Islam: The View from the Edge

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Columbia University Press, 1994 - History - 236 pages
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Richard Bulliet's timely account provides the essential background for understanding the contemporary resurgence of Muslim activism around the globe. Why, asks Bulliet, did Islam become so rooted in the social structure of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in those parts of Asia and Africa to which it spread after the tenth century?
In assessing the historical evolution of Islamic society, Bulliet abandons the historian's typical habit of viewing Islamic history "from the center," that is, focusing on the rise and fall of imperial dynasties. Instead, he examines the question of how and why Islam became - and continues to be - so rooted in the social structure of the vast majority of people who lived far from the political center and did not see the caliphate as essential in their lives.
Focusing on Iran, and especially the cities of Isfahan, Gorgan, and Nishapur, Bulliet examines a wide range of issues, including religious conversion; migration and demographic trends; the changing functions and fortunes of cities and urban life; and the roots and meaning of religious authority.
The origins of today's resurgence, notes Bulliet, are located in the eleventh century. "The nature of Islamic religious authority and the source of its profound impact upon the lives of Muslims - the Muslims of yesterday, of today, and of tomorrow - cannot be grasped without comprehending the historical evolution of Islamic society," he writes. "Nor can such a comprehension be gained from a cursory perusal of the central narrative of Islam. The view from the edge is needed, because, in truth the edge ultimately creates the center."

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Islam: the view from the edge

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With this work Bulliet ( The Gulf Scenario , LJ 2/1/84) proposes a new approach for studying the evolution of Islam. Believing that too much attention has been paid to studying developments at the ... Read full review


Orality and Authority
Prophet Quran and Companions
The View from the Edge
Islamic Urbanization
Question and Answer
Caliph and Sultan
Cities in Crisis
Iranian Diaspora
New Center New Edges
The View from the Edge Today 18 5

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About the author (1994)

Richard W. Bulliet is professor of history at Columbia University. A former Guggenheim fellow, he is the editor of The Columbia History of the Twentieth Century and author of The Camel and the Wheel. He is also the author of four novels of mystery and intrigue.

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