Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

The new book by Tom Holland on the origins and rise of Islam and the collapse of the Roman and Persian empires, In the Shadow of the Sword, has been gathering mixed reviews in the general press. Barnaby Rogerson in the Independent dismissed a few of Holland’s ideas on the birth and nature of Islam as fanciful or speculative, but saw these as only “slight flaws” in an otherwise compelling narrative of the period; Michael Scott in the Telegraph produced a masterpiece of evasion, describing it as a handsome volume tackling an important question from a novel perspective with a fluid style that was “also bound to encounter the full spectrum of critical reaction”; Ziauddin Sardar in the New Statesman objected, more in sorrow than anger, to Holland’s dismissal of the entire Muslim scholarly tradition on the development of Islam and the Qur’an and his reliance instead on the controversial theories of Patricia Crone and her associates. Finally, there was the magisterial academic demolition job offered by Glen Bowersock in the Guardian: “Holland came to his work on Islam unencumbered by any prior acquaintance with its fundamental texts or the scholarly literature… Holland seems to have confined himself largely to interpreters, learned or otherwise, writing in English, but his efforts to inform himself, arduous as they may have been, were manifestly insufficient… Holland’s cavalier treatment of his sources, ignorance of current research and lack of linguistic and historical acumen serve to undermine his provocative narrative.” Holland has now offered a response to the last of these. (more…)

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