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The Formation of Islam
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 (ISBN-13: 9780511059490 | ISBN-10: 0511059493)

Jonathan Berkey's 2003 book surveys the religious history of the peoples of the Near East from roughly 600 to 1800 CE. The opening chapter examines the religious scene in the Near East in late antiquity, and the religious traditions which preceded Islam. Subsequent chapters investigate Islam's first century and the beginnings of its own traditions, the 'classical' period from the accession of the Abbasids to the rise of the Buyid amirs, and thereafter the emergence of new forms of Islam in the middle period. Throughout, close attention is paid to the experiences of Jews and Christians, as well as Muslims. The book stresses that Islam did not appear all at once, but emerged slowly, as part of a prolonged process whereby it was differentiated from other religious traditions and, indeed, that much that we take as characteristic of Islam is in fact the product of the medieval period.

• An accessible and comprehensive survey of the religious history of the Near East from 600 to 1800 • Covers both the formation of Islam, and its relationship to other religious traditions • For students and general readers as a starting-point for further study


Part I. The Near East before Islam: 1. Introduction; 2. The religions of late antiquity; 3. Arabia before Islam; 4. The early seventh century; Part II. The Emergence of Islam, 600–750: 5. Approaches and problems; 6. The origins of the Muslim community; 7. Early Islam in the Near East; 8. The Umayyad period; 9. The beginnings of sectarianism; 10. The non-Muslims of early Islam; 11. The 'Abbasid revolution; Part III. The Consolidation of Islam, 750–1000: 12. Issues of Islamic identity; 13. Religion and politics; 14. Shi'ism; 15. The formation of Sunni traditionalism; 16. Asceticism and mysticism; 17. The non-Muslim communities; Part IV. Medieval Islam, 1000–1500: 18. The medieval Islamic Near East; 19. A Sunni 'revival'?; 20. Common patterns in social and political organization; 21. Modes of justice; 22. The transmission of religious knowledge; 23. Sufism; 24. Popular religion; Epilogue: 25. From medieval to modern Islam.


'No doubt, the study provides a scholarly treatment of the subject … not only students and lay public would find it interesting and informative, more serious scholars of the subject would also find it worth-reading.' Islamic Studies

'The Formation of Islam makes a significant contribution to what it is hoped will become a prominent strand in Islamicate historiography … the book lucidly charts the incremental formation of the Islamicate state-society complex … an incisive and textured account of the ebb and flow of Islamicate civilisation.' The Muslim World Book Review

'… a fascinating, complex and dynamic plot, that is both chronological and thematic. The narrative is packed with information and interpretations, sometimes conflicting interpretations that challenge the traditional story, or criticize the theory of a particular historical school. But, condensed as it is, Berkey enlivens it with anecdotes, verses of poetry, quotations of hadith or particular scences of medieval life.' Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam

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