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The Islamic city – Historic Myth, Islamic Essence, and Contemporary Relevance

  • Janet L. Abu-Lughod (a1)

At the present time of resurgence in Islamic beliefs, the question of the Islamic city has once again come to the fore. In many parts of the Arab world, and especially in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, urban planners with a new found respect for the great achievements of the past are searching for ways to reproduce in today's cities some of the patterns of city building that have been identified as Islamic. They have been influenced, whether wittingly or not, by a body of literature produced by western Orientalists purporting to describe the essence of the Islamic city. The purpose of this article is, in Part I, to examine and criticize some of the basic works in that tradition and then, after deconstructing the concept of the Islamic city, to build up, in Part II, a somewhat different, and hopefully more dynamic and analytic model. The article ends with a brief discussion of whether and in what ways it would be feasible or desirable to build contemporary cities on Islamic principles.

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W. Marçais , “L'Islamisme et la vie urbaine,” L'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lêttres, Comptes Rendus (Paris: 01031928), pp. 86100.

G. von Grunebaum , Medieval Islam (Chicago, 1946)

Dale Eickelman , “Is There an Islamic City?,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 5 (1974), 274–94

Leila Fawaz's study, Merchants and Migrants in Nineteenth Century Beirut (Cambridge, Mass., 1983).

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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