Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Islamic Thought

Publication Year



By analyzing a wide range of Arab and Persian literature, Louise Marlow demonstrates that Islam's initial orientation was markedly egalitarian, but the social aspect of this egalitarianism was soon undermined in the aftermath of Islam's political success. Although the memory of its early promise never entirely receded, social egalitarianism was soon associated with political subversion. The originality and chronological scope of Louise Marlow's book will ensure a wide readership of Islamic historians and of scholars assessing the impact of the recent Islamic revival.

  • An original study based on a wide range of new material, dealing with a long period of time (over half a millennium)
  • Author is known in the field for broad ranging and distinguished work
  • Of interest across disciplines to Middle East scholars, Islamic scholars, religious studies scholars, and to medieval historians generally

    Table of Contents

    Part I. Sources for Islamic Social Ideals:
    1. Egalitarianism and the growth of a pious opposition
    2. The Muslim reception of Greek ideas
    3. The Muslim reception of Iranian social models
    4. The disassociation of egalitarianism and opposition
    5. The didactic literature of the courts
    6. Rationalisations of inequalities
    7. Hierarchies of occupations

    Reviews and Endorsements

    “This is a well-researched, balanced and timely book.” Manochehr Dorraj, Ph.D., DOMES

    "It is a special pleasure to find a scholar who steps boldly beyond the safer realms of more tightly circumscribed studies. Marlow's willingness and ability to do so provide access not only to a fascinating topic but to a constellation of Arabic and Persian sources that are not ordinarily considered in combination.” Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

    “...it is clear that Marlow has made a major contribution to our understanding of early Islamic society and social thought. The work is clear and lucid, free from jargon and firmly grounded in the text. Students of Islamic history will read it once with enjoyment but find themselves returning frequently to seek out ideas, insights and fascinating nuggets of bibliography.” Hugh Kennedy, Middle East Journal

    “...a creative piece of research with profound implications...” Middle East Quarterly

    “In this well-organized and documented book, Marlow examines the conjunction in Islamic thought of highly stratified societies and an emphatically egalitarian religious ideology.” Religious Studies Review

    “Given the breadth and depth of MArlow's book and the arguments explored, Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Islamic Thought will be of extreme interest not only for Islamic and medieval historians but also for scholars engaged in current research on political Islam and the Islamic revival of the last decade. It is a stimulating and revealing inquiry into a complex and fascinating subject.” Journal of Palestine Studies

    “The present volume, like some of the preceding ones in this series, is very stimulating reading...the book offers much useful and insightful information and provides rich data about the diverse material considered. It is a welcome addition to Islamic study.” Iranian Studies

Series Title
Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization
Cambridge University Press
New York
Cloth: 0521564301; paper: 9780521894289