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Medieval Islamic Political Thought

Patricia Crone

Hardback (Printed to Order)

WINNER of the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize 2004

This book aims to present general readers and specialists alike with a broad survey of Islamic political thought in the six centuries from the rise of Islam to the Mongol invasions. Based on a wide variety of sources, some of a type not previously considered in works on political thought, it seeks to bring out the enormous scope and high level of historical (and, in some cases, contemporary) interest of medieval Muslim thinking on this subject.

The author aims to make Islamic political thought easier for modern readers to understand by relating it to the contexts in which it was formulated, analysing it in terms familiar to the reader, and, where possible, comparing it with medieval European and modern thought.

Guiding the reader through this complex history on a tour of one of the great civilizations of the pre-modern world, the book brings out the fascinating nature of medieval Islamic political thought, both in its own right and as the background to political thinking in the Muslim world today.

Some basic familiarity with Islamic history and culture would be an advantage, but no specialist knowledge is presupposed.

Key Features:

  • Written by one of the most renowned scholars in the field
  • All concepts have been glossed and all persons, events and historical developments have been identified or summarised, both on first encounter and in the index (where the number of the page containing the gloss will be emboldened)
  • Specialists are addressed in the footnotes; non-specialists are free to skip these and read an uncluttered text.


Part 1: The Beginnings
1. The Origins of Government
2. The First Civil War and Sect Formation
3. The Umayyads
Part 2: The Waning of the Tribal Tradition, c.700-900
4. General
5. The Kharijites
6. The Mu'tazilites
7. The Shi'ites of the Umayyad Period
8. The 'Abbasids and Shi'ism
9. The Zaydis
10. The Imamis
11. The Hadith Party
Part 3: Coping with a Fragmented World
12. General
13. The Persian Tradition and Advice Literature
14. The Greek Tradition and 'Political Science'
15. The Ismailis
16. The Sunnis
Part 4: Government and Society
17. The Nature of Government
18. The Functions of Government
19. Visions of Freedom
20. The Social Order
21. Muslims and Non-Muslims
(a) Infidels
(b) Muslisms as Infidels
22. Epilogue: Religion, Government and Society Revisited
Bibliography, Abbreviations and Conventions
Index and Glossary.

About the Author

Patricia Crone was Mellon Professor of Islamic History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She wrote several books including Pre-industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-modern World (2003), Roman, Provincial and Islamic Law (1987), Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (1987) and Slaves on Horses: the Evolution of Islamic Polity (1980).


Patricia Crone gracefully covers the first six centuries of Islamic political thought.
- Zouhair Ghazzal
Students today... will benefit greatly from this welcome study of early Islamic political thought.
- Ronald J. Stansbury
The author, a distinguished Islamic scholar, cuts through a welter of misconceptions.
- Robert Lebling
The book is a masterpiece on the history of the tension existing between religion and politics.
- Peter von Sivers
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.

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