Prophet's words and actions. Muslim specialists in the science of hadiths developed methods and standards to evaluate their authenticity, focusing on the men who memorized and orally transmitted them. Robson 1986 provides a concise overview of hadith science and the collection of hadiths. Modern scholars debate the authenticity of the hadiths. Goldziher 1971 and Schacht 1950 methodically argue for a skeptical attitude, which Siddiqi 1996 refutes. Juynboll 1983, meanwhile, strikes an intermediate position on this question. Brown 2007 is a close study of how two of the major hadith collections attained canonical status for Sunni Muslims.

  • Brown, Jonathan. The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Collection. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

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    Sunni Muslims regard six collections of hadiths as authoritative, reliable sources for the Sunna. This excellent monograph explores how two of those collections attained canonical status, as well as contemporary debates among hadith specialists regarding that status.

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  • Goldziher, Ignaz. “Hadith and Sunna.” In Muslim Studies. Vol. 2. Edited by Ignaz Goldziher. Translated by S. M. Stern and C. R. Barber, 17–251. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1971.

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    An influential work contesting the historical authenticity of hadiths as sources from the Prophet's time rather than literary artifacts arising from debates over doctrine and politics in the generations after the Prophet.

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  • Juynboll, G. H. A. Muslim Tradition: Studies in Chronology, Provenance and Authorship of Early Hadith. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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    A collection of five influential, specialized articles. The author admits the possibility that some hadiths go back to the Prophet but maintains we cannot know with certainty about any single hadith.

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  • Robson, J. “Hadith.” In The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 3. Edited by B. Lewis, V. L. Ménage, C. Pellat and J. Schacht. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1986.

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    An overview of the historical development of hadith literature, the major collections, and technical terms in the Muslim science of hadith criticism.

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  • Schacht, Joseph. The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950.

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    The discussion of hadiths in this work on Islamic law, positing their genesis in generations after the Prophet and extending the argument made in Goldziher 1971, influenced much subsequent Western scholarship and prompted critical responses from Muslim scholars.

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  • Siddiqi, Muhammad Zubayr. Ḥadīth Literature: Its Origin, Development, and Special Features. Rev. ed. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1996.

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    An introduction to the topic from the perspective of a contemporary Muslim scholar arguing for the authenticity of hadith that the early Muslim experts regarded as valid.

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The Caliphate and Political Theory

The caliphate is the institution of leadership that evolved after the Prophet Muhammad. Kennedy 1986 treats political developments, including the evolution of Sunni, Shiʿite, and Kharijite sects, in the context of broad historical patterns. Madelung 1997 pays close attention to the process of succession, which proved so vexing to early Muslims. Crone and Hinds 1986 contest the standard view of the caliphate as possessing only political authority with a vigorous argument for its exercising a religious role as well. Lambton 1981 deals with later developments in Sunni and Shiʿite political theory. Mikhail 1995 profiles the thought and impact of the major figure in the Sunni tradition. Crone 2004 is the most recent contribution to this field, integrating synthesis of the literature with original insights into the primary sources.

  • Crone, Patricia. God's Rule: Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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    A superb, erudite overview, written for the ambitious beginner or the specialist interested in the state of the field. The author traces the historical development of political thought before treating specific topics such as the place of non-Muslims and freedom.

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  • Crone, Patricia, and Martin Hinds. God's Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    This revisionist account argues that the Shiʿite conception of combining religious and political roles is based on efforts by Umayyad caliphs to weld them together.

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  • Kennedy, Hugh. The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century. London: Longman, 1986.

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    A handy reference suitable for undergraduates.

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  • Lambton, Ann K. S. State and Government in Medieval Islam: An Introduction to the Study of Islamic Political Theory: The Jurists. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

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    Notable for its focus on the approach of experts in religious law, rather than philosophers and advisers, to squaring the powers of rulers with Islamic ideals.

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  • Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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    The most recent monograph to focus on the first four caliphs devotes extensive coverage to ʿAli's succession and reign, upholding the Shiʿite view of early Muslim political rivalries.

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  • Mikhail, Hanna. Politics and Revelation: Māwardī and After. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1995.

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    A slim monograph on one of the most influential figures in the history of Sunni political thought.

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Shiʿism

Shiʿite Muslims may comprise around 10 to 15 percent of Muslims today. However, they shaped dynastic and religious currents in Islam's early centuries. Momen 1985 is a solid introduction to the largest modern branch of Shiʿism, while Daftary 1990 gives an overview of the branch that challenged Sunni power in the classical period. Moosa 1988 deals with “extremist” Shiʿites, in the sense of their doctrine exaggerating ʿAli's religious qualities, not the modern notion of political extremism. Sachedina 1981 concentrates on a central doctrine in Twelver Shiʿism. Arjomand 1984 examines the unfolding of Shiʿism in Iran over a broad expanse of history.

Theology

Van Ess 1991–1997 is a masterful and comprehensive study. For English readers, Watt 1985 serves as a lucid, compact introduction. Wolfson 1976 provides a sophisticated monograph on the various theological schools and their positions on the major issues. Izutsu 1965 is a monograph on how Muslim theologians grappled with the question of belief and unbelief.

  • Izutsu, Toshihiko. The Concept of Belief in Islamic Theology: A Semantic Analysis of Iman and Islam. Tokyo: Keio Institute of Cultural and Linguistic Studies, 1965.

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    An important contribution to Muslim positions and debates on belief and unbelief in the classical period.

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  • van Ess, Josef. Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra: Eine Geschichte des religiösen Denkens im frühen Islam. 6 vols. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991–1997.

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    The first four volumes make up the most authoritative history we have of early Islamic theology, covering the theologians, their ideas, their debates, and their shifting social and political contexts. Volumes five and six consist of theological texts under study in German translation.

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  • Watt, W. Montgomery. Islamic Philosophy and Theology: An Extended Survey. 2d ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1985.

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    For readers seeking an introduction to the topic, this work traces the roots of theology in early political contests over leadership and the development of theology in Sunni and Shiʿite traditions. The discussion of philosophy pertains to its impact on theology rather than its separate line of development.

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  • Wolfson, Harry A. The Philosophy of the Kalam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.

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    A sophisticated treatment of the theological tradition written for advanced readers interested in a technical discussion of intellectual problems that seldom concerned ordinary Muslims but consumed theologians.

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Law

Islamic law, or Sharia, has engaged the energies of both Muslim jurists and Western scholars due to its centrality in establishing norms for the full range of Muslim life, including daily worship, manners, family law, and commercial dealings. As a field of research it encompasses legal theory, rules, and institutions in their historical formation and classical development. Scholars of modern history examine how Islamic law has been refashioned in the contexts of colonialism and the postcolonial state.

Classical Development

The literature on Islamic law's classical development is vast. Vikør 2005 provides an overview drawing on the latest scholarship. The early history of legal writings, authorities, and institutions is a major focus of the literature. Schacht 1950 is the starting point for this area. Makdisi 1984 is an influential contribution to viewing the Sunni schools of law in institutional terms. Calder 1993 adopts the source-critical approach utilized in other fields by revisionists. Melchert 1997 builds on Makdisi's foundation with meticulous examination of early developments within each Sunni school of law. Hallaq 2005 synthesizes and revises both Schacht 1950 and Makdisi 1984.

  • Calder, Norman. Studies in Early Muslim Jurisprudence. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

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    Revisionist interpretation argues that the development of classical Islamic law was more protracted than suggested by the standard narrative, and that rather than accepting single authorship for the earliest works on law, we should see them as redactions produced by several hands. For advanced students and specialists.

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  • Hallaq, Wael B. The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    One of the field's most prolific current scholars summarizes his findings and argues against external influences on Islamic law, viewing it as a natural extension of the revelation and the Prophet's career by later Muslims.

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  • Makdisi, George. “The Guilds of Law in Medieval Legal History: An Inquiry into the Origins of the Inns of the Court.” Zeitschrift fur Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften 1 (1984): 233–252.

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    A pioneering and highly influential interpretation of the formation of Sunni schools of law.

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  • Melchert, Christopher. The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law, 9th–10th Centuries C.E. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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    This deeply researched monograph utilizes biographical sources for insight into the chronology and locus for the rise of the schools of law. A dense writing style makes this a difficult read.

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  • Schacht, Joseph. The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950.

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    The starting point in modern scholarship for the genesis of Islamic theory and the formation and spread of law schools.

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  • Vikør, Knut. Between God and the Sultan: A History of Islamic Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    A lucid introduction to the subject, giving due attention to its origins, classical evolution, and modern developments. Accessible to the general reader and undergraduates.

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The Modern Era

In the colonial and postcolonial periods, the political framework for law and legal institutions underwent a profound transformation with the emergence of the modern state. Rulers, bureaucrats, law practitioners, and legal scholars wrestled with the implications for interpreting and applying Islamic law. Anderson 1976 gives a sweeping overview of the wider Muslim world. Lombardi 2006 builds on the large amount of scholarship concentrating on the modern legal tradition in Egypt. Vogel 2000 provides a study of Saudi Arabia, where religious jurists have resisted codification and reform. Mir-Hosseini 1997 represents the anthropological tradition. Longinotto and Mir-Hosseini 1998 is impressive for its behind the scenes glimpses of a divorce court in Iran.

  • Anderson, J. N. D. Law Reform in the Muslim World. London: Athlone Press, 1976.

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    An authoritative survey of 19th- and 20th-century reform, with much material from outside the Middle East.

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  • Lombardi, Clark. State Law as Islamic Law in Modern Egypt: The Incorporation of the Sharīʿa into Egyptian Constitutional Law. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2006.

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    A superb overview of main currents in 19th- and 20th-century Egyptian legal thought, which has been influential throughout the Arab world, precedes the study's chief focus on how constitutional courts have interpreted mandates to apply Islamic law to legislation.

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  • Longinotto, Kim, and Ziba Mir-Hosseini. Divorce Iranian Style. DVD. New York: Women Make Movies, 1998.

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    Remarkable documentary of a family law court in Iran's Islamic Republic, portraying the strategies and resources women deploy to safeguard interests in divorce proceedings.

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  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. Marriage on Trial: A Study of Islamic Family Law: Iran and Morocco Compared. London: I. B. Tauris, 1997.

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    Based on extensive field research in the mid- to late 1980s, this specialized monograph adopts a sophisticated anthropological approach to the topic. Digitized 2009.

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  • Vogel, Frank E. Islamic Law and Legal System: Studies of Saudi Arabia. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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    First-rate study of the theoretical underpinnings of Saudi Arabia's religious courts, including their responses to social pressures from below and political demands from above.

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Sufism

A wide range of ascetic and mystical practices, concepts, beliefs, and institutions are ingredients of the Sufi tradition. For most of Islamic history, that tradition was ubiquitous and integral to daily religious practice. As a field of intellectual endeavor, Sufism interacted with theology and philosophy, as is evident in the work of its masters. In modern times, Sufism has withstood polemical criticism for fostering noncanonical practices and beliefs, evolving in response to Muslim critics, and to the advent of modern social conditions more generally.

Classical Development

The Sufi tradition is vast and has been the subject of an extensive literature on its ideas, personalities, and institutions. Knysh 2000 is a helpful gateway to major figures, concepts, practices, and impact. Chittick 1989 and Lewis 2000 offer monographs on two of the great figures in the tradition. Cornell 1998 explores the subject in Morocco, while Karamustafa 1994 treats the less frequently studied antinomian tradition.

  • Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-ʿArabi's Metaphysics of Imagination. Albany: State University of New York, 1989.

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    Deep reading informs this thematic treatment of the famously challenging Sufi masterpiece Meccan Openings, written by one of the great minds in the history of Islam.

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  • Cornell, Vincent J. Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.

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    This specialized monograph placing Sufism in a comparative framework builds on deep research to present original findings on the thought-world of Sufis and their social context.

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  • Karamustafa, Ahmet T. God's Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in the Islamic Later Middle Period, 1200–1550. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994.

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    This monographic treatment of antinomian dervishes, particularly significant in Asia Minor and Iran, offers glimpses of Sufis beyond the customary focus on conformist brotherhoods and major thinkers.

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  • Knysh, Alexander. Islamic Mysticism: A Short History. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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    This survey of Sufism from its origins to the present synthesizes recent scholarship on the subject, making it a commendable introduction for the general reader or the undergraduate.

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  • Lewis, Franklin D. Rumi: Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teaching, and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi. Oxford: Oneworld, 2000.

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    This volume is the fruit of deep reading in the Sufi master's writings and a synthesis of the extensive scholarship about Rumi, the greatest of Islam's mystical poets. The author explores his impact on Muslims in later centuries and the enthusiasm for his vision in the West.

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The Modern Era

The social and cultural transformations wrought by modern conditions have constricted the sway of Sufism, once a ubiquitous dimension of daily life. O'Fahey 1990 follows the career of a figure whose disciples contributed to new lines of Sufi authority in the 19th century. Hoffman 1995 serves as an accessible introduction to Sufism's status and practices in contemporary Egypt. Gilsenan 1973 is a case study that proposes a sociological framework for explaining changes in structure, leadership, and emphasis under modern conditions. Llewlyn-Davies and Fernea 1979 provides ethnographic insights into Moroccan practices.

  • Gilsenan, Michael. Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt: An Essay in the Sociology of Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.

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    A splendid case study of how a Sufi order has adapted to sweeping social changes in Egypt with changes in leadership and organization.

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  • Hoffman, Valerie. Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

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    An overview of contemporary Sufi practices and beliefs that is useful for undergraduates with little background, while original findings from extensive fieldwork and interviews make this valuable for specialists as well.

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  • Llewlyn-Davies, Melissa, dir., and Elizabeth Warlock Fernea, prod. Saints and Spirits. Brooklyn, NY: Icarus Films, 1979.

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    Although just 26 minutes long, this documentary film is a valuable resource for understanding noncanonical practices. Released on DVD in 2008, Icarus Films.

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  • O'Fahey, R. S. Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1990.

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    This monograph brings into focus the itinerant Moroccan mystic who left an imprint on Egypt, Hijaz, and Yemen during a period of transition, the late 1700s to early 1800s. His disciples extended the Idrisi tradition to Africa and South Asia.

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Philosophy

Fakhry 2004 is the standard survey for general readers. Stroumsa 1999 and Walker 1993 are specialized monographs that illustrate the opposite directions philosophy could take in Muslim hands, either deepening religious thought or loosening the grip of Prophetic authority. Walbridge 1999 shows the survival of non-Aristotelian streams in the Islamic tradition. Ibn Khaldun 1958 represents the influence of philosophy on Muslim history writing.

  • Fakhry, Majid. A History of Islamic Philosophy. 3d ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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    The standard survey on the subject, covering from translation of pre-Islamic (mainly Greek) philosophical thought to interactions between the Hellenistic legacy and theology and Sufism, the anti-philosophical reaction of traditionalists, and the modernist movement.

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  • Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History. 3 vols. Translated by Franz Rosenthal. New York: Pantheon Books, 1958.

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    A systematic philosophical mind permeates this classic of well-deserved fame, setting forth a theory of historical dynamics that has influenced Muslim and Western historians.

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  • Stroumsa, Sarah. Freethinkers of Medieval Islam: Ibn al-Rawāndī, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, and their Impact on Islamic Thought. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1999.

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    A penetrating monograph on two philosophers who denied the necessity of prophecy for humans to ascertain God's existence and the foundations of the worldly happiness through the intellect alone.

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  • Walbridge, John. Leaven of the Ancients: Suhrawardī and the Heritage of the Greeks. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

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    An investigation of an influential 12th-century philosopher and the impact of non-Aristotelian, especially Pythagorean, thought on Muslim intellectual life. Suitable for advanced students and specialists.

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  • Walker, Paul E. Early Philosophical Shiism: The Ismaili Neoplatonism of Abū Yaʿqub al-Sijistānī. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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    A specialized monograph illustrating the absorption of philosophy into religious thought— or the blurring of lines between theology and philosophy.

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Art and Architecture

Ettinghausen and Grabar 1987 and Blair and Bloom 1994 offer sweeping overviews of art and architecture in the classical and early modern eras. Brend 1991 provides a single-volume introduction. Grabar 1973 is the classic monograph for understanding how Islamic art and architecture took shape. Ettinghausen and Yarshater 1981 covers Persian art and architecture. For Ottoman architecture, Goodwin 1971 is the essential reference.

Women

Islam's authoritative sources address women's standing in society as family members and as property owners, establishing a clear connection between religion and gender relations. In recent decades, scholars have begun the study of women in different eras, extending research to such areas as law, politics, and social customs. Modern social and political conditions have stimulated new thinking about women's proper roles and prompted fresh interpretations of the authoritative sources.

The Early and Medieval Centuries

Joseph 2003–2007 is the main reference tool for all historical eras. Ahmed 1992 and Stowasser 1994 introduce readers to major arguments about interactions between authoritative scriptures and the place of women in society. Spellberg 1994 examines variation in attitudes and beliefs through the lens of how Muslims have regarded one of the Prophet's wives. Peirce 1993 demonstrates the centrality of women to understanding fundamental political institutions and dynamics.

  • Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

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    This stimulating monograph argues that Islam's original egalitarian impulses were submerged by more powerful patriarchal forces that came to define gender relations. The author deconstructs colonial era discourses in Egypt for reforming women's status.

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  • Joseph, Suad, ed. Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. 6 vols. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2003–2007.

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    An essential reference for the study of women in Middle East Islamic civilization and for the range of sources and methods that scholars utilize.

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  • Peirce, Leslie. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    This exceptional monograph traces shifts in dynastic marriage practices and roles for queen mothers, wives, and concubines in the power elite. This is an essential work that weaves women into the core fabric of political institutions.

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  • Spellberg, Denise A. Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of ʿAʾisha bint Abi Bakr. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

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    By concentrating on how Muslims have understood ʿAʾisha's role in early controversies, this monograph sheds light on differences between Sunni and Shiʿite traditions, as well as shared notions of gender roles.

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  • Stowasser, Barbara Freyer. Women in the Qurʾan, Traditions, and Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    An analysis of how the biases of male interpreters in the Sunni tradition shaped understandings of female figures appearing in the Qurʾan and the Sunna, with momentous consequences for social and legal conceptions of women's proper roles.

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The Modern Era

Joseph 2003–2007 is the main reference tool for all historical eras. Much of the scholarly literature treats the relationship between gender and religion in the framework of the evolution of the modern state and citizenship. Paidar 1995 takes that approach in study of women in Iran, and Charrad 2001 also uses that framework in a comparative study. Shaarawi 1986 is an essential primary document from Egypt's first wave of feminism.

  • Charrad, Mounira M. States and Women's Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

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    A study of the dynamics of state formation, family law, and women's rights in North Africa, tracing their trajectory from precolonial through colonial and postcolonial stages.

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  • Joseph, Suad, ed. Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. 6 vols. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2003–2007.

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    An essential reference for the study of women in Middle East Islamic civilization and for the range of sources and methods that scholars utilize.

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  • Paidar, Parvin. Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    This important study shows the centrality of gender to modern political development in Iran, describes the impact of Pahlavi and Islamic Republic legislation on women, and discusses 20th-century religious discourses about women's proper roles.

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  • Shaarawi, Huda. Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist (1879–1924). Translated and introduced by Margot Badran. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1986.

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    Egypt's early 20th-century pioneer of women's rights recounts her youth in a wealthy Cairo household.

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Education

The impetus to preserve and transmit the Qurʾan and the Prophet's teachings stimulated the development of educational techniques and institutions. In the classical period, the precise forms varied by location and sect. In modern times, education has been harnessed to the purposes of state-building and nationalists, with unanticipated consequences for the common understanding of how religion fits into public life.

Classical Development

Makdisi 1981 synthesizes and advances scholarship on the formation of the madrasa, the institutional embodiment of higher religious learning. Halm 1997 concentrates on Ismaʿili Shiʿite education in Cairo. Berkey 1992 concentrates on Sunni religious education in Cairo at a later period.

  • Berkey, Jonathan. The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo: A Social History of Islamic Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    A close study of the methods and locations of instruction, the religious endowments that funded learning, and women's largely separate pursuit of learning.

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  • Halm, Heinz. The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning. London: I.B. Tauris, 1997.

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    One of the few studies of Ismaʿili Shiʿite education, highlighting its distinctive features and concentrating on training for proselytizers to other Muslims.

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  • Makdisi, George. The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981.

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    A classic work on the emergence of madrasa education in the Middle East, primarily in 11th-century Baghdad, that sets forth provocative arguments for Islam's influence on the development of colleges in Europe.

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The Modern Era

Studies of religious education in the modern era include individual profiles, such as Eickelman 1985, which takes an anthropological approach, and Mottahedeh 1985, which explores the subject from a historical perspective. Fortna 2002 combines archival research and comparative history on late 19th-century secondary schools. Starrett 1998 and Eickelman 1992 examine the complex connections between new forms of education, the construction of modern state power, the redefinition of religion, and political Islam.

  • Eickelman, Dale F. Knowledge and Power in Morocco: The Education of a Twentieth-Century Notable. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

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    A valuable ethnographic study of seminary education in Marrakesh, including methods of learning and how these methods are embedded in everyday culture. Suitable for undergraduates.

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  • Eickelman, Dale F. “Mass Higher Education and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary Arab Societies.” American Ethnologist 19, no. 4 (1992): 643–655.

    DOI: 10.1525/ae.1992.19.4.02a00010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on fieldwork in Oman and North Africa, this influential article explores how the “objectification” of Islam in the classroom relates to the emergence of Islamic political movements.

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  • Fortna, Benjamin C. Imperial Classroom: Islam, the State, and Education in the Late Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    A sophisticated and thoroughly researched examination of steps to remake education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, informed by a comparative perspective on developments in schooling in France, Japan, and Russia.

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  • Mottahedeh, Roy. The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.

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    A portrait of the education of an Iranian mullah deftly intertwined with the intellectual and cultural history of Twelver Shiʿism in Iran. The elegant writing and clear exposition make this suitable for general readers.

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  • Starrett, Gregory. Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics, and Religious Transformation in Egypt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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    This specialized monograph argues that the incorporation of religion into public education redefined religion, undermined the authority of ulama, and contributed to the emergence of modern Islamic political currents.

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Conversion and Non-Muslims

Studies of non-Muslims under Islamic rule include a consideration of conversion and coexistence. The pace, extent, and processes by which different regions converted to Islam varied greatly. Bulliet 1979 and Choksy 1997 treat that theme in the Iranian arena in the early Islamic centuries, while Vryonis 1971 deals with it in Asia Minor at a later stage. Goitein 1967–1993 traces the contours of Jewish life under Muslim rule, primarily in Egypt.

  • Bulliet, Richard W. Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.

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    An influential monograph on the timing and extent of religious conversion in early Islamic Iran; notable for applying quantitative method to patterns in naming.

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  • Choksy, Jamsheed K. Conflict and Cooperation: Zoroastrian Subalterns and Muslim Elites in Medieval Iranian Society. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

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    Traces interactions between conquering Muslims and conquered Zoroastrians in Iran, showing variation in those interactions by region. This specialized study explores religious dynamics, including conversion to Islam.

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  • Goitein, S. D. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. 6 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967–1993.

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    One of the great monuments of scholarship on the history of the Middle East, these volumes cover religious, social, and economic spheres in the 10th through the 13th centuries.

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  • Vryonis, Speros, Jr. The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.

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    The authoritative account of Asia Minor's transformation from a Christian to a Muslim region through successive waves of Turkish migration over the course of three centuries. Digitized in 2007.

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Modern Islamic Thought

Scholarship in this area includes works that belong to the “history of ideas” genre as well as monographs that couch ideas in their context. Mardin 1962 examines the personalities and ideas of Ottoman religious modernists of the mid-19th century. Hourani 1962 offers an overview of intellectual trends up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Keddie 1972 provides a biographical treatment of the most influential figure of the late 19th century. Merad 1967 covers reformist thought and activism in Algeria between the world wars. Enayat 1982 surveys the major issues in 20th century political thought. Commins 1990 and Haykel 2003 represent recent scholarship taking stock of influential but previously overlooked figures.

Modern Islamic Movements

The literature on 19th- and 20th-century Islamic movements engaged in resisting Western colonialism, including the postcolonial state, is extensive. Voll 1994 sketches the broad outlines in a clearly defined framework. Holt 1970 examines Sudan's anticolonial millenarian movement that captured the imagination of late 19th-century activists. Clancy-Smith 1994 traces a range of anti-French activism in North African settings. Landau 1990 offers a masterful review of pan-Islamic movements from their emergence in the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. Schulze 1990 picks up the story of pan-Islam with a particular focus on the Muslim World League. For Islamic movements in the context of national histories, see Mitchell 1969 on the genesis and development of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt; Mardin 1990 on the Nurcu movement in Turkey; and Algar 1970 on the ideological and institutional evolution of Twelver Shiʿism in Iran.

  • Algar, Hamid. Religion and State in Iran, 1785–1906. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.

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    Gives an overview of doctrinal and organizational developments in Iran's Twelver Shiʿism during a period of European encroachment and inept dynastic maneuvering.

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  • Clancy-Smith, Julia. Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Popular Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800–1904). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

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    This study captures the nuances in the range of tactics adopted by religious and tribal leaders to resist and cope with France's inexorable advance and consolidation of power.

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  • Holt, P. M. The Mahdist State in the Sudan, 1881–1898: A Study of its Origins, Development and Overthrow. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970.

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    A splendid monograph on an early anti-Western religious revolt and its short-lived success in consolidating a religious polity.

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  • Landau, Jacob M. The Politics of Pan-Islam: Ideology and Organization. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    A thorough treatment of pan-Islam in thought and action from the late 19th century Ottoman sphere to the contemporary period.

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  • Mardin, Serif. Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. Albany: State University of New York, 1990.

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    A model of original empirical findings and refined conceptual framework illuminate a major 20th-century Turkish figure and his movement.

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  • Mitchell, Richard P. The Society of the Muslim Brothers. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.

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    The classic study on the formation, rise, and ideology of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, their role in politics under the monarchy, and their collision with Nasser's revolutionary republic. Paperback edition published in 1993.

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  • Schulze, Reinhard. Islamischer Internationalismus im 20. Jahrhundert Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Islamischen Weltliga. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 1990.

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    An important study of the ideological and institutional background to the formation of the Muslim World League, a pan-Islamic organization with headquarters in Mecca, richly funded by Saudi Arabia, and wielding pervasive global influence.

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  • Voll, John. Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World. 2d ed. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1994.

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    A masterful survey of the entire Muslim world, providing a typology of religious styles. Accessible to the general and undergraduate reader.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195390155-0050

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