The Medieval History Journal http://mhj.sagepub.


Book Reviews : Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs. Military and Society in the Early Islamic State, London and New York, Routledge, 2001, pp. xix + 229
Aziz Al-Azmeh The Medieval History Journal 2002 5: 175 DOI: 10.1177/097194580200500110 The online version of this article can be found at:

Published by:

Additional services and information for The Medieval History Journal can be found at: Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions:

Downloaded from at FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIV on December 19, 2010


fiery character of sattva and especially to the discussion of it in Maiträyanïya Upanisad 6, 38, a passage that includes a commentary
on this issue in the manner of yogic identifications and runs ’... within the sun is moon, within the moon is fire, within the fire is sattva (tejomadhye sthitam sattvam), within the sattva is the indestructible’ (Buitenen: 97-98). Significant in this context is the divine, indestructible quality inherent in sattva as also the narratives Weinberger-Thomas records and which talk of the sati’s tej, or fieriness (p. 145). To explain the fieriness of sat, the Upanishadic equation is to me more convincing than taking recourse to the old Indian terms sat and satya. Weinberger-Thomas’ book is a piece of rigorously penetrating religious anthropology, essential reading for every anthropologist of India, every Indologist and everyone who genuinely seeks to understand the belief system on which the concept of the ritual suicide of widows relies.

Monika Horstmann South Asia Institute University of Heidelberg

Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs. Military and Society in the Early Islamic State, London and New York, Routledge, 2001, pp.


This is the first book in English which seeks to give a comprehensive account of the armies mustered by Caliphates of Damascus and Baghdad from the beginning of the Islamic states until A.D. 936. A description of the armies of the Muslim conquests is followed by chapters on the recruitment, leadership and tactics of the Marwanid state in Damascus (ch. 2), the payment of the military in the ’early Islamic state’ (ch. 3), early Abbasid warfare (ch. 4), the armies of Samarra, A.D. 833-870 (ch. 5), the ’last armies’ of the Caliphs to A.D. 936 (ch. 6), weapons and equipment (ch. 7), fortification and siege warfare (ch. 9). These chapters are followed by a Postscript, two appendices on the shakiriyya corps of the early Abbasids and the numbers of the Abbasid army in Samarra. The book ends with a sound bibliography.

Downloaded from at FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIV on December 19, 2010


the book is useful to non-specialists, but and ultimately unsatisfying, and one hopes that it patchy, uneven, will motivate scholars to produce a fuller and better rounded narrative. The account of Umayyad armies and warfare is perhaps the best part of the book, despite the difficulty that the source-materials present. Thereafter, Professor Kennedy wavers consistently between the anecdotal and the very general. In between, here and there, he uses what he calls ’rule of thumb’ (for estimating numbers) and a variety of suppositions bereft of references to a serious concern with charting the evolving relations between the military and society in all their complexity and beyond anecdotal narratives but within the normal course of historical sociology. Some crucial and difficult historical issues are entirely evaded, most notably the armies of the Abbasid Revolution (there is reference to an article by Dr S. Agha, but his crucially important dissertation, often quoted and soon to be published by Brill, is not mentioned, although it would have helped the author clear up a number of important problems). Another issue that is evaded is the social composition and the political role of important actors such as the abna ;d& quo; the qurra’, and the shul1a; corps that may constitute military households, such as the Sajiya or the Hujariyya, if dealt with, much as the author has dealt with the Shakiriyya (sadly in an appendix not properly integrated into his overall account), would have yielded a fuller picture, particularly if these were to have been related in terms of recruitment, organisation, economic activities, and other relevant matters. Another important issue which remains entirely unaccounted for is the transition from the military anarchy of the later Samarra’ period to the subsequent reorganisation of the’ military on a relatively effective-if not durable-footing. Issues such as heraldry, costume, and training are almost entirely ignored. Finally, the impression is given that by A.D. 936 the armies of the Caliphate were forever to remain a bygone; some mention of the later, revived, albeit geographically reduced, Abbasid Caliphate, would have been appropriate and would have helped rectify the largely ahistorical stock image of ’decline and fall’. There are quite a number of typographical errors in the book, and some slight factual errors; two of these are, however, more than slight: Dhu’l-Fiqaris not the name of the Prophet’s sword, but of Ali’s, and Ceylon was not merely an entrepot for metal from ’further east’, but along with the Deccan, operated monsoon-powered forges for the



Downloaded from at FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIV on December 19, 2010


manufacture of steel using iron ore from east Africa. A foray into the manufacture of swords and other armaments would have added valuable technical and economic perspectives to the study of the armies of the Caliphs, if the author had explored this aspect. Two other matters of detail reveal a certain unsoundness of the general approach. The author is bemused by the agreeable names given to certain servile members of the Caliphal households, a matter which might have been clarified by some comparisons with names given to slaves in the Roman Empire. And al-Harthami’s treatise on warfare might usefully have been put to the test of history.
Aziz Al-Azmeh Department of History Free American University Beirut

Ebba Koch,

Mughal Art


Imperial Ideology:

Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp.


Collected Essays, + 317 + 299

illustrations. Ebba Koch’s most recent book, Mughal Art and Imperial Ideology: Collected Essays, a series of essays that reflect her long-standing concern with Mughal interpretation of European forms, formal and iconological studies, and imperial ideology. These eleven studies, originally published between 1982 and 1997, but not easily accessible to many readers, are brought together in a single volume. It opens with Koch’s introduction explaining her approach that seeks ’new insights into the ideological and social relevance of imperial Mughal art by combining purely art historical methods, such as analysis of forms, with information generated from literary sources’ (p. xxiii). By using this approach she hopes to bridge the gap pointed out by Sanjay Subrahmanyam between art historians on one hand and political and social historians on the other.’ While contextually oriented art historians have to read the work of the other group of

Recent Western

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, ’The Mughal State-Structure or Process? Reflections on Historiography’, The Indian Economic and Social History Review,

vol. 29(3), 1992: 292-93.

Downloaded from at FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIV on December 19, 2010

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful