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The Venture of IslamConscience and History in a World Civilization (Book Review)

This posthumous work entitled The venture of IslamConscience and History in a


World Civilization1 written by Marshall G. S. Hodgson (1921-1968), consists of three

volumes. Originally, the content of the book was course material, firstly, introduced at the University of Chicago in the history of Islamic civilization, created and designed by Hodgson. It deals the subject Islamic civilization. The preceding comments and discussion is the summary and analyses of the first seventy pages of the first volume. The book starts with Reuben W. Smiths introduction to venture of Islam and publishers note in which both present honor to the author and his momentous work. The original contents of the book starts with the heading entitled Introduction to the study of Islamic Civilization. There are numerous sub-heading under this subjects. On making sense of Islamicate words, names, and dates, is the first sub-heading in which he discussed the transliteration rules of Islamic names and words, moreover, why it is important to translate the Islamic names. Over and above, the roots of Islamic names and the formula how to convert Islamic dates into Gregorian calendar. The writer uses here his own terminologies and in contrast to conventional and gives justifications of using them. He argues Even if inquirers do not fully succeed in agreeing upon a given set of terms, they recognize that it is essential for each writer to use his terms with precision. After describing transliteration rules, author devise his methodology to study Islamic civilization. However, firstly, he introduces the existing patterns prevailed in the study of Islam. He describes that scholars consider historical studies as ideographic in contrast to nomothetic. He emphasize, historical studies is the compound of both methodologies. Only, the nature of the questions, can make the distinction. Nevertheless, the writer make further distinction on the bases of the question that which sorts of datebound questions are regarded as primary and others as subordinate. Upon this assumption, Hodgson furfur divided ideographic historian into typicalizers and exceptionalizers and argues that scholars should concern to the latter mentioned
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Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of IslamConscience and History in a World Civilization, (London: The university of Chicago press, 1974 )

category. In this exceptionlizing view he suggests the visionary individuals play distinctive role to alter the future of humanity. Moreover, to understand the individuals behavior it is prerequisite to determine his great commitments and loyalties. In the case of Islam, scholars commitments and loyalties play a great role. It is the humanistic approach which can produce fruitful results in the study of Islam. In the subheading On scholarly precommitments writer emphasized that the personal commitments of scholars play a greater role in studding others religions, civilizations and history which leads them to unwary and bias. He elucidate the demerits prevailed in the study of Islam from westerner background, existing patternsapologetic, finding similarities and differencesand develop a humanistic approach, suggesting that we should compare two traditions or religions on the basis of their structure to illustrate of what sorts of elements tend to get subordinated and what tend to get highlighted. On defining civilization firstly, author show his predispositions to accept the theory that all civilizations interdependent in one another and then he analytically analyzes the philological theory in defining civilization. In addition to, he argues that suddenness and derivative character are the distinguish characteristics of Islamic civilization however, considers Toynbee in error who divided Islamic civilization into three different civilizations. He also articulates that defining culture is more problematic than to civilization. He includes only lettered, modern and the continuity of high culture as the basic elements of a civilization. Hodgson defines civilization as great cultural heritages. Hence, the societies have become fairly complex, no civilization is autonomous. They have interrelations with the culture of more distant peoples. He defines that sociological and anthropological methods to study modern and non-citied civilization respectively and Marxs critiques upon them, was actually the result of lack in pattern of world history. He argues that comparison needs some kind of comparable units. For example, how a technical society can be compared to a non-technical society or a non-citied with a citied society. Then he moves towards philologists explanation of civilization as a monolingual literary tradition and their inherited errors in defining Islamic civilization.

Hodgson divide western scholarship on Islam into three groupshistorians (Ottoman history), philologists and lastly, those who began to study Islam in imperial connection of India. The influence of these groups can evidently be seen in the work for example, Encyclopedia of Islamphilological issues are more concern than the substance here. Hodgson also conclude that before 20th century western scholarship on Islamic studies was based on secondary sources of Muslim writers. It is in 20th century that numerous developments were occurred and shaped new patterns in the study of Islam. It is in this time that misusage of conventional terminologies was reviewed. He divides them into two categoriesadmonitionists and revisionistsand argues to adopt the second mentioned approach. Moreover, he suggests that scholars should get rid of conventional terms, especially, invented in Islamic studies, derived from philological bias in past and pressingly, feels need to invent new terms. In addition to, his neologisms although cannot be excluded from critical analyses, is worthy to read and his endeavor shows the reader a way to apprehend the inherited errors concealed in conventional usage. He define the conventional usage of historical, methodological, geographical, philological and Islamic terms, and then give reasons in justifying his own interpretation upon them. For example he uses 'Nile to Oxus' instead of Middle East, Hadith reports instead of tradition, School of thought instead of Firqah, etc.,. Some more example can be seen in the book. At the end the writer divides the transliteration into three categories based on translators objectives. They are, re-creative translation, explanatory, and precise study translations. He strongly deprecates the re-creative and explanatory translations and argues for good precise study translations because such a translation attempts to provide an equivalent communication of the original which readers can then interpret for themselves.