A Critical Appraisal of Marshal Hodgson’s View of Islam Vis-à-Vis Cumulative and Discursive Traditions


The article engages closely with Marshall G. Hodgson’s view of Islam in his theory of Islamicate civilization. Despite his methodological consciousness and various revisions he introduced in the study of Islamic civilization, he failed to do the same in his conception of Islam. This contribution looks at three relevant aspects of Hodgson’s take on Islam. Apart from explaining problems inherent in his conception of Islam, I examine the relative efficacy of the view shared in some important ways between Hodgson and Smith. To this end, first, I argue that Hodgson’s every allusion of Islam breathes dualism. Even though he was indeed well aware of this dualism, he barely succeeded in accounting for it, either historically or in Islamic tradition. Second, I try to make a theoretical link between this view of Hodgson and Wilfred C. Smith. I also compliment this with a review of some of the key counter arguments posited. Third, the article ends with a brief comparative assessment of W. C. Smith’s cumulative tradition, Talal Asad’s discursive tradition, and Shahab Ahmed’s “coherence” in the face of “outright contradictions” thesis.


Islam Islamic Islamdom Islamicate cumulative tradition discursive tradition