Kecia AliThe Lives of Muhammad

Harvard University Press, 2014

by Kristian Petersen on August 25, 2015

Kecia Ali

View on Amazon

Muhammad is remembered in a multitude of ways, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. And through each retelling we learn a great deal not only about Muhammad but about the social milieu of the authors. In The Lives of Muhammad (Harvard University Press, 2014), Kecia Ali, Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University, explores how several central components of the Muhammad biographical narrative are reframed by various authors within modern accounts. We find that biographers' notions of historicity changed over time, emphasis on the miraculous and supernatural events in Muhammad's life are interpreted differently, and Muhammad's network of relationships, including successors, companions, and family members gain wider interest during this period. We also find that from the nineteenth century onwards, Muhammad is often framed within the history of 'great men,' alongside figures like Jesus, Buddha, or Plato. Descriptions of Muhammad's life cross a range of genres, such as hagiographical, polemical, political, or seeking to facilitate inter-religious dialogue. In our conversation we just begin to scratch the service of this rich book, including Ibn Ishaq, sexual ethics, revisionism, Muhammad's first wife, Khadija, and young wife, Aisha, Orientalist William Muir, polygamy, attempts to counter perceived Western misinterpretations, marital ideals, and contemporary anti-Muslim animus.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Bruce B. LawrenceWho is Allah?

August 10, 2015

In his lyrical and brilliant new book Who is Allah? (UNC Press, 2015), the legendary scholar of Islam Bruce B. Lawrence, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Duke University, wrestles with the question of Who is Allah? through a dazzling range of textual, aesthetic, and performative registers. Who is Allah? treats readers to a delectable buffet […]

Read the full article →

James GelvinThe Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know

August 3, 2015

[Cross-posted with permission from Counterpoint with Jonathan Judaken] Professor James Gelvin joins host Jonathan Judaken to discuss the Arab Uprisings, democratization in the Middle-East and Northern Africa, ISIS, al-Qaeda, terrorism, and America's role imposing neo-liberal economic policies in the Middle East that have strongly shaped the political economy of the region. James Gelvin is Professor […]

Read the full article →

Emran El-BadawiThe Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions

July 17, 2015

The Qur'an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions (Routledge, 2013) written by Emran El-Badawi, professor and director of the Arab Studies program at the University of Houston, is a recent addition to the field of research on the Qur'an and Aramaic and Syriac biblical texts. Professor El-Badawi asserts that the Qur'an is a product of an environment […]

Read the full article →

Ebrahim MoosaWhat is a Madrasa?

July 3, 2015

Recent years have witnessed a spate of journalistic and popular writings on the looming threat to civilization that lurks in traditional Islamic seminaries or madrasas that litter the physical and intellectual landscape of the Muslim world. In his riveting new book What is a Madrasa? (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of […]

Read the full article →

Mark S. WagnerJews and Islamic Law in Early 20th-Century Yemen

June 20, 2015

During the early twentieth century, Yemeni Jews operated within a legal structure that defined them as dhimmi, that is, non-Muslims living as a protected population under the sovereignty of an Islamic state. In exchange for the payment of a poll tax, the jizya, and the acknowledged of supremacy of Islam, their lives and property were […]

Read the full article →

M. Alper YalcinkayaLearned Patriots: Debating Science, State, and Society in the 19th-Century Ottoman Empire

June 15, 2015

What were Ottomans talking about when they talked about science? In posing and answering that question (spoiler: they were talking about people), M. Alper Yalcinkaya's new book Learned Patriots: Debating Science, State, and Society in the 19th-Century Ottoman Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2015) introduces the history of science as discussed and debated by nineteenth-century Turkish-speaking Muslim […]

Read the full article →

Asaad al-SalehVoices of the Arab Spring: Voices of the Arab Spring: Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions

May 16, 2015

Asaad al-Saleh is assistant professor of Arabic, comparative literature, and cultural studies in the Department of Languages and Literature and the Middle East Center at the University of Utah. His research focuses on issues related to autobiography and displacement in Arabic literature and political culture in the Arab world. His Book Voices of the Arab […]

Read the full article →

Jamal EliasAisha’s Cushion: Religious Art, Practice, and Perception in Islam

April 23, 2015

In his remarkable new book Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Practice, and Perception in Islam (Harvard University Press, 2012), Jamal Elias, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, presents a magisterial study of Muslim attitudes towards visual culture, images, and perception. Through meticulous historical and textual analysis, Elias successfully unravels the stereotype that there […]

Read the full article →

Lital LevyPoetic Trespass: Writing Between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine

April 6, 2015

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish settlement in Palestine and the revival of Hebrew as a national language have profoundly impacted the relationship between Arabic and Hebrew. In a highly contentious political environment, the two languages have been identified with opposing national movements – Hebrew associated with Jews and Arabic with Palestinians. Lital […]

Read the full article →