"Cook demonstrates convincingly that, notwithstanding the rather meager
attention given to apocalypticism historically within mainline Sunni
Islam, there has been a marked upsurge of interest in eschatological
motifs in the modern period, especially since the Six-Day War of 1967.
He attributes this increased interest to a variety of factors, among
them a widespread sense of pessimism-even foreboding-regarding the
future. The primary aim of the book is to survey this new body of
apocalypticist literature; chart its countours, so to speak; and analyze
the motifs that figure prominently in it. Among the author's findings
are a number of interesting points: (1) the sharp divergence between
modern apocalypticist Islam and Islam in its more conservative,
traditionalist forms, (2) increased interest on the part of modern
authors in Christian apocalypticism, (3) the role played by
apocalypticism in giving legitimacy to an anti-Zionist stance, and (4)
the special interest within radical Islamist circles in apocalyptic
perspectives. The book includes a useful bibliography."
Through a combination of wide-ranging primary sources and detailed textual analysis, Cook examines Muslim apocalyptic writings and their significance in current events.
Although apocalyptic visions and predictions have long been part of classical and contemporary Islam, this book is the first scholarly work to cover this disparate but influential body of writing. David Cook puts the literature in context by examining not only the ideological concerns prompting apocalyptic material but its interconnection with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Arab relations with the United States and other Western nations, and the role of violence in the Middle East.
Cook suggests that Islam began as an apocalyptic movement and has retained a strong apocalyptic and messianic trend. One of his most striking discoveries is the influence of non-Islamic sources on contemporary Muslim apocalyptic beliefs. He trenchantly discusses the influence of non-Islamic sources on contemporary Muslim apocalyptic writing, tracing anti-Semitic strains in Islamist thought in part to Western texts and traditions. The importance of this workwhich includes primary Arabic texts never before studiedlies in its political content. Through a meticulous reading of current documents, incorporating everything from exegesis of holy texts to supernatural phenomena, Cook shows how radical Muslims, including members of al-Qa'ida, may have applied these ideas to their own agendas.
By exposing the undergrowth of popular beliefs contributing to religion-driven terrorism, this book casts new light on today's political conflicts. As a result, it will be useful to a variety of audiencesnot only to scholars in religion, Middle East studies, and political science but also to policymakers and general readers.
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David Cook is assistant professor of religious studies at Rice University. He is the author of numerous journal articles, and he has contributed articles to The Encyclopedia of Millennialism and The Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism.
6 x 9, 216 pages, bibliography, index