A review of "A History of Medieval Islam", by J.J. Saunders (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), xv, 219. Review by Dr. Paul-Thomas Ferguson. In this review, Dr. Ferguson surveys the material covered in the work and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the author's arguments.© BrainMass Inc. brainmass.com October 9, 2019, 5:53 pm ad1c9bdddf
Studies of the Near East, especially those dealing with the age of Muhammad and the spread of Islam, tend to fall into a couple of recognizable categories. Some deal specifically and primarily with the emergence of Islam as the third great western religion, highlighting its origins as a faith combining Arabian paganism with Judeo-Christian traditions. Other scholars have concentrated first and foremost on the political institutions of the Islamic state, spending more time on the rise of the new governmental systems of the caliphates rather than detailing the religious aspects of the Islamic world. Despite a title which suggests otherwise, J.J. Saunders' "A History of Medieval Islam" falls solidly into the latter category. Despite the fact that this book glosses over the important ideas and beliefs of the Muslim faith, Saunders manages, through deliberate clarity, to produce an admirably readable survey of the first six hundred years of Islamic power.
The only significant problem with this work, fortunately, is the title. This is not a history of medieval Islam, in fact, but rather a history of the medieval Islamic world. Saunders, though he provides a survey of Muhammad's life and works, says little about the origins of Islam, other than to define the Pillars of the faith. Some attention is given to the schism between Sunni and Shi'a believers, but this information serves more to provide background for the discussion of political struggles rather than to enlighten the reader on religious doctrine. Though more could have been said about Islam itself, this might not trouble the reader were it not for the title. Given the author's admission that his work "does not profess to trace the ...
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