Awards & Reviews

Winner of the 2019 American Historical Association John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History

Winner of the 2019 American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch Book Award

No one can read this insightful monograph without recognizing the Indian Ocean as a major not a minor, a central not a peripheral, theatre of Islamicate civilization. Monsoon Islam deserves, and should attract, a wide readership in Asian history and comparative history but also civilizational studies broadly conceived.

Bruce B. Lawrence, Duke University & Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University, Istanbul (endorsement)

With meticulous attention to both the material and discursive dimensions of medieval Muslim settlement in Malabar, Sebastian R. Prange combines manuscript, architectural and epigraphic evidence of India’s role in the twinned maritime traffic of goods and gods. This book marks an important milestone for the study of Islam in the Indian Ocean and India alike.

Nile Green, University of California, Los Angeles (endorsement)

Moving deftly between the port and the sea, the mosque and the palace, Sebastian R. Prange has produced the best study of trade, religion and sovereignty on the Malabar coast in the pre-modern era since Ashin Das Gupta’s classic monograph on the subject. Monsoon Islam provides a nuanced understanding of a much misunderstood faith – one that was gently shaped by the Indian Ocean environment inhabited by merchants and mystics.

Sugata Bose, Harvard University (endorsement)

With a refreshing sense of excitement, this book retraces the history, and ransacks popular misperceptions, of how Muslims from South India made and remade Islamic doctrine and ideology. This richly insightful study is a treasure for Indian Ocean Studies in general and South Asian history in particular.

Pius Malekandathil, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (endorsement)

Monsoon Islam gives us a world in motion, one of pepper and patronage, Sufis and shari`a, pirates and warriors, that flourished between and in the trading ports of the medieval Indian Ocean. This engaging study shows us Islamic cultural forms from law to architecture taking new shape particularly in the eventful world of coastal Malabar. The book is a pleasure to read.

Barbara D. Metcalf, University of California, Davis (endorsement)

Monsoon Islam makes a major contribution to Indian Ocean historiography with its rich account of Muslim merchant communities and trading networks. It presents excellent economic as well as political and social history. It depicts a period of world history and a part of the world in bright rich colours that they well deserve.

David Ludden, International Journal of Maritime History (2019)

Prange looks at India’s Malabar Coast, bilad al-filfil (land of pepper), so named by Arab merchants who arrived on the monsoon trade winds beginning even before the first Islamic century. He argues that Islamic expression there and at the far ends of all its commercial traces on the Indian Ocean littoral is a synthesis explained by the seasonality of these traders’ arrivals and departures, permanent settlements, and their commercial and personal interactions among Hindu and fellow Muslim South Indians. By all readings, Prange’s analysis is a success.

Louis Werner, Aramco World (2019)

[Prange] scours a stunning range of sources from Arab travel accounts, to Sanskrit chronicles, to epigraphic and archaeological evidence, to assemble a coherent picture of Islam and trade across the ocean. The triumph of Monsoon Islam is in dredging these vast depths to discover the few stray pearls of information and then stringing these together to enrich our understanding of this world. […] By engaging with these disparate works, Prange puts forward bold new arguments about the spread of Islam, pre-modern empires and even the operation of caste hierarchies in Malabar.

Johan Mathew, Itinerario (2019)

Sebastian Prange’s Monsoon Islam provides a fascinating, rich and well-written account of the maritime networks that shaped the South Indian region of Malabar as part of the wider Indian Ocean world during the 12th to 16th centuries. […] Prange is able to carve out an intriguing historical trajectory with its various economic, religious and political facets. This book promises to be transformational for the analysis of Islamicate societies and constitutes a provoking contribution to the study of medieval and early modern Islamic history beyond the Middle East.

Christopher D. Bahl, Der Islam (2019)

[By] proposing the category of “monsoon Islam,” Prange offers a novel way of thinking about Malabari Muslims as an amphibious society that, profoundly oriented toward the sea, integrated Malabar’s economy with societies scattered across the ocean’s rim from East Africa to South China.

Richard M. Eaton, Journal of Asian Studies (2019)

Monsoon Islam presents an original and convincing account of the formation of Muslim trading communities along the Malabar Coast. Prange’s nuanced analysis goes beyond oversimplified concepts of trading diaspora to offer a rich and sophisticated engagement with the world of the Indian Ocean by the side of the Hindu environment of south-west India. Monsoon Islam is an engaging book that offers a substantial contribution to the growing literature on maritime circulation and migration around the Indian Ocean.

Roy S. Fischel, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (2019)

Though it is well known that Muslim merchants played a central role in the expansion of trade across the western Indian Ocean, how Muslims operated in societies that were largely non-Muslim has not been well explored. This is the issue that Sebastian R. Prange tackles in his finely crafted book through a reading of the Geniza records, travelers’ accounts, sources in Arabic, Malayalam, a host of European languages, and even architectural styles. […]  Prange has given us a fascinating glimpse of the role of Muslim traders in medieval Malabar.

Ravi Arvind Palat, American Historical Review (2020)

Sebastian Prange’s Monsoon Islam highlights the complex interplay between the global and the local by recovering the history of Muslim merchant communities on the Malabar coast of southwestern peninsular India (present day Kerala). It reconstructs the connections between the global commercial, social, and religious networks that brought Muslim merchants, scholars, and slaves on the Malabar coast and the distinctive local expressions of their social, political, and cultural life there.

Jyoti Gulati Balachandran, Journal of Early Modern History (2020)

Monsoon Islam: Trade and Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast strings a richly detailed narrative about seaborne networks of mercantile Islam, commercial exchange and political patronage. […] Prange’s monograph succeeds in compiling a dazzling array of archival and architectural evidence to present a richly detailed narrative foregrounding the multiple imbrications between political economy, legal authority and spiritual networks.

Kelvin Ng, South Asian History & Culture (2020)

While the book’s subject is Kerala, its implications go further: it encapsulates and develops much recent thinking about Islam and its transmission, emphasizing its local, vernacular, and contested histories as shaping and forming the broader Islamic world. Closely argued and densely packed with detail, this volume should be of equal interest to the specialist and the general reader. […] Sebastian Prange shows that we should pay attention to Kerala and to its place in making the interconnected world of Monsoon Islam. He has brought scrupulous multilingual scholarship to difficult questions of history, identity, and myth and his book deserves to be widely read.

Samira Sheikh, H-Net Reviews (2020)

Prange presents here a landmark contribution to the history of Islam in the Indian Ocean world, working through a wealth of previously understudied material and bringing together considerations of both local sources and material from the broader networks within which Malabar was situated to reveal complex historical processes […]. Prange’s book thus constitutes an exciting intervention into both Islamic and Indian Ocean Studies that should stimulate new conversations and animate innovative work in both fields over many years to come.

R. Michael Feener, Journal of Islamic Studies (2020)

Pointing to the established fact that the growth of Islam in the region was not a smooth process as many commentators of Islam would like us to believe, Prange brings to it the complexity of transregional mobility of Islamic scholars and various religious texts, along with the intricate web of commercial activities in the Indian Ocean, stretching from Africa to South East Asia. 

P.K. Yasser Arafath, Economic & Political Weekly (2021)