Books on History (recommended by Faris Al-Khateeb - Author of 'Lost Islamic History')
Note: Links and reviews have been added by the library staff.
Below is a brief list of recommended reading for a student or general reader interested in learning more about Islamic history. This is neither an exhaustive nor a complete list, but rather a collection of works that I consider interesting or beneficial. I highly recommend learning about Islamic history from a variety of sources, written by both Western and Muslim scholars to gain a more thorough understanding of the subject.
General Islamic History:A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani
Islamic Sciences:(Note: I highly suggest reading the following books with the guidance of a qualified scholar of Islamic studies. Topics such as Islamic law and theology can be easily misunderstood without the advice of an expert in the field.)
The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology edited by Tim Winter (Read / Download)
The Canonization of Islamic Law by Ahmed El Shamsy - Review - The Canonization of Islamic Law tells the story of the birth of classical Islamic law in the eighth and ninth centuries CE. It shows how an oral normative tradition embedded in communal practice was transformed into a systematic legal science defined by hermeneutic analysis of a clearly demarcated scriptural canon. This transformation was inaugurated by the innovative legal theory of Imam Muḥammad b. Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820 CE), and it took place against the background of a crisis of identity and religious authority in ninth-century Egypt. By tracing the formulation, reception, interpretation, and spread of al-Shāfiʿī's ideas, the author demonstrates how the canonization of scripture that lay at the heart of al-Shāfiʿī's theory formed the basis for the emergence of legal hermeneutics, the formation of the Sunni schools of law, and the creation of a shared methodological basis in Muslim thought - (Google books review with limited pages)
The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi translated by Hamza Yusuf - Review: In an age of bewildering spiritual and intellectual confusion, creed has never been more important. Every Muslim is obliged to learn it and is promised protection from deviant beliefs by following the unassailable texts of the scholastic community of Islam. Of them all, The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi is the simplest, the most effective, and the least controversial. It serves as a sound basis for Islamic faith and is the most reliable of the early articulations of Muslim belief. Because Imam al-Tahawi avoided involuted theological issues and systematically presented the most fundamental aspects of dogmatic theology, his creed has achieved an unusual degree of acceptance in the Muslim milieu. In the thousand years since it was written, many great Muslim scholars have penned commentaries on it. It is still studied throughout the Muslim world and increasingly in the West. Born in Taha in Upper Egypt in 239 AH/853 CE, Imam Abu Ja far al-Tahawi lived until 321/933. He came from a family where intellectualism and aristocracy, as well as piety and passion were the hallmarks. He mastered both the primary sources of Islam and the ancillary sciences necessary for independent reasoning. A first-rate jurist, a brilliant grammarian and philologist, and an erudite man of letters, Imam al-Tahawi is best known for his eponymous creed. Imam al-Tahawi is called al-Azdi, in reference to the Yemeni clan known as Azd al-Hajar ; thus he was a descendent of a people about whom the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, Faith is Yemeni. It is altogether fitting that the man who penned such a unifying creed, free of controversy, descended from the land of which faith itself is a descendant. His creed is a beacon of certainty in the darkness of doubt and ambiguity, and it provides seekers of knowledge with a luminous set of simple yet sound creedal statements. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf's interview about this book can be seen from here.
The History of the Quranic Text by M.M. Al-Azami (Read / Download)
Science:1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization by Salim al-Hassani (Arabic: Read / Download; English: Read / Download)
Miscellaneous:Afghanistan: A Short History of its People and Politics by Martin Ewans
Invisible Nation: How the Kurds’ Quest for Statehood is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East by Quil Lawrence - Review: The dramatic story of the Kurds and their quest to create a nation―essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the turmoil in Iraq will play out. The American invasion of Iraq has been a success for one group: the Kurds. For centuries they have yearned for official statehood―and now, as one of the accidental outcomes of the invasion, the United States may have helped them take a big step toward that goal. Informed by his deep knowledge of the people and region, Quil Lawrence's intimate and unflinching portrait of the Kurds and their heretofore quixotic quest offers a vital and original lens through which to contemplate the future of Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.
Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiorre - Review: Jerusalem is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, fanaticism, bloodshed, and coexistence, from King David to the 21st century, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict. How did this small, remote town become such a prominent place in the history, and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography is told through the wars, love affairs, and revelations of the men and women who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient world of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Lincoln, Rasputin, Lawrence of Arabia and Moshe Dayan. In this masterful narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore brings the holy city to life and draws on the latest scholarship, his own family history, and a lifetime of study to show that the story of Jerusalem is truly the story of the world.
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf - Review: The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, written by Amin Maalouf, focuses on how Muslims viewed the series of battles that lasted almost two hundred years. European and Arab versions of the Crusades have little in common. For Arabs, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were years of strenuous efforts to repel a brutal and destructive invasion by barbarian hordes. Under Saladin, an unstoppable Muslim army inspired by prophets and poets finally succeeded in destroying the most powerful Crusader kingdoms. The memory of this greatest and most enduring victory ever won by a non-European society against the West still lives in the minds of millions of Arabs today. Amin Maalouf has sifted through the works of a score of contemporary Arab chroniclers of the Crusades, eyewitnesses and often participants in the events. He retells their stories in their own vivacious style, giving us a vivid portrait of a society rent by internal conflicts and shaken by a traumatic encounter with an alien culture. He retraces two critical centuries of Middle Eastern history, and offers fascinating insights into some of the forces that shape Arab and Islamic consciousness today. 'Well-researched and highly readable.' Guardian 'A useful and important analysis adding much to existing western histories … worth recommending to George Bush.' London Review of Books 'Maalouf tells an inspiring story ... very readable ... warmly recommended.' Times Literary Supplement 'A wide readership should enjoy this vivid narrative of stirring events.' The Bookseller 'Very well done indeed ... Should be put in the hands of anyone who asks what lies behind the Middle East's present conflicts.' Middle East International - (EPUB / Audios / pdf [low quality])
The Jews of Islam by Bernard Lewis - Review: Probing the Muslims' attitude toward Judaism as a special case of their view of other religious minorities in Islamic countries, Bernard Lewis discusses various stereotypes associated with this aspect - (Google books preview with limited pages)
The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun - Review: The Muqaddimah, often translated as "Introduction" or "Prolegomenon," is the most important Islamic history of the premodern world. Written by the great fourteenth-century Arab scholar Ibn Khaldûn (d. 1406), this monumental work established the foundations of several fields of knowledge, including the philosophy of history, sociology, ethnography, and economics. The first complete English translation, by the eminent Islamicist and interpreter of Arabic literature Franz Rosenthal, was published in three volumes in 1958 as part of the Bollingen Series and received immediate acclaim in the United States and abroad. A one-volume abridged version of Rosenthal's masterful translation first appeared in 1969 - (Hindi: Read /Download; Arabic: Vol1, Vol2, Vol3, Vol4, Vol5)
The Travels of Ibn Battuta translated by H.A.R. Gibb - Review: No other medieval traveler is known to have journeyed so extensively. In 30 years (from 1325), Ibn Batuta traveled overland in North Africa and Syria to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Afterward he visited Persia, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor. He made a journey by way of Samarkand to India, where he resided for almost eight years at the court of the sultan of Delhi, who sent him to China as one of his ambassadors. Ibn Batuta visited the Maldives, the Malabar coast, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Sumatra. He returned c. 1350 to Tangier. Later he went to Spain, then to Morocco, and from here he crossed the Sahara to visit Timbuktu and the River Niger. During his 29 years of travel, he covered 120,000 km. A great insight of the days when Islam was a strong living tradition far spread around the world. Summarized translation by H. A. R. Gibb - (Vol1: Read / Download)