Natana J. DeLong-Bas’ “Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad” (Oxford University Press, 2004) is a self-described controversial book which has received rave reviews from critics, who have labeled the book “meticulously-researched,” “comprehensive and original,” and “path-breaking.” Utilizing the original writings of Muḥammad ibn Abd al-Wahhāb and his biographers, rendering them accessible to a broad audience through their translation into English for the first time, DeLong-Bas seeks to challenge the dominant scholarly interpretation of the founder of the Wahhabi movement and his legacy in the Muslim world. In this brief review, I will attempt to reconstruct her major arguments, analyze her methodology, and problematize many of her conclusions. Continue reading →
The question of the Roman-Byzantine desert frontier in Late Antiquity has attracted the attention of various scholars in the past several decades. This frontier, known as the LimesArabicus, spanned more than 1,300 kilometers from northern Syria to southern Palestine and the edges of the Arabian Peninsula. Recent research and excavations have done much to augment scholarly knowledge of this frontier, which served as the south-eastern defense of the Roman Empire for over six centuries, until it was eventually overrun by the Arab Muslim conquerors in the 630s. This frontier consisted not only—nor even primarily—of fortifications and watchtowers, but also of major nomadic tribal confederations, allied to Rome, which patrolled the desert and ensured the security of the eastern provinces by exercising control over nomadic movements both within and, to a certain degree, beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Although much attention in recent years has been devoted to the Ghassānids, which served as a major tribal confederation allied to Rome well into the seventh century, the fourth century has been relatively less discussed. Those scholars, including Irfan Shahid, Greg Fisher and Glen Bowerstock, who have devoted their scholarship to understanding this period have indicated its importance and have sought to underscore that the fourth century witnessed both the rise of major Arab tribal confederations along the desert frontier and the establishment of Roman foedus agreements, or alliances, with them.