Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World by Patricia Crone and Michael Cook (Cambridge University Press £7.50) This is a radically new account of the formation of Islam based upon the intensive use of a small number of contemporary, non-Muslimsources which have been formerly disregarded.
The authors, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, warn their readers that they are on a pioneering expedition, not a conducted tour, and point out that their approach and research would be quite unacceptable to any religiously conscious Muslim because th'e Prophet Muhammad is presented in a role totally different from that accorded him by Islamic tradition and hagio grapyhYi grapyhYi B stepping outside Islamic tradition altogether and looking objectively at the religious tradition of the Fertile Crescent, the political reality of the Christian empire, the authors have produced an argument which must be regarded as one of the most important contributions to an objective understanding of Islam ever written. Having lived in a Muslim university 10f a time, I would make this compulsory reading for all Muslim students regardless of academic discipline! So used are we to a suspension of critical faculties in any consideration of pre-Islamic Arabia, the arrival of the prophet and his scythe-like spiritual harvest throughout a world starved of any true culture or religion that the use of contemporary non-Muslim texts is like oxygen to the suffocating— a whole new dimension is opened up. All those parallels and similarities between Judaism and Islam which traditional concern for eirenic dialogue has caused us to mythologise arc set out with a convincing regard for fact, while the curious assimilation of Islam by diverse communities in its great imperial expansion is discussed against the background of intimate links between pre-Islamic monotheism and the Messianism of contemporary Judaism. A splendid if difficult book, superbly annotated and with a valuable, comprehensive bibliography, which one can enjoy reading many times without exhausting its succinct arguments.