- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (November 28, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521646960
- ISBN-13: 978-0521646963
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"The Succession of Muhammad is not a work for the faint of heart....it is a compelling reassessment of the Rashidun caliphate that should be required reading for evryone interested in the historiography of early Islam." James E. Lindsay, MESA Bulletin
"For those who have been lamenting the decline or near demise of solid, historical narratives, this is a book to cherish." Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Religious Studies Review
"This erudite, complex, and fascinating book rexamines the struggle over and for the office of caliph. This book performs a valuable service by counter-balancing popular views about the origins and development of Shi`ism." Elton L. Daniel, Middle East Journal
"Madelung brilliantly dissects the myriad, conflicting accounts of Ali's numerous confrontations, as well as the final one...Bound to provoke controversy, this volume has laid down a marker. Critics will be expected to attain a standard of scholarship considerably more incisive than all too much of what has been available to date." Andrew J. Newman, University of Edinburgh
"This is a judicious and honestly critical account of monetous events that reflects the weight of information in a wide array of Arabic texts...The response this book should provoke has possibilities for opening up a discussion of the succession to leardership in general at the endof Late Antiquity." Jrnl of Near Eastern Studies
In a convincing reinterpretation of early Islamic history, Wilferd Madelung examines the conflict which developed after the death of Muhammad for control of the Muslim community. He demonstrates how this conflict, which marked the demise of the first four caliphs, resulted in the lasting schism between Sunnite and Shi'ite Islam. In contrast to recent scholarly trends, the author takes up the Shi'i cause, arguing in defence of the succession of 'Ali. This book will make major scholarly contribution to the debate over succession.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
In the Quran the prophets were descendants of a single bloodline from Adam, Noah, Abraham down through Ismael and Muhammad. As far as the Quran represents the beliefs of the Prophet, Ali would have been seen as a natural successor over Abu Bakr and the other companions. Inconsistent reports by the Prophet's wife Aisha and his cousin Ibn Abbas also raise doubts about who he intended to be his successor. After the Prophet's death Abu Bakr assumed command, disinheriting Ali and the family of Muhammad. By not concentrating religious and political power in one family this is sometimes argued to have been a paradigm shift from earlier dynastic successions.
Madelung continues through the ascensions of the remaining early caliphs, each elected by a council of the companions. The second caliph Umar, who greatly expanded the empire, was felled by Persian dagger in the main mosque of Medina after a ten year reign. The third caliph Uthman was felled at prayer by Egyptian sword in his Medina palace, following a twelve year reign criticized for nepotism. Once finally elected, Ali defended a coup by Aisha only to be felled by rebel sword in the Great Mosque of Kufa, after five years of civil war. The coming Ummayad caliphate in Damascus would revert command of the faithful to a simple dynasty with a hereditary head of state.
This is not an easy book, but it hasn't been superseded in twenty years since its publication. For anyone interested in the political aspects of the first caliphate it is essential. It is not a complete history because it includes nothing about the major conquests that occurred during the period. Instead it unravels the complex internal conflicts of tribes and clans in the medieval mideast. Towards the end of the story the accounts of internecine warfare may become somewhat tiresome.
This book received the 1997 Best Book of the Year from the Islamic Republic of Iran, so it is likely an acceptable Shia view of events. Without much dissent from Sunni critics, it also may not be terribly biased against their views either. For a detailed account of the thirty year struggle following the death of the Prophet this is probably the best english language account available.
Professor Madelung is a meticulous historian. He carefully examines the various and often differing historical reports as he leads step by step to his interpretation He focuses on the primary sources themselves rather than merely repackaging and repeating what other historians - both Western and Muslim - have said . Where he differs from prior interpretations, he sets forth his argument in detail.
Most of the historical records from this time were orally transmitted over an extended period and only written down much later. This raises the possibility of honest error in the chain of transmission as well as the opportunity for manipulation or fabrication. And, as is well known, sometimes several people present at the same event come up quite honestly with different accounts.
Attempting to sort out what is true from what is not is a difficult process. It consists of evaluating the reliability or biases of each of the reporters in the chain of transmission (the isn'd). Then comparing different reports on the same event to discover areas of agreement as well as logical inconsistencies. However, rarely does this process settle the issue beyond doubt. The historian must then draw upon his own resources to decide among conflicting versions.
At its heart, history is a matter of interpretation. While it's usually taken as a given that the "facts" are known, this is often not the case, as shown in this book in several places (e.g. the date of the Battle of al-Naharawan. But once the events are assumed as facts, the historian has to use his own critical judgment to ascribe causes to events and motives to the participants in those events.
As humans, historians bring their beliefs, preferences and aversions to this task both consciously and unconsciously. A lack of objectivity can arise in several ways.
It can arise from being a partisan on one side in an event.
It can arise because a historian's first encounter in his field of study was with partisans of one side or another who framed the debate on a topic in a particular way which later influenced his own approach to the topic. Sometimes this may be a direct transmission of a bias. Sometimes it may be indirect: the historian uncritically absorbs the common belief in that country as the correct version of events.
It can also come from getting too sympathetic to the subject of study - becoming an advocate - "localitis" in US Foreign Service jargon.
As well, bias in writing can come from deeply held worldviews. One would expect quite different analyses of the same events from Marxist and capitalist historians. Often this is not a case of conscious bias, but rather results from the contents of the historian's tool kit.
Just as the historian must understand the potential biases in his sources in order to properly pursue his craft, so too must the critical reader of history understand the background and potential biases of the historian he reads. And understand that complete objectivity is an ideal and not realistic condition.
That shouldn't be troubling to the sophisticated student: there can well be several reasonable different interpretations to the same event. The truth is more likely to be found in balancing several different views - in order to achieve the widest perspective.
According to his biography, Professor Madelung began his Islamic studies at the University of Cairo. I understand but do not know for a fact that his studies there focused on the Fatimid Dynasty, which was founded by Ismai'lis. one of the several branches of Shi'ism Currently, in addition to his faculty position at Oxford, he is a Senior Research Fellow at the Isma'ili institute in London. Professor Madelung has written widely on medieval Islamic communities, including Twelver Shi'ism, Zaydism, and Ismai'lism.
Does this necessarily mean that he is biased? Or that I am accusing him of bias? No. I have no reason to make that judgment.
However, I mention this because there may be a tendency to ascribe complete objectivity to Professor Madelung because he is an "outsider" and thus presumed not to be partial to one side or another. Especially by those in whose favor he may seem to have decided. A note of caution is therefore warranted.
Like any historical work, we should read this book with a very critical eye, paying particular attention to places where the author draws conclusions on critical issues to see whether there is a reasonable alternative conclusion that might have been drawn. If so, then we should carefully examine his argument to see if it rings true for us. We should also ask if the author has asked all the relevant questions. Like political polling sometimes the way the question is posed affects the answer received.
This book is a truly a very important work because of the light it sheds on a very critical period for the Muslim community, one which still has relevance today. It also discloses that the fissures in the community on this issue existed from the very beginning. It is also a foundation work which will provide a platform for other scholars to build upon and to explore this and related questions. Finally, it is also significant because it is a master work which gives an insight into the historical method and how the historian should undertake his craft.
Is it the final word on this topic? Probably not. While it is a powerful interpretation well argued and well documented, it is an interpretation, not revelation. As such, it is subject to challenge and re-interpretation. Another approach might come up with a different conclusion. For example, assuming the precedence of the direct descendants of the Prophet (SAAWS) to the succession as a given, could there be justified reasons other than tribal politics why this right might be deferred? The special needs of the community at the moment? Or the relative state of the individuals involved: maturity, experience, judgment, etc? A regency does not deny the principle of succession. In this vein, what were the events in the Yemen which gave rise to Ghad'r Khumm? Why did the Prophet (SAAWS) not designate a successor? Was he unaware of the fissures in the community? Professor Madelung tantalizing hints at this line of inquiry on page 18.
Because of the detailed nature of this work, it is not an easy read. There is an abundance - at some times what appears to be an over abundance of detail, though this will be especially useful for scholars.
There are two additional points I found interesting.
First, in evaluating the right of the Imam Ali (AS/KAW) to the succession, Professor Madelung argues chiefly from the Qur'anic precedence in inheritance accorded to members of a prophet's family and not from the assertion of any special hereditary spiritual knowledge or quality in (the) ahl al bayt.
Second, this is profoundly disturbing read. Rather than disputes over fundamental principles, much of the conflict is ascribed to tribal and clan politics as well as assorted petty and not so petty grievances. None of the protagonists - most of whom are distinguished names in the history of the faith - emerges unscathed from having serious shortcomings exposed. All this is immensely sad and disappointing. That Islam has withstood these frailties in its community is perhaps a testimony to its strength and origin. And perhaps a call to its adherents to heed the admonition in Sura 3:103.