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Religious thinkers, political leaders, lawmakers, writers, and philosophers have shaped the 1,400-year-long development of the world's second-largest religion. But who were these people? What do we know of their lives and the ways in which they influenced their societies?
In Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives, the distinguished historian of Islam Chase F. Robinson draws on the long tradition in Muslim scholarship of commemorating in writing the biographies of notable figures, but he weaves these ambitious lives together to create a rich narrative of Islamic civilization, from the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century to the era of the world conquerer Timur and the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in the fifteenth.
Beginning in Islam’s heartland, Mecca, and ranging from North Africa and Iberia in the west to Central and East Asia, Robinson not only traces the rise and fall of Islamic states through the biographies of political and military leaders who worked to secure peace or expand their power, but also discusses those who developed Islamic law, scientific thought, and literature. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of rich and diverse Islamic societies. Alongside the famous characters who colored this landscape—including Muhammad’s cousin ’Ali; the Crusader-era hero Saladin; and the poet Rumi—are less well-known figures, such as Ibn Fadlan, whose travels in Eurasia brought fascinating first-hand accounts of the Volga Vikings to the Abbasid Caliph; the eleventh-century Karima al-Marwaziyya, a woman scholar of Prophetic traditions; and Abu al-Qasim Ramisht, a twelfth-century merchant millionaire.
An illuminating read for anyone interested in learning more about this often-misunderstood civilization, this book creates a vivid picture of life in all arenas of the pre-modern Muslim world.
About the Author
Chase F. Robinson was Lecturer and Professor of Islamic History in the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Fellow of Wolfson College at the University of Oxford from 1993 until 2008, when he was appointed Distinguished Professor of History and Provost of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he now serves as President. His extensive publications on Islamic history include Islamic Historiography, Empire and Elites after the Muslim Conquest, and The New Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 1.
"An elegant digest of the many colorful, creative and technologically innovative manifestations that the Prophet Muhammad inspired from his seventh-century oases in the Arabian peninsula."
— The Economist
"Robinson delivers a fascinating snapshot of Islamic history through 30 brief biographies. By including a mixture of the usual suspects (Muhammad, Ali, Saladin) and the unexpected (Ibn Hazm, Ibn Muqla, Abu al-Qasim), the author offers readers a rich variety of lives in pre-Islamic history."
"In a survey course covering the period, Robinson’s would make an excellent text to use to introduce more in depth and comprehensive material. The engagingly written biographies will make the topic more accessible to students while also drawing out the variety of individuals who made up 'Islamic civilization.' The author’s attention to political economy will in simple fashion help students grasp underlying concepts with which they sometimes struggle."
— Al-'Usur al-Wusta: The Journal of Middle East Medievalists