On the (book)shelf

Titles available at Books n Beans (Lahore) or through www.vanguardbooks.com

On the (book)shelf

The Ornament of Histories: A History of the Eastern Islamic Lands
C. Edmund Bosworth
I.B. Tauris (2011)

Abu Sa’id ‘Abd al-Hayy Gardizi was an author and historian living in the mid-eleventh century at the height of the Turkish Ghazvanid dynasty. His only known work, “The Ornament of Histories” (“Zayn al-akhbir”), is a hugely ambitious history of the Eastern Islamic lands AD 650-1041, spanning what is now Eastern Iran, Afghanistan and parts of the Central Asian Republics and Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. Gardizi’s text is an extremely rare source of primary information about the rise of Islamic faith, culture and military dominance in these regions, and represents a significant contribution to our understanding of the early Islamic world. This is the first English translation of the original Persian text, and is accompanied by an introduction and commentary which details the historical, geographical and cultural context.

C. Edmund Bosworth is a Fellow of the British Academy and an Honorary Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was until retirement Professor of Arabic Studies at Manchester University and is now a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Exeter University. He was the British Editor of the second edition of the ‘Encyclopaedia of Islam’, and is the author of numerous books and articles on the history, culture and literature of the Arabic, Persian and Turkish lands of the Middle East and Central Asia in the pre-modern period. He was the recipient of the biennial Giorgio Levi Della Vida Award at the University of California, Los Angeles, in May 2010.

From Empire to Orient: Travellers to the Middle East 1830-1926
Geoffrey Nash
I.B. Tauris (2005)

From Empire to Orient offers an alternative perspective on Britain’s late imperial period by looking at the lives and the writings of the men who chose to defy the conventional social and political attitudes of the British ruling classes towards the Near East. Between the Greek revolt in 1830 and the fall of the Caliphate in 1924 a different kind of voice was heard that was both anti-Imperialist and pro-Islamic. Geoffrey Nash places David Urquhart’s passionate belief in the ideal of municipal government in Turkey, W.S. Blunt’s enthusiasm for the Egyptian reformers of the Azhar and Marmaduke Pickthall’s advocacy of the cause of the Young Turks into their political and historical context and into the context of their writings.

Geoffrey Nash is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Sunderland, UK. His books include The Anglo-Arab Encounter (Peter Lang, 2007) and From Empire to Orient (I.B. Tauris, 2005)

Pivot of the Universe: Nasir Al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy
Abbas Amanat
I.B.Tauris (1997)

When he was assassinated in 1896, Nasir al-Din Shah had occupied the Peacock throne for nearly half a century. A colorful, complex figure, he is frequently portrayed as indolent and indulgent. Yet he was in many ways an effective ruler who displayed remarkable resilience in the face of dilemmas and vulnerabilities shared by most monarchs of the Islamic world in the nineteenth century.

The Pivot of the Universe is the first biography of this fascinating monarch. In it Amanat traces Nasir al-Din Shah’s transformation from an insecure crown prince, and later an erratic boy-king, to a ruler with substantial control over his government and foreign policy. He provides a vivid picture of the political culture that determined Nasir al-Din Shah’s behavior and, ultimately, his conception of government: the mode of succession in an urbanizing nomadic dynasty, the complicated relationships of the harem and his family, and the fatherly role of his guardian-ministers.

Based on extensive research into public and private papers, illustrated with drawings and photographs from the period, this book offers a fresh interpretation both of the significance of Nasir al-Din Shah and the way in which the Iranian monarchy, the centerpiece of an ancient political order, withstood and adjusted to the challenges of modern times.

Abbas Amanat is Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850 (1989) and the editor of Crowning Anguish: Memoirs of a Persian Princess from the Harem to Modernity, 1884-1914 (1993).

Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched with Christians Across Europe’s Battlegrounds
Ian Almond
I.B. Tauris (2009)

When, in our turbulent day, we hear of a “clash of civilizations,” it’s easy to imagine an unbridgeable chasm between the Islamic world and Christendom stretching back through time. But such assumptions crumble before the drama that unfolds in this book. Two Faiths, One Banner shows how in Europe, the heart of the West, Muslims and Christians were often comrades-in-arms, repeatedly forming alliances to wage war against their own faiths and peoples.

Here we read of savage battles, deadly sieges, and acts of individual heroism; of Arab troops rallying by the thousands to the banner of a Christian emperor outside the walls of Verona; of Spanish Muslims standing shoulder to shoulder with their Christian Catalan neighbors in opposition to Castilians; of Greeks and Turks forming a steadfast bulwark against Serbs and Bulgarians, their mutual enemy; of tens of thousands of Hungarian Protestants assisting the Ottomans in their implacable and terrifying march on Christian Vienna; and finally of Englishman and Turk falling side by side in the killing fields of the Crimea.

This bold book reveals how the idea of a “Christian Europe” long opposed by a “Muslim non-Europe” grossly misrepresents the facts of a rich, complex, and—above all—shared history. The motivations for these interfaith alliances were dictated by shifting diplomacies, pragmatic self-interest, realpolitik, and even genuine mutual affection, not by jihad or religious war. This insight has profound ramifications for our understanding of global politics and current affairs, as well as of religious history and the future shape of Europe.

Ian Almond is Associate Professor at Georgia State University and author of Sufism and Deconstruction and The New Orientalists.

Degrees of Excellence: A Fatimid Treatise on Leadership in Islam
Dr. Arzina Lalani
I.B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies (2009)

Degrees of Excellence is a bilingual work of decisive importance to the philosophical curriculum of medieval Muslim thought. It introduces the first book-length study of Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Naysaburi, a hitherto unknown scholar of the early fifth/eleventh century, who writes the most elaborate and erudite philosophical justification of the Imamate. He writes in a manner that is both logical and structured yet comparatively less complex and intricate than other such texts of the period. A distinguished scholar from the Fatimid period, al-Naysaburi came from Nishapur, noted particularly for its erudition and use of rationalistic philosophy. Although he has several works to his credit, it is the Kitab Ithbat al-Imama that allows us to capture and understand not only the significance of his own thought, but also the beliefs of his age.

Instead of basing his work exclusively on the Holy Qur’an and the traditions, al-Naysaburi applies intellectual tools to explain and expound his theology by presenting a range of arguments, foremost amongst which is the theory of ‘degrees of excellence’. As such, he argues that God created each genera and species with a unique capacity and distinct advantage not existing in others. While each category has its own differences and disparities, there are at the same time paradigms of perfect examples in each variety. Using examples from the ten Aristotelian categories and other natural metaphors from mineral, plant, tree and animal kingdoms, he reveals in a corresponding manner how the Imam stands at the zenith of humanity.

Arzina R Lalani received her doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Edinburgh. Formerly a recipient of the Institute’s Visiting Research Fellowship (1999-2000) she is currently a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London.