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Book Reviews


To conclude, this book is worthwhile reading for historians and archaeologists
interested in long-term settlement and social change from the Ancient world to the
High Middle Ages. Its representation of the long-term transition gives a clear
continuist picture as opposed to the mutationist one. To be a bit unfair in my
criticism, I might say that the book lacks a full theory of why this society, and hence its
settlement, changed the way it did, but this is a difficult question only occasionally
addressed in the current historiography on this topic. The book is a superb reconstruction of the processes that occurred in two regions, intended as a good representative
sample to lead to generalisations. It is also a full updating of the several historiographical issues around the topic. The work is genuine comparative research in which the
author shows an accurate knowledge of the two regions. No doubt it is ambitious in its
goals but it does not let the reader down at any point. It shows a wide reading of the
Spanish bibliography along with English and Italian works that make it interesting in
terms of bringing the Iberian example into the European picture of studies of settlement
and social changes in the Early Middle Ages. All this makes it a suitable candidate to
be translated into English. I would encourage publishers interested in widening their
territorial scope beyond the classical regions of the Middle Ages, and wishing to
illustrate the formation of feudal society, to give a chance to this book.
University of St Andrews

The Quran: Style and Contents

The Formation of the Classical Islamic World, volume 24
Aldershot: Ashgate/Variorum
xxxiii 429 pp.
80, US $149.95 (Hardback)
ISBN 0860787001
That the Quran has drawn attention of the western world at an early stage of its
contact with the Islamic World is evident from the fact that selected passages from it
started appearing in various religious discourses from the early eighth century and a
complete translation into Latin was done during the first half of the twelfth century by
Robert of Ketton (fl. 11361157). Though these early, and most subsequent, western
efforts of studying and translating the Quran were motivated by the missionary zeal
either to show the weakness of their faith to ordinary Muslims or to construct counter
arguments against Muslim accusations of deficiencies of the Bible, the western interest
in the Quran was as old as the two worlds knew each other. Their close contact
(though hostile in nature) during the Crusades certainly intensified this interest.
Compared to other religious scriptures the Quran is a shorter entry by size. Divided
into 114 chapters of varying size, the Quran does not follow the normal structure and
organisation of any genre of literature. Anyone who opens the Book and starts
reading it (with at least some understanding) finds that it embodies belief and conduct,


Book Reviews

moral directives and legal prescriptions, admonition/warnings and glad tidings, arguments and supportive evidence for its basic message, anecdotes and historical events
from the past to emphasise certain basic points.
The reader encounters a large number of peculiarities and problems in its frequent
and abrupt changes of subjects without any apparent method, constant changes of
audience and speaker, apparent inconsistencies of grammatical clauses, incomplete and
partial reference to historical events, unfamiliar expressions and unusual terminology
for physical, metaphysical and philosophical issues. Such and similar things puzzle and
confuse many minds who look for answers and solutions. Muslim scholars came up
with a set of answers that they consider as the best interpretation of apparent disunities
and of divine intent. Non-Muslim scholars, on the other hand, consider these as basic
weaknesses of the Quran and often question its authenticity. A very high percentage of
non-Muslim writings about the Quran are limited to the articulation of these problems.
Whether positive or negative in tone, efforts to provide the best interpretation of such
apparent anomalies continue in both Muslim and non-Muslim circles.
The volume under review, The Quran: Style and Contents, gathers a selection of
articles representing such efforts, primarily, in the western scholarship. As part of the
series The Formation of the Classical Islamic World that attempts to understand the
formative period of Islamic civilisation and culture, this volume includes twenty-one
articles written between 1956 and 1991 in English, French and German. As the series
is intended primarily for the English readers, the French and the German articles (four
and one respectively) appear here in translation. The coverage is fairly wide, ranging
from the Qumran Sect to Abu Lahab in Sura CXI and from the meaning of Islam by
the Prophet Muh ammad to the Muslim perspective on Orientalism and Quranic
Besides efforts to nullify the authenticity of the Quran, there were two major trends
in the early western scholarship on Quranic studies (i) to prove that it was an
ingenious effort of Muh ammad to re-tell what has already been told in the Bible, hence
the Jewish or Christian influence on Islam, or (ii) to create a checklist of how and to
what extent the Quran differs from or remains the same on the narratives of certain
Biblical personalities. In either case the tendency was to contextualise the Quran in the
light of other scriptures or religious understandings, rather than putting it on its own
Among the included articles, Rabins Islam and the Qumran Sect, Robinsons
Jesus and Mary in the Quran: Some Neglected Affinities, Causses The Theology
of Separation : A Study of the Prophetic Career of Moses According to the Quran,
and Lichtenstadters And Become Ye Accursed Apes fall within this category. The
tendency to contextualise the Quran has further been extended beyond JewishChristian orbit as it appeared that such limitation does not explain everything embodied in
the Quran. The Pre-Islamic Arabian phenomenon is an extension of that contextualisation and represented here in Baneths What did Muhammad mean when he called
his Religion Islam? The Original Meaning of aslama and its Derivatives and Waarenburgs Towards a Periodization of Earliest Islam According to its Relations with Other
The other major effort of western scholarship on Quranic studies centres around the
philological and grammatical issues. Theodor Noldeke (d. 1930) is considered as the
doyenne of this area of study. Though nothing from his writings has been included in
the volume, the agenda he set for subsequent generations of Quranic scholarship has
been reflected in several articles selected here. Problems related to words of foreign

Book Reviews


origin and their adaptation in the Quran, different usage of various words, the need to
look for the meaning of various words in the context of their use, not in the individual
words themselves, the question of adjustment of Arabic in terms of its later emergence
of classical standard, etc. are among the major subjects of writings in this area.
Leemhuis Quranic Si..il and Aramaic sgyl, Schubs Two Notes, Bijlefelds A
Prophet and More than a Prophet? Some Observations on the Quranic use of the terms
Prophet and Apostel, Grahams The Earliest Meaning of Quran,
OShaughnessys The Quranic View of Youth and Old Age, Jomiers The Divine
Name al-Rah man in the Quran, Stewarts Saj in the Quran: Prosody and
Structure, Neuwirths Some Notes on the Distinctive Linguistic and Literary
Character of the Quran, Brunschvigs Simple Negative Remarks on the Vocabulary
of the Quran fall under these categories of studies. In linguistic studies,
especially when dealing with words of foreign origin, scholars often confine themselves
on the connotation of a certain word in its original language and then try to impose the
same connotation in the language that adapted the word without considering intermediate changes that many words have passed through when migrating from one
language to another. This issue has never been adequately addressed in the Quranic
Western scholarship has also developed the notion that the Quran had suffered
extensively from disruptive editing (p. xxi) and made many attempts to re-arrange the
Quranic text in order to make sense out of it. Bells The Beginnings of the
Muhammads Religious Activity is an example of such attempts. Besides drastic
re-arrangement, as Bell suggested, attempts at minor re-arrangement of the Quranic
text continued in one form or another. Flugels edition of the text of the Quran (first
published in 1834) is widely used in the western scholarship, because it allows
convenient reading as it took off additional vowel signs and other orthographic
symbols that are found in the printed mush afs of the Islamic world. In many cases such
omission gave western scholars an avenue to interpret the text in the context of choice.
However, as a result, as Rippin puts it, a legacy of difficulty in communication
between traditional Muslim scholars and those working within the tradition of printed
book has lingered on (p. xxiii). The difficulty is so obvious that even the editor of this
volume did not find a single piece produced by the scholars of Quranic studies writing
in Arabic worthy to be included in this collection. Since the selection of articles here,
as in other volumes of this series, is largely governed by the the judgment of the
editor, this omission is significant in the sense that it shows the gap has been left open
to widen, rather than attempting to bridge it.
The only counter-current article included in the volume is Parvez Manzoors
Method Against Truth: Orientalism and Quranic Studies. The editor deserves
commendation for bringing some sort of balance between the two different trends of
Quranic studies, though bridging the hiatus is far from being achieved. Manzoor notes
that the heyday of Orientalism is a matter of past now. If compared to the course of the
sun, it is now in the western sky, losing its intensity of hit and advancing towards the
horizon to disappear. Orientalism is a naked discourse of power and a crude charade
of legitimizing ethnocentric arrogance that has been considered as a project born in
spite, bred in frustration and nourished by vengeance (p. 381). To Muslims, the
western approach to Quranic studies is biased and problematic. If nothing else, the
Muslims finds it impossible to forgive the Orientalist for the tone he employed in his
discourse. It remains painful to this day (p. 382). However, Manzoor hopes that with
the admittance of Muslims in the closed session of Orientalist establishments the face


Book Reviews

lifting has already begun. Only with the passing of another phase in western scholarship
of Quranic studies would one be able to see if Manzoors hope has materialised.
The greatest benefit of this volume, like all volumes in this series, is that it brings
together a number of representative articles, many of them are not easily accessible.
The volume is handsomely produced and should be on the shelves of all libraries
interested in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. However, it remains to be said that
the largest beneficiaries of this series graduate students and young scholars of Islam
can only dream to have copies of these volumes in their personal collections because
of their exorbitant price. The publisher may consider a paperback edition in near future
to make the dream come true for this group of users.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: The Roots of Sectarianism
[Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization]
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
xiii 222 pp.
UK 35.00, 58.68, US $55.00 (Hardback)
ISBN 0521803330
Bruce Masters book discusses the growth of the Christian and Jewish mercantile
classes in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire over the four centuries before the
end of World War I. Following a thorough historiographical overview of his subjects in
Chapter One, Masters proceeds from the late Mamluk period in the post-Crusades
period of the fourteenth century until the unsettled period following World War I, with
Amr Fays als unsuccessful Syrian state and Mus tafa Kemal Ataturks successful
takeover of Anatolia. Each chapter explores a different period and theme.
Though his title indicates a broad treatment of the subject, Masters focus, after
Chapter 1, is very tight. He mainly examines the local Christian elites of the Arab
provinces most intensively, the local Catholics, of various types, rather than the
Orthodox Christians alone. The Christians of Greece, the Balkans and Anatolia are
discussed in passing, but not given intensive treatment. Coverage of the Jews in the
Arab provinces (let alone elsewhere) is cursory, in comparison.
One of Masters assertions is that the local Catholics were innovators, who wanted to
improve their own position in the Empire, compared to the Orthodox Christians and
the Jews, who already had coping strategies that worked. Masters two main study
groups come from Aleppo and Damascus. He contrasts the innovation and restlessness
in both the Christians and the Muslims in Aleppo with the conservatism and dominance of Muslim elites in Damascus. He also discusses how the traders and consuls of
the European powers conducted a flirtation with local Christians, from the eighteenth
century onward. He believes that Christians allied themselves with European powers
because it freed them from burdensome taxation and because it helped them raise their
status in their own communities. He suggests that it gave the local Christians both new
trade opportunities and increased political influence through representation by powerful European governments.

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