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Anjum's Politics, Law and Community combines originality from departure to conclusion with rootedness in primary sources and mastery of theoretical research tools. An introduction to Islamic political philosophy surpassing available introductions, this work takes none of the assumptions of earlier scholarship for granted. It ushers in a new era in the field, where new studies will be produced with higher expectations in mind.

It demonstrates that alongside the familiar legalistic and elitist approach of the medieval tradition, there was also a pragmatic strand of Sunni Islamic thought that envisioned the community of the believers as the ultimate source of political authority. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, this new interpretation of medieval Islamic political thought opens up new ways of imagining the future of Islam in public life. In doing so, the implications of this study reach far beyond its overt ambit to embrace wider questions pertaining to how best to understand the ongoing history of such discourse amongst Muslim thinkers from the medieval period to the present.

An important book. Ohlander, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne A real tour-de-force that brings to life the Islamic discursive tradition on politics through an impressive analysis of theological, literary, jurisprudential and epistemological texts of the classical period. Using sophisticated theoretical analyses and by paying close attention to the content and contexts of classical works, Ovamir Anjum offers new insights into the intertextual negotiations that led to the religious scholars' compromises with political authority.

His analysis of Ibn Taymiyya's works in light of this tradition not only helps us revise our understanding of the master critic's project, but it also helps us situates the novelty of his vision and proposals within the context of Mamluk society and politics. His work thus challenges traditional portrayals of this period as one of decline , and furthers our appreciation of the intellectual vibrancy of this politically chaotic period.

It approaches this rich history as a tradition of conflicting interpretations and debates that culminates in a fascinating re-examination of Ibn Taymiyya's creative response to the politics and thought of his turbulent time. In this account Ibn Taymiyya emerges as an original political thinker who restored and elaborated on the central role of the community in theories of Islamic governance. This book deserves to be widely read not only by specialists in medieval Islamic history but also by all who are interested in contemporary Islamic thought.

Reviews Schrijf een review. Kies je bindwijze. Nu in prijs verlaagd. Verkoop door bol. Several large metropolises — including Baghdad, Basra, Wasit, and Kufa — were unified under the Abbasids; they shared a single spoken language and brisk trade via a network of caravan roads. Baghdad in particular, the Abbasid capital, was home to palaces, mosques, joint-stock companies, banks, schools, and hospitals; by the tenth century, it was the largest city in the world. As the Abbasid empire grew, it also expanded eastward, bringing it into contact with the ancient Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Chinese, and Persian civilizations, the fruits of which it readily enjoyed.

In this era, Muslims found little of interest in the West, and for good reason. One of the most important discoveries by Muslims was paper, which was probably invented in China around a. The effect of paper on the scholarly culture of Arabic society was enormous: it made the reproduction of books cheap and efficient, and it encouraged scholarship, correspondence, poetry, recordkeeping, and banking. Medieval Muslims took religious scholarship very seriously, and some scientists in the region grew up studying it. Avicenna, for example, is said to have known the entire Koran by heart before he arrived at Baghdad.

Might it be fair, then, to say that Islam itself encouraged scientific enterprise? This question provokes wildly divergent answers. B ut the single most significant reason that Arabic science thrived was the absorption and assimilation of the Greek heritage — a development fueled by the translation movement in Abbasid Baghdad.

For this reason, even if it is said that the Golden Age of Arabic science encompasses a large region, as a historical event it especially demands an explanation of the success of Abbasid Baghdad. This allowed for a relatively cosmopolitan society in which all Muslims could participate in cultural and political life. Their empire lasted until , when the Mongols sacked Baghdad and executed the last Abbasid caliph along with a large part of the Abbasid population.

During the years that the Abbasid empire thrived, it deeply influenced politics and society from Tunisia to India. The Greek-Arabic translation movement in Abbasid Baghdad, like other scholarly efforts elsewhere in the Islamic world, was centered less in educational institutions than in the households of great patrons seeking social prestige. But Baghdad was distinctive: its philosophical and scientific activity enjoyed a high level of cultural support.

There seem to have been three salient factors inspiring the translation movement. First, the Abbasids found scientific Greek texts immensely useful for a sort of technological progress — solving common problems to make daily life easier. The Abbasids did not bother translating works in subjects such as poetry, history, or drama, which they regarded as useless or inferior.

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Indeed, science under Islam, although in part an extension of Greek science, was much less theoretical than that of the ancients. Translated works in mathematics, for example, were eventually used for engineering and irrigation, as well as in calculation for intricate inheritance laws. And translating Greek works on medicine had obvious practical use. Astrology was another Greek subject adapted for use in Baghdad: the Abbasids turned to it for proof that the caliphate was the divinely ordained successor to the ancient Mesopotamian empires — although such claims were sometimes eyed warily, because the idea that celestial information can predict the future clashed with Islamic teaching that only God has such knowledge.

Ibn Taymiyya

There were also practical religious reasons to study Greek science. Mosque timekeepers found it useful to study astronomy and trigonometry to determine the direction to Mecca qibla , the times for prayer, and the beginning of Ramadan. For example, the Arabic astronomer Ibn al-Shatir died also served as a religious official, a timekeeper muwaqqit , for the Great Mosque of Damascus.

The second factor central to the rise of the translation movement was that Greek thought had already been diffused in the region, slowly and over a long period, before the Abbasids and indeed before the advent of Islam. By the time of the Arab conquests, the Greek tongue was known throughout the vast region, and it was the administrative language of Syria and Egypt. After the arrival of Christianity, Greek thought was spread further by missionary activity, especially by Nestorian Christians. Centuries later, well into the rule of the Abbasids in Baghdad, many of these Nestorians — some of them Arabs and Arabized Persians who eventually converted to Islam — contributed technical skill for the Greek-Arabic translation movement, and even filled many translation-oriented administrative posts in the Abbasid government.

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While practical utility and the influence of Hellenism help explain why science could develop, both were true of most of the Arabic world during the Golden Age and so cannot account for the Abbasid translation movement in particular. As Gutas argues, the distinguishing factor that led to that movement was the attempt by the Abbasid rulers to legitimize their rule by co-opting Persian culture, which at the time deeply revered Greek thought.

The Baghdad region in which the Abbasids established themselves included a major Persian population, which played an instrumental role in the revolution that ended the previous dynasty; thus, the Abbasids made many symbolic and political gestures to ingratiate themselves with the Persians. In an effort to enfold this constituency into a reliable ruling base, the Abbasids incorporated Zoroastrianism and the imperial ideology of the defunct Persian Sasanian Empire, more than a century gone, into their political platform.

This incorporation of Sasanian ideology led to the translation of Greek texts into Arabic because doing so was seen as recovering not just Greek, but Persian knowledge. By translating ancient Greek texts into Arabic, Persian wisdom could be recovered. This began to change during the reign of al-Mamun died , the seventh Abbasid caliph. For the purposes of opposing the Byzantine Empire, al-Mamun reoriented the translation movement as a means to recovering Greek, rather than Persian, learning.

In the eyes of Abbasid Muslims of this era, the ancient Greeks did not have a pristine reputation — they were not Muslims, after all — but at least they were not tainted with Christianity. The fact that the hated Christian Byzantines did not embrace the ancient Greeks, though, led the Abbasids to warm to them. One Arab philosopher, al-Kindi died , even devised a genealogy that presented Yunan, the ancestor of the ancient Greeks, as the brother of Qahtan, the ancestor of the Arabs.

Until its collapse in the Mongol invasion of , the Abbasid caliphate was the greatest power in the Islamic world and oversaw the most intellectually productive movement in Arab history. The Abbasids read, commented on, translated, and preserved Greek and Persian works that may have been otherwise lost. By making Greek thought accessible, they also formed the foundation of the Arabic Golden Age.

Major works of philosophy and science far from Baghdad — in Spain, Egypt, and Central Asia — were influenced by Greek-Arabic translations, both during and after the Abbasids. Indeed, even if it is a matter of conjecture to what extent the rise of science in the West depended on Arabic science, there is no question that the West benefited from both the preservation of Greek works and from original Arabic scholarship that commented on them.

A s the Middle Ages progressed, Arabic civilization began to run out of steam. After the twelfth century, Europe had more significant scientific scholars than the Arabic world, as Harvard historian George Sarton noted in his Introduction to the History of Science After the fourteenth century, the Arab world saw very few innovations in fields that it had previously dominated, such as optics and medicine; henceforth, its innovations were for the most part not in the realm of metaphysics or science, but were more narrowly practical inventions like vaccines.

Lewis notes in What Went Wrong? Those who had been disciples now became teachers; those who had been masters became pupils, often reluctant and resentful pupils. What happened? To repeat an important point, scientific decline is hardly peculiar to Arabic-Islamic civilization. Such decline is the norm of history; only in the West did something very different happen. Still, it may be possible to discern some specific causes of decline — and attempting to do so can deepen our understanding of Arabic-Islamic civilization and its tensions with modernity. Just as there is no simple explanation for the success of Arabic science, there is no simple explanation for its gradual — not sudden, as al-Afghani claims — demise.

The most significant factor was physical and geopolitical. As early as the tenth or eleventh century, the Abbasid empire began to factionalize and fragment due to increased provincial autonomy and frequent uprisings. By , the little that was left of the Abbasid state was swept away by the Mongol invasion.


To understand this anti-rationalist movement, we once again turn our gaze back to the time of the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. Al-Mamun picked up the pro-science torch lit by the second caliph, al-Mansur, and ran with it. But the caliphs who followed al-Mamun upheld the doctrine with less fervor, and within a few decades, adherence to it became a punishable offense. The beginning of the de-Hellenization of Arabic high culture was underway. As Maimonides described it in The Guide for the Perplexed , this view sees natural things that appear to be permanent as merely following habit.

This amounts to a denial of the coherence and comprehensibility of the natural world. In his book The Incoherence of the Philosophers , al-Ghazali vigorously attacked philosophy and philosophers — both the Greek philosophers themselves and their followers in the Muslim world such as al-Farabi and Avicenna.

Al-Ghazali was worried that when people become favorably influenced by philosophical arguments, they will also come to trust the philosophers on matters of religion, thus making Muslims less pious. Sunnis embraced al-Ghazali as the winner of the debate with the Hellenistic rationalists, and opposition to philosophy gradually ossified, even to the extent that independent inquiry became a tainted enterprise, sometimes to the point of criminality. In the Sunni world, philosophy turned into mysticism. But the fact is, Arab contributions to science became increasingly sporadic as the anti-rationalism sank in.

Its most extreme form can be seen in some sects of Islamists. Such inferences sound crazy to Western ears, but given their frequency in the Muslim world, they must sound at least a little less crazy to Muslims. As Robert R. A similar ossification occurred in the realm of law. The first four centuries of Islam saw vigorous discussion and flexibility regarding legal issues; this was the tradition of ijtihad , or independent judgment and critical thinking.

New readings of Islamic revelation became a crime. All that was left to do was to submit to the instructions of religious authorities; to understand morality, one needed only to read legal decrees. Thinkers who resisted the closing came to be seen as nefarious dissidents. Christianity acknowledges a private-public distinction and theoretically, at least allows adherents the liberty to decide much about their social and political lives.

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