Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought

Publication Year



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)

What duty do we have to stop others from doing wrong? The question is intelligible in almost any culture, but few seek to answer it in a rigorous fashion. The most striking exception is found in the Islamic tradition where "commanding right and forbidding wrong" is a central moral tenet. Michael Cook's comprehensive and compelling analysis represents the first sustained attempt to chart the history of Islamic reflection on this obligation and to explain its relevance for politics and ideology in the contemporary Islamic world.

Table of Contents

Part I. Introduction:
1. The goldsmith of Marw
2. Koran and Koranic exegesis
3. Tradition
4. Biographical literature about early Muslims
Part II. The Hanbalites:
5. Ibn Hanbal
6. The Hanbalites of Baghdad
7. The Hanbalites of Damascus
8. The Hanbalites of Najd
Part III. The Mu'tazilities and Shi'ites:
9. The Mu'tazilites
10. The Zaydis
11. The Imamis
Part IV. Other Sects and Schools:
12. The Hanafis
13. The Shafi'ites
14. The Malikis
15. The Ibadis
16. Ghazzali
17. Classical Islam in retrospect
Part V. Beyond Classical Islam:
18. Modern Islamic developments
19. Origins and comparisons
20. Conclusion.


“The author's erudition is mindboggling; 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.” Professor Everett Rowson, University of Pennsylvania

“Michael Cook's deeply penetrating and exhaustive examination of this sacred duty will undoubtedly set the standard for all future work on the subject. … Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought is encyclopedic in scope and breath taking in analysis. … The value of Cook's study is immeasurable for all students of Islam whatever their disciplinary training and perspective.” Digest of Middle East Studies

“[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.” Dr. Robert Irwin

“This work is one of the most meticulous studies of any aspect of Islamic thought and practice ever to have been produced...One wishes that a greater number of serious academic studies showed this work's combination of amazing erudition, clarity of expression, trenchant observation, and lightness of touch...Introductions to Islamic law and theology are fairly numerous now, but none is as engaging to read as this.” Alan S. Kaye, Journal of Near Eastern Studies

Cambridge University Press
Cambridge and New York
Cloth: 9780521661744; paper: 9780521130936; ebook: 9780511033568