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Caliphate: The History of an Idea by Hugh Kennedy

By Hugh Kennedy

In Caliphate, Islamic historian Hugh Kennedy dissects the assumption of the caliphate and its historical past, and explores the way it grew to become used and abused this present day. opposite to well known trust, there isn't any one enduring definition of a caliph; particularly, the assumption of the caliph has been the topic of continuing debate and transformation over the years. Kennedy bargains a grand heritage of the caliphate because the starting of Islam to its sleek incarnations. Originating within the tumultuous years following the loss of life of the Mohammad in 632, the caliphate, a politico-religious procedure, flourished within the nice days of the Umayyads of Damascus and the Abbasids of Baghdad. From the seventh-century Orthodox caliphs to the nineteenth-century Ottomans, Kennedy explores the tolerant rule of Umar, recounts the disturbing homicide of the caliph Uthman, dubbed a tyrant through many, and revels within the flourishing arts of the golden eras of Abbasid Baghdad and Moorish Andalucía. Kennedy additionally examines the fashionable destiny of the caliphate, unraveling the British political schemes to spur dissent opposed to the Ottomans and the ominous efforts of Islamists, together with ISIS, to reinvent the historical past of the caliphate for his or her personal malevolent political ends.

In exploring and explaining the good number of caliphs who've governed through the a while, Kennedy demanding situations the very slim perspectives of the caliphate propagated through extremist teams this day. An authoritative new account of the dynasties of Arab leaders during the Islamic Golden Age, Caliphate lines the history—and misappropriations—of one of many world's so much effective political ideas.

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Sample text

When he left Medina on a military expedition or for any other reason, he would appoint a deputy (khalīfa) for the duration of his absence. We know the names of at least some of these and, curiously, most of them were obscure men who played no part in the later history of the institution and their powers were very limited. Only Uthmān, the third caliph, was among their number, and neither Abū Bakr nor Umar, the first two caliphs, were appointed. 1 The beginnings of the office can be traced back to the swift-moving events which followed the Prophet’s death in 632.

There are those who have looked to the caliph as God’s representative on earth with semi-divine powers; others who have seen his role as protecting the Muslim community from its enemies by collecting taxes and raising armies. And we should not forget those who remember with pride the open, broad-minded and inclusive societies presided over by the great Abbasid and Fatimid caliphs and the superb intellectual and artistic achievements they encouraged. The history of the caliphate, and Islamic history more generally, must not be the possession of one interpretation or one narrow view, rather we should all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, rejoice in the richness and variety of the experience of caliphate through the ages.

By reading these descriptions we can perhaps recover something of the delight and joie de vivre which attended the performance of the caliphate, but which is often lost in dry narrative history. I have made use of modern historical works, starting with that of my illustrious predecessor as Professor of Arabic at SOAS, Sir Thomas Arnold, whose book The Caliphate (1924) was the first volume in English devoted to the subject. Fellow academics will recognize many of my debts. The main ones I have acknowledged in the Notes and Further Reading, and my apologies go to any I have inadvertently missed.

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