The Oxford History of Islam

John L. Esposito, Editor
John L. Esposito, Editor Oxford University Press, USA $65 (768p) ISBN 978-0-19-510799-9
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A good introduction to Islamic history is hard to find, and readers interested in the world's second-largest religion can rejoice at finding this one. Esposito, professor of religious studies at Georgetown University, has brought together a fine cadre of scholars for this anthology. Fifteen articles cover almost every subject that might interest a novice in the field: philosophy, science, art, architecture and histories of Islamic empires and civilizations. The art (100 b&w photos and 200 four-color illustrations) comes fast and thick, adding a great deal to the text. A particular virtue of the book is its extension of Islamic history into the present day, with articles focusing on colonialism, American and European Muslims and 20th-century Islamic revivalism. The book is not perfect, of course, and some of its faults are serious. Only one contribution is dedicated to religious belief and practice as such, and it is one of the weaker articles in the collection. Also, although Sufism is of paramount importance in Islamic history, there is no essay dedicated to the mystical branch of Islam, and the activities of Sufi orders form only a part of several of the historical articles. That said, this valuable and near-comprehensive tome would be a welcome addition to many libraries' shelves. (Nov.)
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