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Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia Hardcover – May 15, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674049640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674049642
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Based on intimate knowledge of the militants, Lacroix's pioneering analysis of the history and politics of Saudi Islamists is, and will remain, a classic. (Gilles Kepel, author of Jihad and Beyond Terror and Martyrdom)

Awakening Islam is the benchmark against which books on the vital intersection between religion and politics in Saudi Arabia will now be measured. It sheds light not only on Saudi Arabia, but on the fluid undercurrents of religious politics in many neighboring countries. (Dale F. Eickelman, Dartmouth College)

An extraordinary contribution that reshapes our understanding of Saudi Arabia and of Islamic politics in the Middle East. Lacroix takes us deep inside the evolution of the Sahwa and its competitors in Saudi Arabia, with unprecedented access to participants and a close reading of a vast array of rare sources. (Marc Lynch, Director, Institute for Middle East Studies, George Washington University)

The Sahwa movement played a crucial role in shaping politically-oriented religious discourse in Saudi Arabia and beyond. Yet the movement is little understood and its ideas much misinterpreted. Lacroix's dispassionate, far-reaching and well-informed analysis provides an essential resource for the understanding of this critical phenomenon. (Tim Niblock, University of Exeter)

Al-Sahwa Al-Islamiyya or "Islamic Awakening" was one of the most powerful social movements in the history of Saudi Arabia. It is also one of the least documented--until now. Stéphane Lacroix tells the story of this movement in his splendid new book...Lacroix's study is timely and original. Serious students of Saudi Arabia need to read this important book. They will be enlightened by it and moved to seek more knowledge about the Kingdom. (Joseph Richard Preville Saudi Gazette 2011-03-20)

A timely work, especially when read against the backdrop of antigovernment demonstrations taking place across the Middle East and North Africa today. (Christopher McConnell Booklist 2011-04-15)

Awakening Islam is a product of serious scholarly interpretive and linguistic skills. (Madawi Al-Rasheed Times Higher Education 2011-04-21)

Looking at the Muslim misfits of the past half-century and how many received refuge in Saudi Arabia, Parisian professor Stéphane Lacroix argues that the resulting movement has yielded two opposing camps--the Islamo-liberals and the neo-jihadis, both headquartered out of that Islamic heartland. (Asma Gull Hasan Publishers Weekly 2011-04-27)

Little attention is paid to Saudi Arabia's internal Islamist movements. During the decades before the 1990s, the kingdom actively fostered the Sahwa, or "Islamic awakening," a movement led by local activists that was as political as it was religious. In his meticulously researched book, Stéphane Lacroix provides an exhaustive history of the Sahwa, detailing the movement's original constituents--Muslim émigrés fleeing persecution from other states in the region--and its importance to the Saudi social and political spheres. For decades, Saudi leaders supported the group's activities, even though their ideas were not entirely in line with state-sanctioned Wahhabism. This ended when Saddam Hussein invaded the country in 1990. The Saudis' reliance on American military assistance expedited the Sahwa's radicalization and ultimately led to its downfall. Among the splinters that remained were a group of neo-Jihadis who turned against the kingdom's rulers and stood behind Osama bin Laden's philosophy of holy war. Lacroix's authoritative history sheds light on how this homegrown movement became influential throughout the region and created some blowback of its own. (Atossa Abrahamian The Daily 2011-05-01)

Awakening Islam is bound to be the definitive account of how the Muslim Brotherhood took root in the kingdom and reshaped its religious landscape. (David Commins Christian Century 2012-01-25)

Awakening Islam is an astonishingly rich, detailed analysis of the fascinating world of Saudi Islamism. The young French scholar Stephane LaCroix spent significant time in Saudi Arabia, and got deep inside the competing networks that have shaped Saudi Arabia's distinctive Islamist milieu. He unpacks the role of Muslim Brothers and Salafis and their sometimes-uneasy relationship with the state. He carefully traces the evolution of the Sahwa (Awakening) networks, and how they both carried political dissent and restructured the pathways of political mobilization. And while he certainly pays attention to militant jihadism and the worldview which helped spawn al-Qaeda, that does not overwhelm his broader analytical mission. This book is simply an extraordinary accomplishment, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the politics of Islam. (Marc Lynch Foreign Policy 2011-12-26)

About the Author

Stéphane Lacroix is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Sciences Po, Paris.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kingfire on January 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Awakening Islam is perhaps the best book written about the Islamic revival of Saudi Arabia in the middle of the 20th century. I read the Arabic translation of this work. The author, Stephane, spent 6 years of his life researching this historical black hole. The book is extremely detailed, with extended biographies of many people from different social spaces, lots of dates, names, locations, and political and social theories. Stephane used a variety of sources, including, books, magazines, letters, official statements and statistics. However, due to the academic dishonesty of many pens during that time, and the rarity of the material, he heavily relied on personal interviews, which some might validly argue that it makes this book less reliable.

Although enjoyable, this is a not an easy read, especially if you are not familiar with Arabic names. Lots of the names mentioned in the book might confuse those who don't speak Arabic, and the historical facts about that time will shock many. The book is also not written in chronological order. It jumps back of forth in time because it is driven by the social groups and subgroups of that period rather than the historical narrative of the country. However, it only does that in a limited sense so that it never jumps too far ahead and leave the reader wondering what happened between the two points in time.

Like many other academic books, this could have used better editing: the author tend to go into tangent topics in the middle of paragraphs. This breaks the flow of the book. This happens a lot when a new name is introduced. The author crams in a biography of that mentioned writer or clergy in the middle of a paragraph that describes a related idea. However, this simply might only be a problem of the translation I read.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin Madrid on August 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The content is good, but the book was heavily marked up. It was not as listed "very good."
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. L. A. Spong on September 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an extremely detailed analysis of Islamic Social Development, in Saudi Arabia, from 1950 until 1980.
It illustrates the weakness of leaders using moral concepts for political purposes.
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