Caliphate: an idea throughout history

hosted by Taylan Güngör

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What is a caliphate? Who can be caliph? What is the history of the idea? How can we interpret and use it today? In this podcast we discuss with Prof Hugh Kennedy his forthcoming book The Caliphate (Pelican Books) and the long-term historical context to the idea of caliphate. Tracing the history from the choosing of the first caliph Abu Bakr in the immediate aftermath of the Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632, the Orthodox (Rashidun) caliphs (632-661), the Umayyads (661-750), the Abbasids (750-1258) and the use of the idea of caliphate by the Ottomans down to the emergence of another Abu Bakr as “caliph” of the IS in 2014.


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Hugh Kennedy is Professor of Arabic at SOAS, London. He has been studying the history of the caliphate for almost fifty years and has written numerous books including “The Courts of the Caliphs” (2004) and “The Great Arab Conquests” (2007).
Taylan Güngör is a doctoral candidate at SOAS in London. His interests are in Medieval and Pre-Modern Eastern Mediterranean trading circles and his research is on trade in Istanbul after 1453.


Episode No. 240
Release Date: 15 April 2016
Recording Location: School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
Audio Editing by Taylan Güngör
Recorded at SOAS Radio studios. SOAS Radio is an outlet for creative media and talent housed by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Run by alumni, current students and staff at the School, including volunteers from like-minded communities, SOAS Radio is dedicated to varied and original programming on world music, culture and current affairs.
Special thanks to Lâmekân Ensemble for intro and outro music

Taylan Güngör and Hugh Kennedy at SOAS Radio

courtesy of Hugh Kennedy

Introductory Reading

Arnold, Sir Thomas W., The Caliphate Oxford: Clarendon Press (1924)
Crone, P., Medieval Islamic Political Thought (2004)
Kennedy, H., The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates London: Routledge (3rd edition, 2015)
Kersten, C. (ed), The Caliphate and Islamic Statehood: Formation, Fragmentation and Modern Interpretations. Berlin: Gerlach Press (3.vols., 2015). A valuable collection of essays on all aspects of the caliphate cited hereafter as CIS.
Montgomery Watt, W., Islamic Political Thought Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press (1968)
Rosenthal, E., Political Thought in Medieval Islam Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1962)
Tyan, E., institutions du droit publique musulman vol.  I Le Califat Paris (1956)

The Orthodox Caliphs (632-661)

Afsaruddin, A., Striving in the path of God: jihad and martyrdom in early Islamic thought Oxford: Oxford University Press (2013)
Donner, F. M., The Early Islamic Conquests Princeton, Princeton University Press (1981)
Hoyland, R., In God’s Path: the Arab conquests and the creation of an Islamic Empire Oxford: Oxford University Press (2015)
Kennedy, H., The Great Arab Conquests London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (2007)
Madelung, W., The Succession to Muhammad: a study of the early caliphate Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (1997)

The Umayyad Caliphs (661-750)

Crone, P., and Hinds, G. M., God’s Caliph: religious authority in the first century of Islam Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1986)
Hawting, G. R., The first dynasty of Islam: the Umayyad Caliphate A.D. 661-750 London: Routledge (2000)
Marsham, A., Rituals of Islamic Monarchy: Accession and Succession in the First Muslim Empire Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (2009)
McMillan, M. E., The meaning of Mecca: the politics of pilgrimage in early Islam  London: Saqi Books (2011)

The early Abbasids and Abbasid Court Culture (750-945)

Bennison, A., The Great Caliphs: the golden age of the Abbasid Empire London: IB Tauris (2009)
Van Berkel, M., El-Cheikh, N., Kennedy, H., and Osti, L., Crisis and continuity at the Abbasid court: formal and informal politics in the caliphate of al-Muqtadir (295-320/908-32 Leiden: Brill (2013)
Bowen, H., The life and Times of Ali b. Isa, the good vizier. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1928)
Carswell, F. M., The Slave Girls of Baghdad: the Qiyān in the Early Abbasid Era London: IBTauris (2011)
Gutas, D., Greek Thought and Arabic Culture: the Greco-Arabic translation movement in Baghdad and early Abbasid society London: Routledge (1998)
Kennedy, H., The court of the Caliphs: the Rise and Fall of Islam’s greatest dynasty
 London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson (2005) Published in the USA as When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World Cambridge, MA: Da Capo (2004)
Kennedy, P., Abu Nuwas: A Genius of Poetry  Oxford: Oneworld Publications (2005)
Turner, J. P., Inquisition in early Islam: the competition for religious and political authority in the early Abbasid empire London: IBTauris (2013)

The later Abbasid Caliphate (945-1258)

Donohue J., The Buwaydid Dynasty in Iraq 334H/945 to 403H/1012 Leiden, Brill (2013)
Hanne, E., Putting the Caliph in his Place: power, authority and the late Abbasid caliphate Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (2007)
Mez, A. The Renaissance of Islam New Delhi: Kitab Dhavan (1937)

Three authors in search of the caliphate.

Hallaq, W., “Caliphs, Jurists and the Saljuqs in the Thought of Juwayni” CIS. II, 210-25
Hillenbrand, C., “Islamic Orthodoxy or Realpolitik? Al-Ghazālī’s Views on Islamic Government” CIS II, 226-51
Māwardī, Alī b. Muhammad, The Ordinances of Government trans. W. Wahba Reading: Garnett Books (1996)

Caliphate of the Shi’ites

Daftary, F., the Isma’ilis: their history and doctrines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1990)
Halm, H., The Empire of the Mahdi: the rise of the Fatimids Leiden, Brill (1996)
Halm, H., Shi’ism Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press (2004)
Jafri, S. M., The origins and development of Shiʿa Islam London, Longman (1979)
Al-Wadi, W., “An Early Fatimid Political Document” in CIS II, 88-112
Saunders, P., Ritual, politics and the city in Fatimid Cairo Albany: State University of New York Press (1994)
Walker, P. E., Exploring an Islamic Empire: Fatimid History and its sources London: IB Tauris (2002)

Caliphate into Modernity

Aydin, H., The Sacred Trusts, Pavilion of the Sacred Relics, Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul Clifton NJ. Tughra Books (2014)
Finkel, C., Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire New York (2005)
Gibb, H. A. R., “Lutfi Pasha on the Ottoman Caliphate” CIS II, 171-8
Hourani, A., Arab Thought in the Liberal Age Oxford : Oxford University Press (1967)
Karpat, K. H., The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State, Faith and Community in the Late Ottoman State Oxfor, Oxford University Press (2001)
Longford, E., A Pilgrimage of Passion: the life of Wilfred Scawen Blunt New York: Knopf (1980)
Rogan, E., The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920

The Twentieth Century and Beyond

Pankhurst, R. The Inevitable Caliphate? A History of the Struggle for Global Islamic Union, 1924 to the Present  London: Hurst and Company (2013)
Sayyid, S., Recalling the Caliphate: Decolonistaion and World Order London: Hurst and Company (2014)
Taji-Farouki, S., A Fundamental Quest: Hizb al-Tahrir and the Search for the Islamic Caliphate London: Grey Seal (1996)
Tufan Buzpinar, S., “Opposition to the Ottoman Caliphate in the Early Years of Abdulhamid II:1877-1882” CIS III, 6-27


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