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Violence in Islamic Thought from the Qurʾan to the Mongols

Edited by Robert Gleave, István Kristó-Nagy

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Examines how violence was described and evaluated in the foundational texts of Islam

How was violence justified in early Islam? What role did violent actions play in the formation and maintenance of the Muslim political order? How did Muslim thinkers view the origins and acceptability of violence? These questions are addressed by an international range of eminent authors through both general accounts of types of violence and detailed case studies of violent acts drawn from the early Islamic sources. Violence is understood widely, to include jihad, state repressions and rebellions, and also more personally directed violence against victims (women, animals, children, slaves) and criminals. By understanding the early development of Muslim thinking around violence, our comprehension of subsequent trends in Islamic thought, during the medieval period and up to the modern day, become clearer.

Key Features

  • Examines the portrayal of violence in a variety of different intellectual contexts
  • Takes a broad understanding of violence – from warfare between Muslims (and between Muslims and others) to individual acts of violence
  • Enables a better informed debate about the nature of violence in early Islam
  • Includes contributions from leading international experts including Michael Cooperson, Maribel Fierro, Geert Jan van Gelder, Christopher Melchert, John Nawas, Andrew Rippin and Dominique Urvoy


  • Robert Gleave, University of Exeter
  • Dominique Urvoy, L'Université de Toulouse II, le Mirail
  • Andrew Rippin, University of Victoria, Canada
  • Christopher Melchert, University of Oxford
  • Sarah Bowen Savant, Agha Khan University, London
  • István T. Kristó-Nagy, University of Exeter
  • Andrew Marsham, University of Edinburgh
  • John A. Nawas, Catholic University Leuven
  • Miklós Sárközy, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London. Károli Gáspár University of the Hungarian Reformed Church, Budapest
  • Maribel Fierro, CCHS-CSIC, Madrid
  • Geert Jan van Gelder, University of Oxford
  • Michael Cooperson, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Zoltán Szombathy, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
  • Sarra Tlili, University of Florida
  • Contents

    1. Violence, Our Inherent Heritage: Introduction, Istvan T. Kristo-Nagy and Robert Gleave

    Section I. Jihaad and Conquest: Attitudes to Violence against the External Enemies of the Muslim Community

    2. The Question of Divine Help in the Jihad, Dominique Urvoy
    3. Reading the Qur’an on jihad: two early exegetical texts, Andrew Rippin
    4. Ibn al-Mubarak’s Kitab al-Jihad and early renunciant literature, Christopher Melchert
    5. Shaping Memory of the Conquests: The Case of Tustar, Sarah Bowen Savant

    Section II. The Challenged Establishment: Attitudes to Violence against the State and in its Defence within the Muslim Community

    6. Who Instigated Violence: A Rebelling Devil or a Vengeful God?, Istvan T. Kristo-Nagy
    7. Attitudes to the use of fire in executions in late antiquity and early Islam: the burning of heretics and rebels in late Umayyad Iraq, Andrew Marsham
    8. 'Abbasid State Violence and the Execution of Ibn 'A'isha, John A. Nawas
    9. The Sultan and the Defiant Prince in Hunting Competition: Questions of legitimacy in hunting episodes of Ṭabaristan, Miklos Sarkozy

    Section III. Lust and Flesh: Attitudes to Violence against the Defenceless, Intra-Communitarian Violence by Non-State Actors

    10. Violence against Women in Andalusi Historical Sources (third/ninth-seventh/thirteenth centuries), Maribel Fierro
    11. Sexual Violence in Verse: The Case of Ji'thin, al-Farazdaq’s sister, Geert Jan van Gelder
    12. Bandits, Michael Cooperson
    13. Eating People Is Wrong: Some Eyewitness Accounts of Cannibalism in Arabic Sources, Zoltan Szombathy
    14. Animals Would Follow Shafi'ism: Legitimate and illegitimate violence to animals in Medieval Islamic Thought, Sarra Tlili


    About the Author

    Robert Gleave was Director of the Legitimate and Illegitimate Violence Project 2010-2013, and is Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter. He specializes in Islamic legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh) and Shīʿī legal thought. His most recent publications include Islam and Literalism: Literal Meaning and Interpretation in Islamic Legal Theory (EUP, 2012)

    István Kristó-Nagy is a Lecturer in Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. He is the author of La pensée d’Ibn al-Muqaffaʽ (2013).


    'The book provides a sense of the highly complex and fluid role that violence played in Islamic thought over the course of several centuries, a target that the book undoubtedly strikes.'
    - Michael Hope, Yonsei University, Situations

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