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In Caliphate, Islamic historian Hugh Kennedy dissects the idea of the caliphate and its history, and explores how it became used and abused today. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one enduring definition of a caliph; rather, the idea of the caliph has been the subject of constant debate and transformation over time. Kennedy offers a grand history of the caliphate si In Caliphate, Islamic historian Hugh Kennedy dissects the idea of the caliphate and its history, and explores how it became used and abused today. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one enduring definition of a caliph; rather, the idea of the caliph has been the subject of constant debate and transformation over time. Kennedy offers a grand history of the caliphate since the beginning of Islam to its modern incarnations. Originating in the tumultuous years following the death of the Mohammad in 632, the caliphate, a politico-religious system, flourished in the great days of the Umayyads of Damascus and the Abbasids of Baghdad. From the seventh-century Orthodox caliphs to the nineteenth-century Ottomans, Kennedy explores the tolerant rule of Umar, recounts the traumatic murder of the caliph Uthman, dubbed a tyrant by many, and revels in the flourishing arts of the golden eras of Abbasid Baghdad and Moorish Andalucía. Kennedy also examines the modern fate of the caliphate, unraveling the British political schemes to spur dissent against the Ottomans and the ominous efforts of Islamists, including ISIS, to reinvent the history of the caliphate for their own malevolent political ends. In exploring and explaining the great variety of caliphs who have ruled throughout the ages, Kennedy challenges the very narrow views of the caliphate propagated by extremist groups today. An authoritative new account of the dynasties of Arab leaders throughout the Islamic Golden Age, Caliphate traces the history—and misappropriations—of one of the world’s most potent political ideas.


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In Caliphate, Islamic historian Hugh Kennedy dissects the idea of the caliphate and its history, and explores how it became used and abused today. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one enduring definition of a caliph; rather, the idea of the caliph has been the subject of constant debate and transformation over time. Kennedy offers a grand history of the caliphate si In Caliphate, Islamic historian Hugh Kennedy dissects the idea of the caliphate and its history, and explores how it became used and abused today. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one enduring definition of a caliph; rather, the idea of the caliph has been the subject of constant debate and transformation over time. Kennedy offers a grand history of the caliphate since the beginning of Islam to its modern incarnations. Originating in the tumultuous years following the death of the Mohammad in 632, the caliphate, a politico-religious system, flourished in the great days of the Umayyads of Damascus and the Abbasids of Baghdad. From the seventh-century Orthodox caliphs to the nineteenth-century Ottomans, Kennedy explores the tolerant rule of Umar, recounts the traumatic murder of the caliph Uthman, dubbed a tyrant by many, and revels in the flourishing arts of the golden eras of Abbasid Baghdad and Moorish Andalucía. Kennedy also examines the modern fate of the caliphate, unraveling the British political schemes to spur dissent against the Ottomans and the ominous efforts of Islamists, including ISIS, to reinvent the history of the caliphate for their own malevolent political ends. In exploring and explaining the great variety of caliphs who have ruled throughout the ages, Kennedy challenges the very narrow views of the caliphate propagated by extremist groups today. An authoritative new account of the dynasties of Arab leaders throughout the Islamic Golden Age, Caliphate traces the history—and misappropriations—of one of the world’s most potent political ideas.

30 review for Caliphate: The History of an Idea

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    Very engaging history of the institution of the Islamic caliphate, starting from the time of the Prophet Muhammad until its abolishment by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 20th century. The first four caliphs were empowered spiritual and political leaders of their communities and companions of the Prophet Muhammad, whose names are still preeminent in the Islamic canon. Following the passing of that first generation, the office was inherited by the Umayyads in Damascus, who were succeeded in turn by Very engaging history of the institution of the Islamic caliphate, starting from the time of the Prophet Muhammad until its abolishment by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 20th century. The first four caliphs were empowered spiritual and political leaders of their communities and companions of the Prophet Muhammad, whose names are still preeminent in the Islamic canon. Following the passing of that first generation, the office was inherited by the Umayyads in Damascus, who were succeeded in turn by a revolution by the Abbasids coming from Khorsasan. This revolution shifted the balance of power towards Iraq from Syria and helped inaugurate a new golden age of cultural and political expansion. Despite their deposal, as Kennedy notes the Umayyads had quite a laudable record on those counts as well. After the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in the 13th century the caliphate was never the same, becoming dependent on various tribal families, the Fatimids, Mamluk and Ottomans variously, to serve as its patron and protector. The institution did experience a final renaissance during the late-Ottoman period under Abdul Hamid II, who sought to turn it into a focal point for the loyalties of the world's Muslim populations, most of whom were chafing under colonial rule. Interestingly its not clear how the Ottomans actually came to inherit the caliphate. It seems that they simply deemed themselves its inheritors after their conquest of Egypt and termination of Mamluk rule there, which broke the Abbasid chain that had started with the caliph Saffah in the 8th century. In any case, its not clear that this move by the Ottoman sultans was illegitimate, given that many scholars in history have argued that whichever leader is best positioned to defend the key interests of the community can lay claim to the title. The influence of the caliph fluctuated over the centuries. Even during the Abbasid period, the caliph was at times beholden to his Buyid tribal protectors, though the balance of power shifted back in favor of the caliph as the Buyids went into decline. Regardless of changes in political power, the prestige of the caliphate itself remained quite high throughout its existence. Muslims in distant lands sought the favor and investiture of the caliphate and many dynasties tried to claim it for themselves. Aside fro the period of the mihna, the caliph seldom intervened in doctrinal disputes the way a Catholic pope might. Kennedy documents many memorable episodes in the history of the caliphate in this book, pulling from the recorded observations of envoys and visitors as well as Muslim observers of the caliphal court. Some of the best portions deal with accounts of caliphal activites such as the reception of guests, the bay'a (oath), investiture ceremonies in foreign lands, and descriptions of various caliphs pursuit and patronage of arts and science. There are also great observations from Western observers giving their own impressions of various caliphs and their realms. While it focuses on the caliphate, this book is really a mini-history of Islam. It jumps around a bit and despite the relatively clear prose at times I found it a bit hard to follow. Nonetheless there are invaluable details and anecdotes in here that a trained historian has taken the time to mine for our enjoyment. Reading this book really puts into perspective the breadth of what Islamic civilization has meant in human history, as well as the monumental void created by the collapse of its key institutions. The book concludes with a brief discussion of modern attempts to recreate the caliphate, including the odious attempt by the militant group ISIS. All in all this is an engaging, deeply researched and fair-minded account of the history of the caliphate. Good for those generally interested in Islamic history, but also useful for those who want to educate themselves on the historical perspective and motivations of contemporary Muslim religio-political movements.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mohd Ashraf

    The good stuff: 1. The historical flow is rather smooth. The chronological coverage of each dynasty is appropriate with the era concern and relationships between them. 2. The conclusion is admirable that the fear should not be put on the ideology of a caliphate but for the modern interpretation of it by various groups today. 3. Elegant prose . The book is rather enjoyable to read and easy to digest. It is not a full fledge historical book per se, but a good starter for those who would like to unde The good stuff: 1. The historical flow is rather smooth. The chronological coverage of each dynasty is appropriate with the era concern and relationships between them. 2. The conclusion is admirable that the fear should not be put on the ideology of a caliphate but for the modern interpretation of it by various groups today. 3. Elegant prose . The book is rather enjoyable to read and easy to digest. It is not a full fledge historical book per se, but a good starter for those who would like to understand caliphate in general and might dive into deeper reading is so chooses. The mediocre: 1. Very little portion is dedicated to the longest of the caliph dynasties, the Ottoman. I felt that it is a bit unfair in a sense. There is so much more of the Ottoman caliph-sultans dynasty has to offer in the development of caliphate ideologies. 2. Over-emphasized on the vices of the late caliphs. The book gives room to quote long poems yet no single cannon / laws quoted decreed by the caliphs that made them look more just, fair and brave rather than just wine drinkers and womanizers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Proof enough that we need historians still.. Professor Kennedy is most informative, while being utterly accessible

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    Kennedy is not approaching the issue of the caliphate from the contemporary point of view but looking at it historically and at its different meanings at different times. But even before his last chapter on current issues, it's hard not to think he is thinking of today's problem with terrorism when he discusses how free some caliphates were from censorship or prejudice. He does explain that other religions were not considered equal but they were allowed to be free to worship. The issue is appare Kennedy is not approaching the issue of the caliphate from the contemporary point of view but looking at it historically and at its different meanings at different times. But even before his last chapter on current issues, it's hard not to think he is thinking of today's problem with terrorism when he discusses how free some caliphates were from censorship or prejudice. He does explain that other religions were not considered equal but they were allowed to be free to worship. The issue is apparently a very complex one and I think Kennedy does a good job reviewing the different positions on what the caliph was, how the caliph was selected and other issues.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Imran Rasid

    a general overview of the history of the idea of the Caliphate. Pretty useful, given the prevalent abuse of such term these days by both haters or admirers of such concept. The earlier chapters, specifically 1 and 2, could be done a bit better with more details for it is the foundation for the following Muslim generation. apart from that i think the book is a pretty awesome read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    In this day and age where it has become a romantic ideal among at least some Muslims to revive the idea of the Caliphate, this book is a timely and important one in that it provides as thoughtful history of what the Caliphate meant during its heyday in the first few centuries of Muslim civilization when the Caliph was viewed as a figure of particularly important legitimacy in defending the Muslim faith and in leading it politically, especially against internal and external enemies.  The author, In this day and age where it has become a romantic ideal among at least some Muslims to revive the idea of the Caliphate, this book is a timely and important one in that it provides as thoughtful history of what the Caliphate meant during its heyday in the first few centuries of Muslim civilization when the Caliph was viewed as a figure of particularly important legitimacy in defending the Muslim faith and in leading it politically, especially against internal and external enemies.  The author, wisely, does not make the book too big by focusing too much on peripheral aspects of Muslim culture (like Islam in South or Southeast Asia) but rather focuses on the importance of the Caliphate in the core regions of Islam in the Middle East, providing a discussion of the lives of caliphs and of the political and religious justification of their actions in the Muslim world during its first few centuries, until the Muslim world became so fragmented that the Caliph became a powerless figure dependent on military leaders for his survival, seeking in the midst of this weakness to defend a rather beleaguered position, as was the case from about 1000AD onward.   This book is a bit less than 300 pages and focuses mostly on the early history of Islam, although it does discuss some later matters.  After beginning with maps and an introduction that sets the scope of the book, the material of this book is divided into eleven chapters.  First the author begins with the first Caliphs, giving some biographical information of them and the struggles they faced in establishing the Muslim state (1).  After that the author discusses the rule of the Umayyads and how it led to the Caliphate becoming vastly more divisive and political (2).  This leads to several chapters on the Abbasic Caliphate and its culture, as well as its decisive weaknesses later on its history (3, 4, 5).  After that there is a chapter that looks at three authors in search of the Caliphate (6), and the Caliphate of the Shi'ites, most notably the Fatimid Caliphate based in Tunisia and Egypt (7).  There is a discussion of the Umayyads of Cordoba (8) as well as the Almohads (9) of Morocco and Spain.  After this the book ends with a discussion of the Caliphate under the Mamluks and Ottomans (10), as well as the history of the idea of the Caliphate in the 20th century and down to the present day (11), after which there are acknowledgments, a glossary, a list of caliphs, notes, suggestions for further reading, and an index. What is important about the ideal of Caliphate?  For one, the early days of Islam exert a pull over Muslims, especially those who believe that it is important to recover the early moral purity of Islam, in the same way that many of us who are Christians look to the example and behavior of the Apostles and the early church as being normative in our own religious faith.  It just so happens that unlike early Christians, early generations of Muslims were already organized into a political realm that faced difficulties in that Islam promoted equality in the eyes of God but faced a strong political tendency to view Muslims as being parts of various tears--early converts, helpers from Medina, late-converting elites from Mecca, restive Arabs from the rest of the country, and non-Arab converts all jostling for positions of honor and respect.  The difficulties of the Caliphate in dealing with the mix of religious and political demands proved too much to handle for many of the early Caliphs and later Caliphs often lacked the political and military power to even attempt to be leaders of the power of early Caliphs.  This book is surely an interesting and relevant one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    2017 “Caliphate: the history of an idea,” by Hugh Kennedy (Basic Books, 2016). In essence, a history of Islam through examining the role of the caliph. The first four (Abu Bakr, Umar b. al Khattab, Uthman b. Affan and Ali b. Abit Talib) were men who knew Muhammad---Ali was his grandson. After their deaths, the question became (and continued to be) what was a caliph, how was he chosen, what was his role. At first, during the Ummayad period, the caliphs were political as well as religious leaders. 2017 “Caliphate: the history of an idea,” by Hugh Kennedy (Basic Books, 2016). In essence, a history of Islam through examining the role of the caliph. The first four (Abu Bakr, Umar b. al Khattab, Uthman b. Affan and Ali b. Abit Talib) were men who knew Muhammad---Ali was his grandson. After their deaths, the question became (and continued to be) what was a caliph, how was he chosen, what was his role. At first, during the Ummayad period, the caliphs were political as well as religious leaders. Gradually the caliph lost power until, by the end of the Ottoman period, he was almost irrelevant---but nevertheless had a lingering symbolic value. I cannot begin to recount the twists and turns through the Ummayad, Abbasid, Spanish Ummayad, North African Almohad, and Fatimid caliphates. But at different times the caliphs were military leaders, or religious thinkers, able to project power or trapped within their palace walls. There were periods of tremendous artistic, scientific and cultural achievements. Muslims brought the Greeks into their civilization, and so saved Plato, Aristotle and the rest for the West and the world. They brought Indian mathematics and numerals west and advanced mathematical thinking. While what we consider the West was little more than small, wandering, warring tribes and kings, the caliphs ruled or reigned or both over rich, complex, usually quite tolerant and open, relatively stable civilizations. Only ISIS now thinks in terms of the caliphate; it has resurrected its rhetoric, even its black banners, and dreams of uniting the Muslims once again. Kennedy, a professor of Arabic and a scholar who has a deep knowledge of and sympathy for Islam, considers that the concept of the caliphate, in the hands of ISIS, is a legitimizing tool for their ideology, and deeply dangerous. But considered in its broadest sense and history, the concept of the caliphate “is not in itself dangerous or threatening.” I do have questions I would like to ask of some educated Muslims, notably how do they think a religion which finds it very difficult to live in places where it is not dominant can accommodate itself to living in a non-Muslim society? What are the intellectual and religious arguments they use to be able to function well in, say, a sort of Christian but very secular United States? http://www.indiebound.org/book/978046...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Imran Mustafa

    This book is a review of the experience and idea of the Islamic caliphate. The relatively narrow focus of the book allows the author to explore in detail both the historical and, to a lesser extent, the ideological development of the caliphate, in contrast to general history books on the Islamic civilization. It is therefore exceedingly useful as a 'primer' for the subject, especially in light of recent developments. The book can be divided into 3 parts, with a kind of post-script at the end. The This book is a review of the experience and idea of the Islamic caliphate. The relatively narrow focus of the book allows the author to explore in detail both the historical and, to a lesser extent, the ideological development of the caliphate, in contrast to general history books on the Islamic civilization. It is therefore exceedingly useful as a 'primer' for the subject, especially in light of recent developments. The book can be divided into 3 parts, with a kind of post-script at the end. The first part discusses the role of the Prophet Muhammad and the Four Rightly Guided caliphs, which provides most of the material for later ideological development of the concept. The second part discussed the caliphate of the Ummayad dynasty, through the Abbasids (Harun Al-Rashid; his sons and their disastrous civil war; the waning power of the Abbasid caliphs) up to the destruction of the Abbasid caliphate by the Mongols. The third part discusses other 'non-Islamist mainstream' caliphates (Fatimids, Almohads, caliphate under the Mamluks) including the Ottoman caliphate and its abolition, which brings the discussion to the modern age. The 'post-script' deals briefly with the idea of the caliphate in the modern age, with some discussion on the current IS state. In general, the book is very well researched and well written. Each chapter follows very well from the last, even though they may not be in chronological order. A must read for Islamists and Islamists-to-be, as they hinge their political programme on the concept (and often romantized view) of the caliphate.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Owen

    The author is fluent in Arabic and does not write as a polemical firebrand. Those two facts alone put this book miles ahead of others written on the same subject. He describes in a clear and fascinating way the story of the Prophet, his immediate successors, and all other claimants to the title "Caliph" across the world. Far from being just a simple history of the Arab world from start to finish, it takes detours and focuses on the oft used qualifications needed for a one to assume the status. He The author is fluent in Arabic and does not write as a polemical firebrand. Those two facts alone put this book miles ahead of others written on the same subject. He describes in a clear and fascinating way the story of the Prophet, his immediate successors, and all other claimants to the title "Caliph" across the world. Far from being just a simple history of the Arab world from start to finish, it takes detours and focuses on the oft used qualifications needed for a one to assume the status. He does not ignore ISIS or Al Quaeda, either. He does not lump it in as representative of all Islam, nor does he simply dismiss it as "not real" Islam like so many apologists try to. For the author, and with good reasoning, ISIS have as much claim to be the caliphate as anyone. He acknowledges that Abku Bakr al-Baghdadi does meet some of the criteria. He is descended from the quraysh and there is precedent in both of Quran and the Hadiths for the actions taken by ISIS against nonbelievers. This boldness to deal with the facts as they are without the book turning into a mad anti Islamic rant is what makes it stand out. Islam, love it or hate it, you owe it to yourself to read this enjoyable and very informative book! In fact I would even recommend you read it alongside a book on Byzantine or European history. It puts many of the conquests into context. For example, you are much more likely to understand the Byzantine iconoclast controversy if you have just read about Islams incursions in the north Levant.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Josef Klafka

    A concise and interesting history of the Islamic caliphs, including discussions on modern and historical attitudes towards what exactly a caliph is. Kennedy covers a broad swath of history but sticks pretty close to the central caliphal thread. Along the way, Kennedy does a fair bit of myth busting about Islam and its history, and introduces the reader to what life might have been like under the different caliphs. His central thesis is that there has never been one role, attitude, state or sect A concise and interesting history of the Islamic caliphs, including discussions on modern and historical attitudes towards what exactly a caliph is. Kennedy covers a broad swath of history but sticks pretty close to the central caliphal thread. Along the way, Kennedy does a fair bit of myth busting about Islam and its history, and introduces the reader to what life might have been like under the different caliphs. His central thesis is that there has never been one role, attitude, state or sect associated with the caliphs. He shows that this stems from their claim to be God's representative and/or the Prophet's successor on Earth, but human flaws and ambitions get in the way. The book spends most of its time on the early (pre 900) caliphs, and the latter half of the book (covering the remaining millennium) feels somewhat rushed despite the wealth of discussions the Ottomans and others he hints at, often skipping over the descriptions the caliphs and life under them that characterize the first half of the book. The book probably intended for academic historians, but it's interesting for lay readers as well.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brook

    This is a comprehensive history of the idea of the caliphate, and by extension the differences between Sunni and Shi'a schools of thought. "Comprehensive" is the key word here. Mr. Kennedy, who has been teaching the history of the Arab and Muslim worlds since the 70s, knows his stuff. This book came to me by way of a practicing Muslim who is also a student of Muslim history as a "primer" on the idea of the caliph and caliphate. The book carries you through to present day and the modern idea of a This is a comprehensive history of the idea of the caliphate, and by extension the differences between Sunni and Shi'a schools of thought. "Comprehensive" is the key word here. Mr. Kennedy, who has been teaching the history of the Arab and Muslim worlds since the 70s, knows his stuff. This book came to me by way of a practicing Muslim who is also a student of Muslim history as a "primer" on the idea of the caliph and caliphate. The book carries you through to present day and the modern idea of a "caliphate" as espoused by Daesh. The comprehensiveness of the book means that it drags a bit for the first half, but picks up (for this American reader) as we enter the "modern" world and areas of study with which I am more familiar (the Ottomans, etc). For those looking to learn about a history of Islam in general, I still recommend Tamim Ansary's Destiny Disrupted. For a study of the idea of a caliphate itself (and some good lessons on the "beginning" of Islam), this book is in order. Just be aware that it is long and dense.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ernest Spoon

    I think the essential weakness with Islam is its seamless blending of secular and religious jurisprudence. Hugh Kennedy's enlighted and enlightening historical overview of the traditional Muslim caliphate does nothing to dispel that image. Of course the West also when through a time in its history were there was little to no separation between church and state, yet there was always a dynamic tension between the pope and secular kings north of the Alps. In the post-Classical period of the Seventh I think the essential weakness with Islam is its seamless blending of secular and religious jurisprudence. Hugh Kennedy's enlighted and enlightening historical overview of the traditional Muslim caliphate does nothing to dispel that image. Of course the West also when through a time in its history were there was little to no separation between church and state, yet there was always a dynamic tension between the pope and secular kings north of the Alps. In the post-Classical period of the Seventh and Eighth Centuries CE when the Arab Empire as at the apogee of its military and cultural power the caliph was both the secular political leader of the Arab empire at its height as well as spiritual leader. Of course over time the political power and influence of the early caliphate waned until it was an office more akin of the Japanese emperor under the shogunate. Yet even after the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 which closed the era of Abbasid caliphs, the idea of the caliphate was kept alive in the far western reaches of the fractured Islamic Empire.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim McCoy

    a look at the caliphate through a historical lens/context rather than the 20th/21st century biased western view. the author does touch on the recent events of the rise of IS and how its easy to see (after reading the previous pages) the difference between IS and the historical idea of the Caliphate. the material can be thick at times (but so can any history book, especially history that I have no previous knowledge about) but it flows well enough that the reader does not get completely lost. The a look at the caliphate through a historical lens/context rather than the 20th/21st century biased western view. the author does touch on the recent events of the rise of IS and how its easy to see (after reading the previous pages) the difference between IS and the historical idea of the Caliphate. the material can be thick at times (but so can any history book, especially history that I have no previous knowledge about) but it flows well enough that the reader does not get completely lost. The culture and 3 authors in search of a Caliph are great interludes that tie everything together.

  14. 5 out of 5

    muhamad sahir

    Assalamualaikum, It is good book to know in details history of Caliphate. Ummah Islam agreed that the only way for implementing Islam in the Quran and Hadith , is through caliphate. The only party that work towards the establishment of caliphate is Hizbut Tahrir and it is stated at the last chapter in the book. No other political party work for it except from Hizbut Tahrir, for ISIS Caliphate it was not as the way of teached by Rasulullah in establishment of Caliphate and until know the caliphat Assalamualaikum, It is good book to know in details history of Caliphate. Ummah Islam agreed that the only way for implementing Islam in the Quran and Hadith , is through caliphate. The only party that work towards the establishment of caliphate is Hizbut Tahrir and it is stated at the last chapter in the book. No other political party work for it except from Hizbut Tahrir, for ISIS Caliphate it was not as the way of teached by Rasulullah in establishment of Caliphate and until know the caliphate still unknown and seem it is genuine caliphate. Thanks.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Justin M.

    A very good read about the history of the Caliphate, who the caliphs were and what that role implied. There are times where the amount of detail can burden the book and slow down an otherwise crisply passed read. However this book is good read for anyone who wants more depth in their non fiction without the burdens of a college textbook. It also makes scant comments about modern society, and if so does so in a historical context. The book is not trying to convince the reader of anything other th A very good read about the history of the Caliphate, who the caliphs were and what that role implied. There are times where the amount of detail can burden the book and slow down an otherwise crisply passed read. However this book is good read for anyone who wants more depth in their non fiction without the burdens of a college textbook. It also makes scant comments about modern society, and if so does so in a historical context. The book is not trying to convince the reader of anything other than the complexity of the titular role.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book traces the history of the Islamic Caliphate, from its beginnings among Mohammad's immediate successors, through the Ummayd and Abbasaid Caliphates, to the Ottoman Empire, to modern efforts of terrorist groups to recreate the Caliphate. The author does a good job of bringing together all this history, and explaining how the Islamic world transitioned from one leader to another. It was a little too detailed and hard to follow in some places, but a good introduction, and also provides goo This book traces the history of the Islamic Caliphate, from its beginnings among Mohammad's immediate successors, through the Ummayd and Abbasaid Caliphates, to the Ottoman Empire, to modern efforts of terrorist groups to recreate the Caliphate. The author does a good job of bringing together all this history, and explaining how the Islamic world transitioned from one leader to another. It was a little too detailed and hard to follow in some places, but a good introduction, and also provides good information to the specialist.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amine

    Very enlightening read, I would recommend this to people who do not have much prior knolwedge in the subject. The book does not get bogged down in unnecessary detail and, for the most part, studies the caliphates at a relatively high level. In addition to him being an expert in Middle-Eastern Islamic history, the author's solid grasp on the Arabic language translates well when discussing nomenclatures of the caliphs, their realms and the Arab Islamic world in general. Very enlightening read, I would recommend this to people who do not have much prior knolwedge in the subject. The book does not get bogged down in unnecessary detail and, for the most part, studies the caliphates at a relatively high level. In addition to him being an expert in Middle-Eastern Islamic history, the author's solid grasp on the Arabic language translates well when discussing nomenclatures of the caliphs, their realms and the Arab Islamic world in general.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jaime Preusche

    Excellent! A must read. Highly recommended!! Hugh Kennedy does it again. This book is a must read for anyone who actually wishes to understand the history of the Caliphate, as an institution, as a concept, as an idea that stirs passions some 1500 years after the foundation of Islam. This book is really good at explaining the evolution of the idea and its application through history. And it does so in a way that is amenable and easy to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Arshad Mahmood

    A good read A very good summary of the entire centuries long history of the Caliphate. The book details more of the bloodshed, disputes of thrones in the all Caliphates, with somehow little details of some good deeds in the Caliphates. It is indeed a good read for most Muslims, like myself, also who have read the other side of the Caliphate history for most part of their life! :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel Stein

    Excellent introduction to am idea and a tradition This is a short historical overview, partly of the Caliphates (Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid etc), but more importantly an introduction to the idea of Caliphate, what it means, how a Caliph is named, and so on. Fascinating in itself and invaluable in its topicality.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Full of facts, though rather dull. The idea seems to come down to whatever you can get away with. For ever caliph who was refined and a patron of scholars there was one or more who was a drunken ignorant boor and a screw-up. This book was obviously written in response to the proclamation of the Caliphate by the Islamic State.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ketigmolwa

    Hilafetin tarihi sürecini meraklısı edenler için müthiş bir kaynak. Ayrıntılı ve herkesin anlayacağı basit bir dilde; İslam dünyasının kargaşası, durumu ve selameti çok iyi anlatılmış. Oryantalist bir yazardan beklemediğim kalite.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gohar Khokhar

    Recommended for those interested in history and in particular Muslim kingdoms and empires in the last 1300 years.It gives brief detail of different Muslim families / clans who ruled territories in Asia, Africa and Europe.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mictter

    Siempre se aprenden cosas leyendo libros de historia, en mi caso ha cubierto un poco mi enorme ignorancia sobre la historia del Islam. Sin embargo, no lo he disfrutado mucho: se me ha hecho muy pesado.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Trey

    Skimmed. Less of a "history of an idea" and more of a popular-level survey of Islamic history. I wanted the former, which was why the title intrigued me. Skimmed. Less of a "history of an idea" and more of a popular-level survey of Islamic history. I wanted the former, which was why the title intrigued me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anjar Priandoyo

    Everything already happen in the past, the same patttern. This book explain that the complexity of islamic world nowadays has no differrnce with pre, early or golden age

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    Esteemed historian provides detailed synopsis of what the caliphate concept means. Book requires patience; lots of names and detail. Would have preferred a more holistic approach and bit less on facts and names. Important book given the times we live in.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nisa Sommers

    Great understanding of the meaning of caliph and how ISIS has abused its meaning and twisted its history for destruction, pain, and power. A must read for anyone who truly wants to understand the history of the Caliphate and its place in the history of the world.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    What it says: a history of the caliphate(s)--not the history of the concept, though. A history of the various caliphates, with an eye to how they understood the concept. As such, very good.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    More a history of the various caliphates, than an approach to the idea of the Caliphate. Reasonably brief summary, if that's what you are looking for. More a history of the various caliphates, than an approach to the idea of the Caliphate. Reasonably brief summary, if that's what you are looking for.

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