Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies Book Award
Institute for Advanced Studies
Professor Crone’s ambitious book is simultaneously a grand summation of prior scholarship in multiple arenas of Iranian history and an invitation for us to think anew the ways we understand the presence of Islam in the Iranian cultural context. Behind all the details she cites are engagements with fundamental questions in the humanities: how do religious and other ideas endure over long durations; what patterns govern the relationship between ideas and social practice; how do topography and geographical location shape historical development; and how do we turn traces in ambiguous sources into historical evidence that may lead to comprehensive narratives.
Citing evidence from the Middle East and North Africa on one end, and China on the other, the book provides a wealth of information on Iranian religions, both before and after the rise of Islam. Professor Crone’s conclusions provide historical ballast for understanding the connections between pre-Islamic ideas and Islamic outlooks that matured under Shi‘ism and Sufism as well as groups that have endured on the margins of Muslim-majority societies for centuries. Written in an engaging style that is exemplary for the directness of its argument, this book challenges many presumptions and invites us to sharpen our ideas, whether we agree or disagree with Professor Crone’s conclusions.
Like a number of Professor Crone’s previous works, The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran is a formidable achievement that will endure as a major milestone in Iranian and Islamic Studies.