Albert Hourani Book Award

Jonathan P. Berkey

Davidson College

2003 Albert Hourani Book Award Winner

This is a carefully nuanced, deeply thoughtful, and lucid re-evaluation of the development of Islam and Muslim societies in the Middle East.  Dr. Berkey has succeeded admirably in the delicate task of combining and balancing data, methodology, analysis, and synthesis. Up-to-date in terms of scholarship and methodologies, precise in terms of primary sources, the book incorporates not only the experiences and accounts of Muslims but those of numerous other sectarian communities that comprised early, medieval, and pre-modern societies in the Middle East.

The book focuses on issues of religious identity and the complex ways in which multiple religious identities have emerged and shaped one another in the Middle East over a remarkably long span of time.  The Formation of Islam is thoroughly satisfying and represents a significant achievement in skillfully synthesizing current scholarly literature in English and French.  This volume is full of subtle insights and it succeeds admirably in conveying data and analysis for a broad readership.  As a comprehensive reassessment of the development of Islamic society, it is in the spirit of Albert Hourani’s justly famous book A History of the Arab Peoples.  This study of the formation of Islamic identity is majestic yet concise; it should become standard reading for scholars and students alike.

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