Little is known about Arabia in the sixth century, yet from this distant time and place emerged a faith and an empire that stretched from the Iberian peninsula to India. Today, Muslims account for nearly a quarter of the global population. A renowned classicist, G. W. Bowersock seeks to illuminate this obscure and dynamic period in the history of Islam—exploring why arid Arabia proved to be such fertile ground for Muhammad’s prophetic message, and why that message spread so quickly to the wider world. The Crucible of Islam offers a compelling explanation of how one of the world’s great religions took shape.
“A remarkable work of scholarship.”
—Wall Street Journal
“A little book of explosive originality and penetrating judgment… The joy of reading this account of the background and emergence of early Islam is the knowledge that Bowersock has built it from solid stones… A masterpiece of the historian’s craft.”
—Peter Brown, New York Review of Books
The Crucible of Islam is a remarkable work of scholarship.
Erudite and lucid…Bowersock’s fluency with specialist literature and his ability to transform scattered research into a coherent narrative are admirable.
To write about the Arabian background of the Prophet Muhammad, about the origin of Islam in Mecca and Medina, and about the first conquests that led to the formation of the Arab empire (roughly between 560 and 690 AD) is to attempt to describe the first moments of a supernova—the flash of a stupendous detonation that marks the death of a massive star and the release of enormous amounts of energy. G.W. Bowersock has met this challenge in a little book of explosive originality and penetrating judgment…With The Crucible of Islam we reach the very center of this roiling world. We look into the depths of the crucible itself, to seize, in a true historical perspective, the ‘molten ingredients’ that came to form Islam. His book is an exercise in the art of historical truth. Bowersock is a classical scholar. He derives his skills from a tradition that reaches back to the Renaissance, to Erasmus and to Lorenzo Valla, whose demolition of the legendary Donation of Constantine he has himself translated with gusto. His book derives its strength from the method advocated by the great classical scholar Richard Bentley (1662–1742): ratio et res ipsa—reason confronting the thing itself…Part of the joy of reading this account of the background and emergence of early Islam is the knowledge that Bowersock has built it from solid stones, the weight of every one of which he has tested with his own critical mind. Secure that we are in the hands of a master, let us think about the implications of the substantial gains to scholarship that Bowersock has brought us in this compressed masterpiece…We must be grateful to Bowersock for giving us, at this time, a masterpiece of the historian’s craft.
An impressive undertaking…A tour de force of late antiquity, deftly interrogating the interconnections and relations between major and minor Middle Eastern powers to ‘provide a glimpse into the chaotic environment that made Islam possible.’
[An] inspiring and broad-sighted approach that Bowersock brings with this book to the lively field of Islamic origins.
This work is highly recommended for those interested in the religious and political attitudes that gave rise to Islam.
This is an invaluable examination of the origins of a great religion.
Bowersock paints a concise portrait of Islam’s early formation and consolidation, focusing on the political, social, economic, and religious conditions of 6th- and 7th-century Arabia…Bowersock clearly and succinctly describes the stage upon which Islam emerged, and also dispels certain rumors, myths, and half-histories that have come to dominate popular notions of the period (and even persist in scholarship)…Given the historical and current relationships and tensions among various groups of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, this brief and easily digestible introduction will interest and please a wide variety of readers.
- 240 pages
- 4-3/8 x 7-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.