Reading List: Islam and the Islamic World

Well now that this ball is rolling:

First, I have no idea where this Gold Cup crap comes from, never heard of it. It may be the case that some Muslims somewhere believe in something that silly, but it’s not anything I’ve heard about.

Second, citations.

Tamerlane really covers the core material and it is hard for me to add stuff that is likely to be accessible, as well as me having records of, but let me cite some things that I have in my library at the moment that Tamerlane has not already cited:

Ma’oz, Moshe & Sheffer, Gabriel. Middle Eastern Minorities & Diasporas*. Sussex 2002. 267pgs Interesting collection of essays on exactly what the title covers, modern political coverage.

Binder, Leonard. Ethnic Conflict & International Politics in The Middle East.[/u[ U. Florida Press, 1999.

Roy, Olivier. The Failure of Political Islam Harvard 1994. Socio-political examination of the sociology of Islamism and its various types. Very French in its approach, it has some powerful observations on the inherent failure of the Sunni Salafiste
movements to generate a coherent response, in terms of a coherent socio-political answer or system, to the challenge of Modernization.

Two specific North African works that I found very interesting:

DIALMY, Abdessamad. Logement, sexualité et Islam EDDIF, 1995. Interesting examination of the sociological problems facing modern Islamic urban centers. Discussion of tension between sexualization of space in different systems.

Bennani-Chraibi Mounia. Soumis et rebelles: les jeunes au maroc… Editions Fennec 1995. Similar study, regarding nexus of sociology, politics and sexuality, frustration of youth in terms of socio-political frameworks that do not respond to current realities.

Now an historical work I would add to the Lewis reading list is The Jews of Islam as it is a rich reflection upon

In addition let me add:
Levtzion, Nehemia. Islam in West Africa : religion, society, and politics to 1800 Variorum, 1994.

I might add that Hunwick, Robertson and Louis Brenner are all good names to follow through on in re Islamic Africa. I am looking to order, when I get a chance, uthor Hunwick, John O., Powell, Eve. The African diaspora in the Mediterranean lands of Islam Princeton 2002. Understudied dimension.

I have more notes somewhere, probably rich in citations, in boxes somewhere, but I am afraid I am not motivated to get these things out of storage. I think this reading list is more than sufficient for a start.

Actually, I do not recommend diving into a translation of a Quran for a number of reasons
(a) The Quran is a highly poetic work, and much of it is at best hard to follow in the original language. Even in translation, knowing what is going on is not easy.
(b) Without a fair degree of context, one is lost in re the world of real life interpretation, which may be more important for most readers than the Quran itself.

As Tamerlane noted, Edward Said and it is a crap history of writing on the Islamic world. Said was and is a professor of English and has a very poor idea of how to write history properly said. It’s an interest polemic against a certain kind of writing, but it is also exagerated and overwraught.

Actually that more or less captures my feelings on Said’s works that I have read.

Sudanese writer, good novel.

I am unaware of a good overview on this basis.

Frankly it is too regional to address on a pan-Islamic basis in my opinion.

Informal travelogues are entertaining but rarely worth the paper they are printed on for actual knowledge. I would avoid drawing conclusions from such.


Bah! Killjoy :p.

  • Tamerlane

May you be crushed under a pile of rendered skulls.

By the way, while I am not very much a fan of recommending films as history, I would like to take the occasion to once again pimp The Battle of Algiers as being a powerful visual story that while fiction, clearly conveys something of the problems associated with not only colonial rule, but entanglements.

Of course finding it is a bit of a challenge, but there it is.

If I had my files round I would dearly like to recommend works on the subject as well, but alas…

What about an annotated Quran? Is there such a thing? I know annotated texts have been immensely helpful to me in reading things like Shakespeare or Chaucer (and I never would have survived Cervantes in the original without footnotes). Same goes for religious texts: the verbal explanations that accompany a Torah portion during a Shabbat service are a big help. But it occurs to me that I’ve never seen something similar for a Quran. I’m sure there must be commentaries up the wazoo, but anything in English that’s accessible to a reader with no formal background?

Yep there are annoted Korans avaidable for example Penguin, the publishers, do at least three different translations: a staright translation (it does have a few notes but not many), an annoted translation and a translation with parallel Arabic text (I’m not sure if this is annoted or not).

Actually that is not a bad idea. I confess I had not thought of it.

I am sure there is, regretably I am not familiar with translations and the like. There are certainly commentaries in Arabic, effectively annotations, but I am not religious enough to bash my way through these. Short attention span.

Indeed the last are excellent examples.

Hmm, myabe someone like Jomo Mojo knows this material better than I, I am too resolutely irreligious to pretend to an ability to recomend commentaries and the like.

annoted? did I just make that word up? annotated.

In this thread Tamerlane discusses some Qur’an versions and help with commentary.

Let me try that link again.

Actually Jomo Mojo was more on point there, I think. I use certain web sources for convenience sake, but I haven’t made enough ( hardly any ) study of print versions to be a good guide. JM or someone like him is probably a better person to invoke here.

  • Tamerlane

If you want something more in-depth than Islam for Dummies but you don’t have time to read any of the massive tomes listed by Tamerlane, I recommend Islam: A Short History, by Karen Armstrong (Modern Library, 2000). Also The Cartoon History of the Universe III by Larry Gonick (W.W. Norton & Company, 2002)! Funny, fun and fascinating!

I believe it is in the hadith, not the Koran itself…there are a lot in Volume 7, Book 69, some only mentioning silver, others silver and gold.


I lost the link I had earlier, but doing a google search for hadith gold cup found some more hits on another site…

Volume 7, Book 69, Number 539:

Narrated Al-Bara’ bin 'Azib:

Allah’s Apostle ordered us to do seven things and forbade us from seven. He ordered us to visit the sick, to follow funeral processions, (to say) to a sneezer, (May Allah bestow His Mercy on you, if he says, Praise be to Allah), to accept invitations, to greet (everybody), to help the oppressed and to help others to fulfill their oaths. He forbade us to wear gold rings, to drink in silver (utensils), to use Mayathir (silken carpets placed on saddles), to wear Al-Qissi (a kind of silken cloth), to wear silk, Dibaj or Istabraq (two kinds of silk).

Apparently I had read something misleading, because the references I have found so far have been the Prophet saying not to drink from gold utensils because that is a reward for the afterlife for believers. I could have sworn I read something referring to it as unclean some time back, though, and I may search a little further.

Ah, now I see.

It is not a matter of being “unclean” it is an issue of ostentation. Ostentation is bad.

Gibb, H. A . R. Mohammedanism. London, Englah: Oxford University Press, 1970. Excellent explanation of the basics of Islam, Islamic history, and dominant movements.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. Good book on Islam. His bias against Shi’ism and other movements is annoying, though. I’d prefer if he remained detached.

Lalljee, Yousuf N. Know Your Islam. Elmhurst, NY: Takrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1999. A good book on Islam from a Shi’i perspective.

El Fadl, Khaled Abou. Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications, 2001. Interesting look at authoritarianism in Islam and how it doesn’t have to be that way.

Usmani, Muhammad Taqi. Islam and Modernism. Karachi, Pakistan: Darul-Ishaat, 1999. Excellent book that shows what the extreme side believes and writes.

Emerson, Steven. American Jihad: The terrorists living among us. New York: The Free Press, 2002. Controvertial perhaps, but I find it a very enlightening analysis of the phenomenon of militant fundamentalist Islam.

Daftary, Farhad. The Isma’ilis: Their history and doctrines. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Excellent book on the various sects of Ismailis. Also reveals a lot about Muslim history and the relations between various Muslim movements.

More later!