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Mecca: The Sacred City Hardcover – October 21, 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One of the best-known Muslim public intellectuals in the world today . . . A pioneering writer on Islam.” ―The Guardian on Muhammad: All That Matters

“Sardar is funny, self-deprecating and humble . . . One of the wittiest intellectual figures commenting on Islam.” ―Islamic Voice on Muhammad: All That Matters

“Britain's own Muslim polymath.” ―The Independent

About the Author

Ziauddin Sardar was born in Pakistan and grew up in Hackney, near London. A writer, broadcaster, and cultural critic, he is one of the world's foremost Muslim intellectuals and author of more than forty-five books on Islam, science, and contemporary culture. He has been listed by Prospect magazine as one of Britain's top one hundred intellectuals. Currently he is visiting professor of postcolonial studies at City University; editor of Futures, a monthly journal on policy, planning, and futures studies; a columnist for the New Statesman; and a commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. He lives in London.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (October 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620402661
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620402665
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Ziauddin Sardar grew up in Pakistan, and the one bit of decoration in his home was a calendar with a gaudy picture of the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, with the cuboid Kaaba within it. It sounds sort of like the first depiction I ever saw of the same scene, which happened to be painted on black velvet and was for sale in a thrift store. I had no idea what that cube was, but Sardar grew up knowing from the picture that “in some special sense the divine power is focused in this one place.” He has been intimately involved in Mecca, not just on his own pilgrimages but in administration, and he is dismayed by the current state of the city. Before understanding why, it is important to understand what has gone before, and Sardar, who has written many books on science and on Islam, has now given us _Mecca: The Sacred City_ (Bloomsbury), a full history of the city. This is a rarity; most books available on Mecca are written about the experience of the Hajj or are picture books illustrating the pilgrimage. They are especially scant in comparison to all the histories available on, say, Jerusalem. This is a vivid history, with plenty of dramatic, funny, or grisly anecdotes, about a place most readers are banned from ever going.

The beginning of the city stretches back to the time of legends, with the Kaaba installed by Adam and Abraham. It was a center for polytheism, and people were making pagan pilgrimages to it before Muhammad received his revelations emphasizing but one god. This did not endear him to those in power, who profited from the pilgrimages. The middle portion of Sardar’s book is mostly a long account of conflict between rich and poor, between families, tribes, religions, splinter sects, nations, and empires.
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Format: Kindle Edition
It is hard to laud too much the accomplishment of Mecca: The Sacred City by Ziauddin Sardar.

Part memoir, mostly a well-written, accessible history, Sardar has written a book of great scoped and accessibility. He explores the history of Islam’s most sacred city from its pre-Islamic roots to its contemporary place in Saudi Arabia. In the process, he does not flinch from showing both the sublime and the ugly side of this important city.

Like all “holy” cities, there is a considerable gap between the Mecca of the religious imagination and the actual city. Sardar’s work really shows how large this gap is, and how harmful it is to Islam.

Finally, this book answers the call of many people of “where are the Muslim liberals?” The answer is right here, in Sardar and his book. Read it and enjoy this splendid accomplishment.
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Format: Hardcover
Mecca is such a mysterious city, so the author has done a great service for those of us who will never be able to visit a great service by giving us a look at the long history of this religious center. I dock it a star because at times it gets repetitive - this caliph murdered this other caliph's brother, and he killed him, etc. But perhaps over a few thousand years, that's inevitable. The author has plenty of venom for the Saudis and Wahabis, and how they have changed not only the physical characteristics of the city, but how Islam is worshipped and studied.
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Format: Hardcover
This well-researched, clearly written, and detailed book covers the history of Mecca, its place at the center and periphery of the Islamic world and Islam, and its inhabitants. He writes about the numerous visitors to Islam’s holiest pilgrimage site, including Western non-Muslim explorer-spies and converts.

The author does express some strong personal opinions; e.g., around the Saudi modernization of the city and the holy sites to the detriment of historic buildings, architecture and neighborhoods, not to mention the surrounding of the “Sacred Mosque” by ugly concrete buildings and skyscrapers.

To his credit, Sardar does discuss slavery in Mecca, an Islamic institution that lasted there for more than 13 centuries from the first days of Islam until 1962, when Saudi Arabia banned the practice. (He does not mention that this was done in response to pressure from President John F. Kennedy in exchange for continued security guarantees.) The city had its own slave market. Most slaves came from black Africa: Abyssinia and Nubia.

The author does, however, make two false claims:

(1) He states that the Hajj is “the greatest gathering of humanity anywhere on earth” (xvi), but the Hindu Kumbh Mela can easily exceed Mecca’s three million carrying capacity by a factor of 10 or more.

(2) On page 105, he claims that “the original community founded by Muhammad in Medina had been a multi-religious community comprising Muslims, Jews and Christians and pagans. This kind of heterodoxy helped to maintain Islam’s great cities.
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Format: Hardcover
Mecca was better before Muhammad because all people from many faiths where allowed now only Muslims.
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