Book reviews by Peter Brown - including his 1979 review of Hagarism
Recovering Submerged Worlds: G.W. Bowersock’s ‘Empires in Collision in Late Antiquity’ and Patricia Crone’s ‘The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran’: https://archive.ph/vbJVr
At the Center of a Roiling World: https://archive.ph/cQNDt
The Voice of the Stones: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2008/04/17/the-voice-of-the-stones/
Understanding Islam: https://archive.ph/UUIJz
Whatever we may think of the truth of its assertions, and however much we may regret the truculent and offhand manner in which many of these are presented, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook’s Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World is a book to be taken seriously.
In the opinion of its authors, Islam still lacked a clear identity in the first century of the Arab conquests. The “new and assured religious persona” of Islam, which we now take for granted as having always existed, was nowhere to be seen in those headlong generations. What is more, Islam was not brought to the settled populations of the Near East by the Arabs; for the Arabs, in the opinion of the authors, had only the vaguest idea of the message of their new prophet. Hence the title of the book, Hagarism. Contemporary sources speak of the Arabs as “Hagarenes”: like the Jews and the Christians, they claimed a common descent from Abraham, through Ishmael, the son of Hagar. In the previous generation their prophet Muhammad had endowed them with little more than “a sort of elementary religious literacy” and a wish, as descendants of Hagar, to partake in the religious life of the Jews and Christians of the settled provinces of the Near East.
According to Crone and Cook, Islam proper came into existence after the conquests, more than a generation after the death of the Prophet in 632, at a time when the Arabs found themselves in close contact with the settled population of Syria, and especially with the Jewish and Christian populations there....