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Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power…
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Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power

by Jonathan Bloom

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The authors’ expertise, and presumably their passion as well, lie in Islamic art. This book was written to accompany a US television series, and despite its self-described aim as ‘to help Americans – of whatever and even no religion – understand the religion and culture of another place and time’, what it actually does is to provide background, to tell the grand, sweeping narrative of the beginnings, growth and spread of Islam in its first thousand years, with an inevitable emphasis on military conquests and defeats, political struggles and religious strife, with a couple of welcome chapters on the flourishing of science and poetry between 750 and 1200 CE. The succession of dynasties and ruling elites – Abbasids, Barmakids, Chaghatayids, Fatimids, Ilkhanids, Mamluks, Mughals, Ottomans, Seljuqs, Umayyads – is as bewildering and at times as dull as the begats of Genesis.

I’m not complaining. In fact I wish I’d read the book 50 years ago as a supplement and antidote to the Eurocentric version of world history I received in my schooling. It’s bracing to read the stories, even in broad outline as here, of people and places that I know mainly as elements of Orientalist decor: Saladin becomes Salah al-Din ibn Ayyub; Marlowe’s Tamberlaine the Great becomes Timur, a Great Mongol conqueror; Samarkand, Timbuktu, Xanadu all existed outside romantic poems and fantasy literature. Many things I have assumed to be creations of Western culture are in fact borrowed from the Islamic world: romantic love I already knew about, but x as a way of representing an unknown in maths was news to me; The Divine Comedy wouldn’t have existed if Dante hadn’t read in translation popular Arabic stories of Muhammad’s mystical journey to heaven.

As well as a list of further reading, this book is blessed with a substantial index.

http://shawjonathan.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/bloom-blairs-islam/ ( )
  shawjonathan | Jan 30, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300094221, Paperback)

In its first thousand years - from the revelations given to Muhammad in the 7th century to the great Islamic empires of the 16th - Islamic civilization flourished. While Europeans suffered through the Dark Ages, Muslims in such cities as Jerusalem, Damascus, Alexandria, Fez, Tunis, Cairo and Baghdad made remarkable advances in philosophy, science, medicine, literature and art. This work explores the first millennium of Islamic culture, seeking to shatter stereotypes and enlighten readers about the events and achievements that have shaped contemporary Islamic civilization. Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair examine the rise of Islam, the life of Muhammad, and the Islamic principles of faith. They describe the golden age of the Abbasids, the Mongol invasions, and the great Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires that emerged in their wake. Their narrative, complemented by excerpts of the Koran, poetry, biographies, inscriptions, travel guides, and a 13th-century recipe, concludes with a brief epilogue that takes us into the 20th century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Presents the first millennium of Islamic history, discussing the major influences on Islamic culture from the life of Muhammad through the end of the sixteenth century.

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