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by Richard Bulliet

  • ISBN: 0231082193
  • Category: History
  • Author: Richard Bulliet
  • Subcategory: Americas
  • Other formats: txt lrf mbr rtf
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Revised edition (May 23, 1995)
  • Pages: 236 pages
  • FB2 size: 1122 kb
  • EPUB size: 1210 kb
  • Rating: 4.3
  • Votes: 449
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Islam: A View from the Edge. By Richard W. Bulliet.

Islam: A View from the Edge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Pp. 236. Islam: A View from the Edge is a socio-historical analysis of the Nishapur Diaspora through the experience of the new converts and their relationship with the ulemas. The aptly titled book is a survey of how Islam developed in the periphery rather than in the center, and how the scholastic developmental patterns in the center were heavily influenced by the creativity in the periphery.

Bulliet argues that while Muslims and Westerners alike often accept the center's view of Islam, the edge actually drives Muslim history by spontaneously finding its own religious authorities and following their guidance. In the early centuries of Islam, converts made up the edge. Today, the edge's two main groups consist of disoriented students and urbanized peasants. In need of guidance, they turn to the interpreters of Islam who most convincingly address their concerns

Islam View from Edge book.

Islam View from Edge book.

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.

Several of his books focus on Iran but deal also with the Richard W. Bulliet is a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University who specializes in the history of Islamic society and institutions, the history of technology, and the history of the role of animals in human society. Richard grew up in Illinois. He attended Harvard University, from which he received a BA in 1962 and a PhD in 1967.

His books on a broader view of Islamic history and society include Under Siege: Islam and Democracy (1994) and The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (2004). Islam: The View from the Edge back cover matter. His book The Camel and the Wheel (1975) brings together his interest in the histories of technology, animal domestication, and the Middle East, dealing for example with the significant military advantage early Muslim armies gained from a slight improvement in the design of cloth camel saddles.

Home Browse Books Book details, Views from the Edge .

Home Browse Books Book details, Views from the Edge: Essays in Honor of Richard. Views from the Edge: Essays in Honor of Richard W. By Neguin Yavari, Lawrence G. Potter, Jean-Mare Ran Oppenheim. These essays were written by colleagues and former students of Richard Bulliet, the scholar and mentor whose "most important contribution remains his extraordinary imagination in the service of history. The hallmark of "Views from the Edge," then, is innovative scholarship in all periods of Islamic history.

Islam: The View from the Edge back cover matter.

1940-10-30) October 30, 1940 (age 78) Rockford, Illinois. Several of his books focus on Iran but deal also with the larger Muslim world, including The Patricians of Nishapur: a Study in Medieval Islamic History (1972), Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History (1979), and Islam: the View from the Edge (1994). His books on a broader view of Islamic history and society include Under Siege: Islam and Democracy (1994) and The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (2004).

Richard Bulliet, professor, specializes in Middle Eastern history, the social and institutional history of Islamic countries . Islam: The View from the Edge. Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History. The Camel and the Wheel.

Richard Bulliet, professor, specializes in Middle Eastern history, the social and institutional history of Islamic countries, and the history of technology. Islamo-Christian Civilization. America and the Muslim World. History of Islamic Society. History of North Africa and the Sahara Desert to 1500. Domestic Animals and Human History. Technology and History. History of Iran down to the Safavid Period. The Patricians of Nishapur: A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History.

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."
Reviews about Islam: The View from the Edge (3):
Cesar
This book was informative using a different perspective but the writer's writing style is distracting. I couldn't help but get the sense that part of his intention was to demonstrate how smart he was through his writing style. He uses outdated words when more popularly used words would have sufficed. He also uses run on sentences so frequently I think he wants to confuse the reader. But regarding the material about Islam, it is an interesting perspective that is not usually taught and has some really good information. An updated and more condensed version of this book should be written in order to make this a more enjoyable book.
Nekora
Professor Richard Bulliet has written a frequently uneven but always interesting and stimulating book.
“Islam, the view from the edge” is an attempt to correct what Bulliet calls “the view from the center”. “The view from the center” begins with the Holy Prophet’s call to Islam and his establishment of the first Islamic state, passes through the rightly guided caliphs, the Umayyad and the Abbasids and is a record of conquests and the comings and goings of kings and caliphs. But this picture tells us little about the gradual winning of hearts and minds across the vast areas conquered by the Arabs in the name of Islam. How did this come about? How did the process appear to the common people and how did these people at the “edge” of Islamic society create a detailed picture of their religion when such a picture was neither available in the Quran nor provided by church or state? The answer to these questions is “the view from the edge”.
The book is based primarily on biographical dictionaries and family histories from the region around Nishapur in northeastern Iran. The author’s own life-long study of Islam is used to provide a layer of commentary and explanation to this material. Bulliet paints a detailed picture of how the Arab conquest was followed by an initial phase of slow growth of converts to Islam till a critical mass was reached (over two hundred years later!) and there was a phase of explosive increase in conversions until, finally, the process of new conversions slowed down again. He speculates a bit about the psychological profile of those who convert to a new idea when its rare to do so versus those who jump on the bandwagon when it has become fashionable to convert, versus the hard-cases who continue to hold out when most of their peers have converted. This process is not unique to conversion to Islam: something very similar happens when people adopt a new technology or any other new idea. What he considers striking in this story is the lack of dictation from the “center”. He claims that the Umayyad caliphs had little interest in doctrine and made no effort to create a standard theology of their own (this may be true of Muavia, but arguable when it comes to Abdul Malik onwards). Instead, the local converts used a variety of sources to learn what the new religion expected them to do. Bulliet highlights the role of “hadith transmitters” in this phenomenon but also shows how the expectations of the locals and their experience of their own ancestral religions colored this process. He especially emphasizes the important role the Khurasanis subsequently played in creating the madrassa system and thus stabilizing and unifying Islamic theory all over the Middle East (in his version, the Arabs apply little or no pressure at any stage). There is information too about the role of the Sufis and of the popular storytellers. His background as a historian of technology likely plays a role in his theories about cities that outgrew their food supply, which he claims were already falling apart long before the Mongols arrived to finish off the job.
Professor Bulliet thinks that by the 14th century, the “edge had created a center”. The religious understandings that developed had become the “great tradition” of Islam. retroactively projected back to the time of the prophet, this center now set a standard against which new “edge developments” were measured. The new edge developments in India, East Asia and Africa continued to be locally influential, but these new edges develop within a broader Islamic community, which slowly but steadily pulls them in towards the (now well defined) central orthodoxy.
The book is an interesting account of how this orthodoxy took shape in one influential area in Khorasan and Bulliet clearly thinks it offers insights into what may have happened in other parts of the Islamic world. But it has its weaknesses. For example, professor Bulliet expects his readers to be more than a little familiar with the broad course of Islamic history. And the book veers between broad generalizations and very specific histories somewhat haphazardly. Finally, his account of the evolution of Islam at the edge is interesting, but the conclusion that something similar is still going on is contradicted by his own account of the growth of madrassa orthodoxy (a phenomenon with which the earlier community obviously did not have to contend). Professor Bulliet is convinced that whatever its final shape, the shape of “the answer” in the Muslim world will be a religious one (“Islam is the solution”) and not a relegation of religion to the personal domain by “secular modernity”. But he seems to have no interest in discussing WHY this should be so? What (if anything) is uniquely different about Islam? Perhaps he is one of those who feel that “secular modernity” is a failure everywhere, therefore bound to fail in Islamic lands too? or is something special about Islam? either he has not considered this question or he finds it uninteresting. But still, the book is an interesting viewpoint about Islam and its history.
Brialelis
Islam: A View from the Edge. By Richard W. Bulliet. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Pp. 236. [money amount]
Islam: A View from the Edge is a socio-historical analysis of the Nishapur Diaspora through the experience of the new converts and their relationship with the ulemas. The aptly titled book is a survey of how Islam developed in the periphery rather than in the center, and how the scholastic developmental patterns in the center were heavily influenced by the creativity in the periphery. He suggests that the edge's creative source was the question-answer motif employed by the converts to learn about Islam. When people converted they would seek out individuals who knew the answers to questions regarding worship. This led to the emergence of individuals who succeeded in gaining the convert's ratification for their interpretive efforts as being the most authentic representations of the divine intent. Such fluid discourse led to the development of local expressions of Islam. Bulliet contends that there was no single legitimate interpretation of Islam but rather many in the early years of Islamic history. Islam was homogenized by the efforts of many Persian ulemas who were expatriates of what is today Eastern Iran. These individuals organized themselves into schools of law around charismatic eponyms which came to be known as madhhabs.

Madhhabs would later become the center of all religious interpretive exercises and a source of legitimacy in the Muslim body politic. In particular Bulliet points out the Ashari-Shafi community of Persia that were the most influential consolidators of Sunnism. They spread their rationalistic expression of Sunni Islam via their stock and trade, namely the Madrasa, a quintessential Persian innovation in early Muslim civilization. This group eventually became part of the center and its version of orthodoxy was championed by such figures as Nizam al-Mulk. This form of Sunni Islam was understood by its proponents as the middle path between the excessively rationalistic Mu'tazilites and the overly conservative traditionalist Hanbalites. Nizam al-Mulk commissioned the famous Nizamiyya Madrasas in Tus and more importantly in Nishapur and Baghdad. It was from these schools that the Ash'ari-Shafi'i scholars propagated their doctrines and inserted a type of mythology into the collective memory that the scholastic evolution within Sunni Islam had its end goal their grand synthesis of the text and reason.
If there are any criticisms that could be directed at Bulliet's work it is that he stresses the edge disproportionately and effectively gives an impression that the center had no significant role in the development of Islam. Bulliet says the view from the edge is needed because it is the edge that ultimately creates the center (pg. 12). However he becomes too dogmatic in distinguishing between the edge and the center and overlooks their similarity. The development of the center Iraq and the edge Iran/Nishapur have much more in common than in differences. The relationship between the edge and the center should be seen as interactive where both influenced each others development. However this does not take away from the fact that the book is very well written and offers a fresh look at the origin and development of Islam.
That obscurantism withstanding, there is a lot that we as American Muslims can learn from Prof. Bulliet's research. We here in North America constitute a particular edge and the discourse within our community can, if we take the task at hand seriously and work determinedly, produce the type of reorientation of the Sunni worldview in the center, that the Ash'ari-Shafi'i Ulema achieved in Medieval Islam, from authoritarianism to the authoritative pluralism, in the 21st century. Insha'Allah.

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