Book Review: C. Snouck Hurgronje Mekka in the Latter Part of the 19th Century
The subtitles of this first volume in the newly launched "Brill's Classics in Islam" series are as important for understanding the content and nature of this book as its title: "Daily Life, Customs and Learning. The Moslims of the East-Indian Archipelago." More revealing, however, are the colorful details of the life of its author, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936), variously known as an imposter, a Dutch spy, an opportunist of the worst kind who used the ambitions of a flagging Dutch colonizing empire for personal gains, and a respected Orientalist. Perhaps he was all of these at once. He was certainly one of the few Europeans who have actually resided in Makkah--the Sacred City of Islam forbidden to non-Muslims--prior to the twentieth century. His fortunes were aided by the times in which he lived, an era during which it was possible for any adventurous European to single-handedly direct the course of history--at least in that part of the world where the European's presence struck awe, even terror, in the hearts of the natives, as Marshall Hodgson once remarked.