John E. Roemer is Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He has published extensively in economics, political philosophy, and political science. His recent books include Political Competition (2001), Equality of Opportunity (1998), Theories of Distributive Justice (1996), and A Future for Socialism (1994, Cambridge University Press). He was named a Felow of the Econometric Society in 1986.
The scholarly basis of this important proposal [a new cultural interpretation of the rapid expansion of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries CE] resides on the one hand on the observation that there is a striking lack of original written material which attests to the doctrine that we know today as Islam, from this early pre-Abbasid period. On the other it is underpinned by detailed study of the textual material which does derive from this era, as well as careful interpretation of the many written sources which became available after the beginning of the Abbasid ascendancy. However, if Islam during this era did not resemble what we know it as today, what was it? On this point the authors break unity, some giving bold, alternative interpretations, others working at the question from detailed, nuanced angles. What the current volume succeeds in doing is to refocus attention on [longstanding beliefs regarding the origins of Islam], and to situate the scholarly problem in very legitimate religious, political, cultural, and linguistic questions, within the context both of new scholarly interpretations and findings, and state of the art overviews of long-discussed issues...the prospect of bringing the two perspectives [traditional and new] together holds the promise of a lively, interesting and new chapter in western Islamic studies. --Arabica, Vol. 55, 2008