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Medieval Islamic Political Thought

Patricia Crone

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This book presents 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, 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.

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).


'Patrica Crone's wide-ranging study is a substantial achievement, as it succeeds in clarifying the political thought of six centuries ... Written in a lively and unpretentious style, this is an excellent introduction to the subject which deserves to be widely read outside academic circles.
- Abeer Al-Abbasi, University of Leeds, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
A volume that is bound both to set a standard and to cause some controversy… Crone's contribution ought to achieve iconic status as a volume of broad scope and, based on her outstanding scholarly reputation will set a standard for all such subsequent works.
- Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations
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.
- Times Literary Supplement
The book combines erudition with analytical brilliance. The author knows how to make sense of things, highlight them, and put them in perspective. Readers should come away with a satisfying depth of understanding of the full range of medieval Islamic political thought.
- Professor Michael Cook, Princeton University

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