Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy

Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy

by Jonathan A.C. Brown
     
 

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Few things provoke controversy in the modern world like the religion brought by Muhammad. Modern media are replete with alarm over jihad, underage marriage, and the threat of amputation or stoning under Sharia law. Sometimes rumor, sometimes based in fact, and often misunderstood, the tenets of Islamic law and dogma were not set in the religion’s founding…  See more details below

Overview


Few things provoke controversy in the modern world like the religion brought by Muhammad. Modern media are replete with alarm over jihad, underage marriage, and the threat of amputation or stoning under Sharia law. Sometimes rumor, sometimes based in fact, and often misunderstood, the tenets of Islamic law and dogma were not set in the religion’s founding moments. They were developed over centuries by the clerical class of Muslim scholars. Misquoting Muhammad takes the reader back in time through Islamic civilization and traces how and why such controversies developed, offering an inside view into how key and controversial aspects of Islam took shape. From the protests of the Arab Spring to Istanbul at the fall of the Ottoman Empire, from the ochre red walls of Delhi’s great mosques to the trade routes of Islam’s Indian Ocean world, the book lays out how Muslim intellectuals have sought to balance reason and revelation, weigh science and religion, and negotiate the eternal truths of scripture amid shifting values.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-11
A scholar’s sincere attempt to elucidate the true teachings of the Quran.Eminently qualified to present the finer points of the Prophet Muhammad’s beliefs and teachings, Brown (Islamic Studies/Georgetown Univ. School of Foreign Service;Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction, 2011, etc.) continually asserts the magnificent tradition of Islam yet can’t quite get around the well-known stumbling blocks—e.g., not allowing women to lead prayer and the concept of the martyrs’ multivirgin reward in heaven. Who speaks for Islam? Theulama, or the learned ones, and they have turned to three sources: first, the Quran, or the “unchanging record of God’s revealed words,” derived from oral teaching before being put into writing; then, the Hadith, or the sayings of the prophet, which have grown around the Quran and are more ambiguous, controversial and “amorphous”; and finally, the ideas of Sunni Islam (which Brown addresses rather than Shiite), or the collective consensus about law, ethics and dogma passed down for the generations of believers. Much like the mutable biblical canon, the Hadith corpus is contested, and scholars have declared many of them to be forgeries. What Brown does very well is underscore the cultural biases at work in denunciations of Islam—e.g., the Western perception of its excessive violence (jihad) and sexual perversion (the paradise of “72 virgins,” as well as the fact that Muhammad was in his 50s when he married the child bride Aisha, who was around the age of 10). Theulama, inheritors of classical learning, wrestled with reconciling reason and diversity with revelation, epitomized by the work of Shah Wali Allah, in the mid-18th-century Mughal Empire. Brown eloquently parses Islam’s rich interpretive tradition, but his nuanced sifting of meaning does not necessarily clarify or convince.A delicate delineation that invites a more intimate look at the sources.
From the Publisher
"Brown possesses formidable knowledge of premodern Muslim scholars who sought to preserve accounts of Muhammad's teachings and practices ... MISQUOTING MUHAMMAD sheds light on the considerable dynamism and sophistication within the Sunni tradition."
— The Washington Post

"Lucid, learned and engaging."
— Karen Armstrong, The Sunday Times

"Superb... an essential read for anyone seeking to understand Islam and the Muslim world... fascinating."
— The Tribune

"'Misquoting Muhammad identifies and contextualizes the larger interpretive issues at stake in the global competition between diverse traditional and Salafi Sunni voices, and is written in such an engaging manner that the reader may find it difficult to put it down."
—Scott Lucas, Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies

"Brown ably navigates the cutting edge of Hadith studies while offering his able insight, encyclopedic knowledge of Muslim textual traditions, and awareness of the political contentiousness of scholarship in Islamic studies... highly recommended."
— ALA CHOICE Magazine

"Exhilarating ... Brown is among the most talented and productive scholars in the field of Islamic Studies today ... He is also a practicing Muslim who has the rare ability to sit at the feet of traditional scholars from Egypt to Malaysia for hours on end and translate that knowledge into something beneficial for his American audiences."
—Los Angeles Review of Books

"Misquoting Muhammad makes the important point that what many Muslims believe to be essential tenets of their faith are often nothing of the sort."
— The Independent, which named Misquoting Muhammad one of the best books of the year

"An inside view into how key controversial aspects of how Islam took shape."
—Asian Art Newspaper

"Erudite and provocative... compelling."
— Literary Review

"Eminently qualified... Brown eloquently parses Islam's rich interpretive tradition."
—Kirkus Reviews

"There aren't many books on Islam where the Prophet Muhammad and Martin Scorsese appear together... helpful for the lay reader."
— The Independent

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781780744209
Publisher:
Oneworld Publications
Publication date:
09/16/2014
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author


Jonathan A. C. Brown is an associate professor of Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Understanding in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. His book publications include, among others, Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction and Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, and he is the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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