God's Rule - Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231132909
ISBN-10: 0231132905
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Editorial Reviews


This rich and wide-ranging book... is stimulating and provocative... [Crone's] lucid style aims to make a complex, ostensibly alien, tradition intelligible to the general reader as well as to the Islamic specialist.

(Times Literary Supplement)

The book is a masterpiece on the history of the tension existing between religion and politics.

(Peter von Sivers Middle East Journal 1900-01-00)

The author, a distinguished Islamic scholar, cuts through a welter of misconceptions.

(Robert Lebling Saudi Aramco World 1900-01-00)

Patricia Crone gracefully covers the first six centuries of Islamic political thought.

(Zouhair Ghazzal Historian)

Students today... will benefit greatly from this welcome study of early Islamic political thought.

(Ronald J. Stansbury Christian Scolar's Review 1900-01-00)


The book combines erudition with analytical brilliance. The author knows how to make sense of things, highlight them, and put them in perspective. Readers should come away with a satisfying depth of understanding of the full range of medieval Islamic political thought.

(Michael Cook, Princeton University)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (March 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231132905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231132909
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By SeanG on July 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a great treatment of Islamic political thought from the founding of Islam to the end of the medieval period. It is written with the standards of professional scholarship, with extensive documentation and references, and some interesting nuggets and arguments in the notes. However, I doubt this would limit the interest for a general audience, as the markings of scholarship are pretty unobtrusive.

Of course, one of the main reasons a general readership would care is to get some context and underpinnings for the political relationships that Westerners are becoming more and more interested in. _God's Rule_ does serve that purpose well. It also shows the dizzying variation in the political thought of various branches and sects of Islam. For theories of the obligations of the state; the proper legitimation of rulers; the relationship between state, society, and religion; the role of "civil disobedience" (to use an anachronistic term); the state and warfare; etc., Crone shows that Islam is incredibly mutable. That in itself is a valuable insight, as we think today about the possibilities for institutional change from autocracy in the Islamic world and the political arrangements that do exist.

Of course, the book is not written with an eye to current events, and it is also excellent as a treatment of the history of political thought in its own right. The time period covered includes an era in which an Islamic empire was the ascendant political unit in the world. More generally this is a large and politically important region of the world at the time. For these reasons its political thought compels our interest.

One minor complaint: I wish Crone had given more emphasis to the size of the various Islamic sects she surveys.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on January 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult nowadays to get an objective, nuanced opinion on Islam, neither flattering nor biased against it. If I were to recommend a way to try and achieve that, I would suggest to read several good books on the matter, including this among them, which I read several months ago and found it very informative. However, I almost get lost from time to time with the name of so many different "groups" o "sensibilities" within early Islam. It also clarified to me why deciding who the right calipha was implied not only a political choice but also a religious one. Besides, I think that its review of the concept of jihad was balanced.

Other books that I would recommend to read would be the following: A) ASSESSMENTS OF ISLAM: 1) The best, impartial, wise: "Islam. History, present, future" by Hans Küng (written in German, already available in Spanish, English translation coming in 2007); 2) Moderate Islam at its best: "The Great Theft : Wrestling Islam from the Extremists" by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl; 3) Harsh but well argued: "Muslims in the West: Redefining the Separation of Church & State" by Sami Awad Aldeeb Abu-Sahliehand; and 4) Autobiography of a courageous woman: "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is a controversial thinker with a very interesting life. B) HISTORY: 5) General: "The Venture of Islam", by Marshall G. S. Hodgson (nowadays a classic included in any bibliography on Islam); 6) Turks: "The Turks in World History" by Carter Vaughn Findley; and 7) Jihad: "Understanding Jihad" by David Cook (it also seems interesting although I have not read it yet: "Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice" by Michael Bonner).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Lebling on March 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Middle Eastern governments are getting plenty of scrutiny in the West these days. Think tanks, journalists and other analysts are devoting much time and attention to forecasting the future shape of political institutions throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds.

But how can we understand where these institutions are going if we don't know how they developed? For the average Westerner, the history and theory of Islamic government remain shrouded in polemic, propaganda and cultural mythology.

The author, a distinguished Islamic scholar known for straight talk and surprising insights, cuts through the welter of misconceptions and describes the birth and evolution of government in the Islamic Middle East. Writing unpretentiously, making connections to modern-day life, Crone explores how rival versions of the Islamic community or umma developed over time, and how the nature and role of the caliphate changed through history.

She explains the influence of Persian and Greek political thought on Islamic government and on the great Islamic thinkers, like al-Farabi and Ibn Rushd. She shares perceptive insights on the role of religion in government.

While the Christian concept separates religion and state (i.e., God and Caesar), in the Muslim tradition "the umma was a congregation and a state rolled into one." Crone recognizes the difficulties modern Muslims face in dealing with the secularization issue - a problem she says will remain contentious for a long time to come.

[A version of this review appeared in Saudi Aramco World, Mar/Apr 2005.]
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