The Crucible of Islam (Paperback)
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This is not a book for beginners, but if you already know something about the life of Muhammad and the emergence of Islam, the freshness of Bowersock's interpretations--and the exceptionally broad scope of his research--will be a revelation. He looks at what was happening in the Arabian peninsula, the Byzantine empire, the Sassanian Persian empire--even in Ethiopia--in the decades just before Muhammad's birth, during his life, and just after his death. By establishing a firmer context for the seventh-century CE rise of Islam, he is able to make persuasive sense out of the ocean of often conflicting data that confronts historians who devote themselves to this controversial subject.
Has Bowersock succeeded in telling us exactly what happened? No, no one can do that. That's not what writing history is about. But I think this book likely brings us a little closer to the truth than we have ever been before.
Little is known about Arabia in the sixth century, yet from this distant time and place emerged a faith and an empire that stretched from the Iberian peninsula to India. Today, Muslims account for nearly a quarter of the global population. A renowned classicist, G. W. Bowersock seeks to illuminate this obscure and dynamic period in the history of Islam--exploring why arid Arabia proved to be such fertile ground for Muhammad's prophetic message, and why that message spread so quickly to the wider world. The Crucible of Islam offers a compelling explanation of how one of the world's great religions took shape."A remarkable work of scholarship."
--Wall Street Journal "A little book of explosive originality and penetrating judgment... The joy of reading this account of the background and emergence of early Islam is the knowledge that Bowersock has built it from solid stones... A masterpiece of the historian's craft."
--Peter Brown, New York Review of Books