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  • Cited by 66
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
December 2009
Print publication year:
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Book description

What kind of duty do we have to try to stop other people doing wrong? The question is intelligible in just about any culture, but few of them seek to answer it in a rigourous fashion. The most striking exception is found in the Islamic tradition, where 'commanding right' and 'forbidding wrong' is a central moral tenet already mentioned in the Koran. As an historian of Islam whose research has ranged widely over space and time, Michael Cook is well placed to interpret this complex subject. His book represents the first sustained attempt to map the history of Islamic reflection on this obligation. It covers the origins of Muslim thinking about 'forbidding wrong', the relevant doctrinal developments over the centuries, and its significance in Sunni and Shi'ite thought today. In this way the book contributes to the understanding of Islamic thought, its relevance to contemporary Islamic politics and ideology, and raises fundamental questions for the comparative study of ethics.


Winner of the Albert Hourani Award (2001)Winner of the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize (2001)

Winner of the British-Kuwait Friendship Society prize (2001)


Review of the hardback:‘The author’s erudition is mind boggling; his precision never wavers; his analyses are consistently trenchant and frequently startling. For specialists this work is a feast; for non-specialists it offers fresh insights into an entire range of central concerns about the religion of Islam and Islamic societies.’

Everett Rowson - University of Pennsylvania

Review of the hardback:‘[Michael Cook’s] account of how injustice and immorality have been confronted by Muslim thinkers provides an unusual and fascinating perspective on the social history of Islam. It also furnishes an essential basis for understanding the roots of modern Islamic rigorism. This is one of the most important scholarly works dealing with Islam to have been produced in the western world in the last one hundred years.’

Robert Irwin

Review of the hardback:‘This is a fascinating study of a key issue, not just in Islamic law but in the whole development of Islamic society, and Michael Cook discusses it with a clarity and lightness of touch which make the whole volume not just informative but a delight to read … Michael Cook has produced an immensely rich and interest book. He displays his vast learning with a clarity and lightness that are truly engaging. But he also takes us beyond the confines of academic debate to illuminate how attitudes to this point of law affect our whole view of morality and society. It is, in a real sense, a masterpiece.’

Source: The Times Literary Supplement

Review of the hardback:‘This important work is a good introduction for the reader who is interested in learning about the attitude of Muslim thinkers towards injustice and immortality in Islamic societies.’

Source: Discourse

Review of the hardback:‘Altogether the book is exemplar both in the comprehensive and perceptive treatment of its subject and the meticulous evaluation of the broad range of accessible sources … it will, no doubt, become a standard reference work in Islamic studies.‘

Source: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

Review of the hardback:‘Cook‘s thoroughness is awesome. Every Islamicist should buy a copy of this magnificent book.‘

Source: Journal of Scientific Studies

Review of the hardback:‘… this will leave his readers in awe of not only the scope and depth of his research and understanding but also the eloquence, precision, and detail with which the results are presented. … eminently readable … a true sense of intellectual synthesis pervades the book … We are presented with a treasure trove of Islamic thought throughout the centuries of its existence, with a veritable comprehensive intellectual history focused on legal and theological positions. … I cannot imagine any scholar of Islam, classical or modern, who would not find something of considerable interest and substantial intellectual value in this book.‘

Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society

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