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The Oxford History of Islam

Book Description
Lavishly illustrated with over 300 pictures, including more than 200 in full color, The Oxford History of Islam offers the most wide-ranging and authoritative account available of the second largest–and fastest growing–religion in the world. John L. Esposito, Editor-in-Chief of the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, has gathered together sixteen leading scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to examine the origins and historical development of Islam–its faith, community, institutions, sciences, and arts.

Beginning in the pre-Islamic Arab world, the chapters range from the story of Muhammad and his Companions, to the development of Islamic religion and culture and the empires that grew from it, to the influence that Islam has on today’s world. The book covers a wide array of subjects, casting light on topics such as the historical encounter of Islam and Christianity, the role of Islam in the Mughal and Ottoman empires, the growth of Islam in Southeast Asia, China, and Africa, the political, economic, and religious challenges of European imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Islamic communities in the modern Western world. In addition, the book offers excellent articles on Islamic religion, art and architecture, and sciences as well as bibliographies. Events in the contemporary world have led to an explosion of interest and scholarly work on Islam. Written for the general reader but also appealing to specialists, The Oxford History of Islam offers the best of that recent scholarship, presented in a readable style and complemented by a rich variety of illustrations. Review about  The Oxford History of Islam

The entire history of Islamic civilization is, of course, too much to cover in a single volume, but John Esposito comes close. In a book topping 700 pages and containing over 300 photographs, Esposito brings together experts in fields such as early Islamic history, art and architecture, science and medicine, Islam in Africa and Southeast Asia, and contemporary Islam. Beginners will be swimming in new discoveries, while old hands will find connections and facts they never suspected.

The Oxford History of Islam

Majid Fakhry, for instance, shows not only the influence of philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) on European intellectuals but also unveils the claims and counterclaims within Islamic philosophy over time. Dru Gladney takes us on an eye-opening journey through Islamic Central Asia and even China, where the Muslim Hui people are recognized as the country’s third-largest minority nationality. And have you ever seen an exquisite mosque with towering spires made entirely of mud-brick, like there are in West Africa? Unfortunately, Esposito apparently couldn’t find room here for separate sections on Sufism or Islamic literature, but there are more than enough mosques, paintings, historical maps, and tapestries throughout to keep you turning pages and learning with fascination. –Brian Bruya

The Oxford History of Islam


  1. Read very closely:

    If you want to study Islam’s history and you don’t have this book, then your missing one of the best…or should I say “the” best book on Islam’s history. This book is worth much more than 50$. It discusses everything, from history to science, art to medicine, it is very well-written too.

    And even if your just looking for basic history events, this book is still a must-have.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. the oxford history of islam is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. while i am no content scholar of islam, i note that the few facts that i do know corresponded with the facts presented in this book. the text is written in a manner quite easy to read. frankly, i still have difficulty distinguishing islamic names. the thickened pages and the exquisite photography and separate sections describing history, religion, architecture … make this book truly outstanding. i bought this at the used price. while i’m glad i did, knowing what i know today, i would have paid the full market price and been delighted!!! i recommend this book for anyone who wishes to better understand islam, scholars might be bored – familiar with the content and, it really is for the generalist. but, what a great book for the generalist!
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. I was required to read this text as part of a college History of Islam course, one of several classes I’ve taken dealing with Islamic studies. The chapters have been prepared by various scholars and expositors and deal with the genesis of Islam through the turn of the last century (the text was published in 1999). The chapters are presented in an essay format and have a consistent feel throughout. Since the material was prepared by distinct authors, there’s occasional beneficial overlap in which certain important personalities pop up again and again, lit up by slightly varying perspectives.

    The authors do an excellent job of leading the reader-student through the early period of Islam, then through the various caliphal dynasties, and then through the distinct Islamic civilizations and the main empires (northern African/Arabian, Ottoman/Turkish, Safavid/Persian, and Mughal/Indian) through the Colonial into the post-Colonian/Modern period. In addition to covering the expected historical events and personalities, there are some great chapters on Islamic contributions to art, architecture and science.

    A few of the chapters seemed to contain a bit of editorializing and some softening of negative aspects of Islamic history and the conduct of some Muslims, but the overall quality of the writing is excellent.

    I won’t be selling this text. I’m eager to hang onto it as a reference.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  4. To cover such a broad sweep for this subject in one volume is asking too much, but this book does a credible job of doing so. However, I felt I was missing something because so much critical detail was missing, such as how was the spread of Islam accomplished (key “wars,” battles, overall strategy, common set of tactics?), only passing references to some of the giants of history, Crusades – what six Crusades-They barely get a mention, etc. I decided that the purpose of the book was to summarize; and if I want more depth, get it elsewhere.

    The one thing which did drive me nuts was both the lack of more maps to better show places discussed in the text, and the lack of detail on the maps which were present. Beautiful photographs, but totally inadequate maps.

    Overall, great book to start trying to understand one of the world’s great religions, especially after September 11. It gives the reader coverage of a broad scope of subjects which require some familiarity to understand Islam, even those some readers might otherwise skip. However, if you are really intersted, plan on going on to other sources.
    Rating: 4 / 5


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