Kairouan and its Role in Islamic Civilisation

.زيتون، محمد محمد. القيروان و دورها في الحضارة الاسلامية. القاهرة: دار المنار، ١٩٨٨، ٥٧٥ص

Zaytun, Muhammad Muhammad. Al-Qayrawan wa-Dawruha fi al-Hadarah al-Islamiyyah. Cairo: Dar al-Manar, 1988, 575pp.


Kairouan and its Role in Islamic Civilisation

القيروان و دورها في الحضارة الاسلامية

The book deals with the town of Kairouan and the role it played in Muslim civilisation as an ancient metropolis which greatly impacted the spread of Islam and its flourishing civilisation, and in due course became one of the most important centres of Muslim thought in North Africa.

The book sheds light on intellectual life in Kairouan and follows its development through different periods since the town’s founding. It begins by depicting the Muslim conquest of Africa and enumerates the circumstances surrounding the town’s founding as well as the architectural benefits and socio-cultural projects it gave rise to. 

The work then proceeds to frame the political situation as well as the town’s economic and social life during the Era of Governors (al-Wulaat) followed by the Aghlabids and the Fatimids, and how these combined factors led to the emergence of intellectual life in Kairouan. It is clear that the author intended the first four sections to paint a clear picture of Kairouan architecturally, politically, economically and socially in order to illustrate how these four anthropological factors helped nurture the rise of intellectual life there through to its apogee. 

The author dedicates the remaining sections to researching the realities of intellectual life in Kairouan. It also discusses the most prominent thinkers who have contributed the most to enriching intellectual and cultural thought. After this, the work explains the intellectual role it played and how it spread to other centres of Islamic thought. The book also clarifies the extent to which it has been influenced, its impact on these centres, and how these intellectual exchanges led to particular attributes emerging within intellectual thought in Kairouan. 

This book seeks to give a clear introduction to Kairouan, a town which has only rarely been the subject of scholarly studies such as this one which attempts to give a serious description of its intellectual movement and its role in civilisation. One should recognise the great effort undertaken by the author in order to show the various dimensions of this subject and identify relevant sources due to the difficulties in conducting such observations based on political history books and biographies of scholars from that period. It is also worth noting that the unnecessary repetition of some of the ideas and events mentioned in the book proves superfluous as it does not provide additional detail or make the research analytically any richer. 

Despite this, the author has dealt with his research subject in an organised, methodical, chronological and objective way and has provided good and clear material for those readers interested in History, Muslim thought and intellectual life in Kairouan. 

Shirin Khidr
Translated by Hugh Lovatt

Khidr, Shirin. “English abstract of 'Kairouan and its Role in Islamic Civilisation'". Translated by Hugh Lovatt. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 107. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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