The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization

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The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization

By Marshall G. S. Hodgson
University of Chicago Press, 1974
31,610 pp.
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Of the many books on Islam, this one is not the most approachable, but it is the one that will be read by serious scholars for years to come. Hodgson tries to avoid the Orientalist traps by looking at Islamic civilization from within in all its complexity. But he also places the development of Islam squarely in the context of world history, which is what makes his book so valuable. He introduces a distinctive vocabulary, which is often off-putting but has the purpose of forcing the reader to rethink categories of analysis. Islam as portrayed by Hodgson in this massive three-volume work (completed by his students after his death) is a hybrid civilization, like all others, drawing on many traditions and evolving over time. His scope is broad, covering all the great moments in Islamic history. Should be read along with H. A. R. Gibb's Modern Trends in Islam (1947) and Fazlur Rahman's Islam (1966) for alternative perspectives.