Another interesting old book review I’m bringing up here… 🙂
A very interesting and balanced account of the Arab conquests and the formation of the Islamic civlization as well as its early empires (of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties).
I loved Hoyland’s contextualization of the Arab expansion within the developments of Late Antiquity, his reassessment of the importance of the rise of Islam to it and his approach to the formation of several features of Islamic civilization like the “sharia”, the evolution of the concept of “jihad”, its social structure and the development of Islam as a religion, which are very important both for the historiography of this period and modern debates on Islam (the latter is horribly skewed by far-right propaganda entering into History, especially in America and Europe after 9/11). It has a focus on the sources coming from the conquered peoples and not the Arabic ones, which allows for a greater level of accuracy since the first Arabic written sources started to being written in the late 8th century, already under the Abbasid state and its ideology.
There might be a few imperfections (there was no Georgia in the 7th and 8th centuries, for instance, although I suspect the author used that name for familiarity), while the use of “and” gets sometimes annoying for me, but the scholarship in this book is invaluable and very well thought out, bringing new perspectives into this field.