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Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives

The First 1,000 Years

Chase F. Robinson

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An accessible introduction to pre-modern Islam showcasing the individuals – caliphs, law-makers, theologians, poets – who shaped the course of early Islamic history

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Religious thinkers, political leaders, law-makers, 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 weaves these ambitious lives together to create a rich narrative of early Islamic civilization, from the Prophet Muhammad to in the seventh century to the era of the world-conqueror 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 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 coloured 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 Islamic world.

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'A beautifully written, well-illustrated set of brief, vividly drawn portraits'
Times Higher Education

'An elegant digest of the many colourful, creative and technologically innovative manifestations that the Prophet Muhammad inspired from his seventh-century oases in the Arabian peninsula'
The Economist

'Vast in scope'

'Fascinating … offers a unique introduction to Islamic history … not to be missed'
Timeless Travels

The Yorkshire Post

'Accessible and readable … a good introduction'
Shiny New Books

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.5 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 272 pp

Publication date: 27 October 2016

ISBN: 9780500110300

Contents List

1. Islam and Empire 600–850 • 2. The Islamic Commonwealth 850–1050 • 3. The Sunni Synthesis 1050–1250 • 4. Conflict & Change 1250–1550

About the Author

Chase F. Robinson taught Islamic history for fourteen years at the University of Oxford before being appointed President of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and later Distinguished Professor of History. His extensive publications on pre-modern Islam include Islamic Historiography (2003), Empires and Elites after the Muslim Conquest: The Transformation of Northern Mesopotamia (2000) and The New Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. 1 (2010).

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