Jonathan A. C. BrownMisquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy

Oneworld Publications, 2014

by Kristian Petersen on October 30, 2014

Jonathan A. C. Brown

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] Many people have described Muslims modernities as being fundamentally disrupted by individual and civilizational encounters with western society. Wether rejecting or accepting alternative modes of thinking Muslims have responded to these new challenges with increasing regularity for over 200 years. Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy (Oneworld Publications, 2014) focuses on one of the central tasks for Muslims in the contemporary period, namely the interpretation of scripture and tradition. Jonathan A. C. Brown, Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, carefully maps out multiple Muslim interpretive strategies in order to reveal the links and legacies between the pre-modern and contemporary periods. After a detailed explanation of pre-modern schools of thought, attitudes towards scripture, and hermeneutical methods Brown tackles the fragile relationship between text, community, and reader in determining ‘Truth’ in changing circumstances. We see that very often the interpretive methods used to deal with contradictions or discerning boundaries of permissibility were the same but led to divergent answers. Brown interrogates these larger issues through numerous case studies and examples. In our conversation we only scratched the surface of this detailed book. We discussed changing norms by which scripture are judged, women led prayer, the noble lie, tradition betraying or redeeming scripture, Shah Wali Allah, the Arab Spring, Sheikh Muhammad al-Gahzali, authenticity and the use of dubious hadith, verse 4:34 and the role of courts, and the historical precedent  of saying “No” to scripture.

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Paul CoppThe Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

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[Cross-posted on New Books in Buddhist Studies] Paul Copp’s new book, The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on Chinese interpretations and uses of two written dhāraṇī during the last few centuries of the first millennium.  Based on extensive research on the material forms that these dhāraṇī took, Copp [...]

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October 14, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] The death penalty is a subject that can easily inflame emotions. However, in his book, Exile & Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourses on the Death Penalty (Northeastern University Press, 2013), Dr. Anthony Santoro does an amazing job of objectively presenting opposition to and support of the death penalty and explaining his own opposition to [...]

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Mariam al-AttarIslamic Ethics: Divine Command Theory in Arabo-Islamic Thought

October 2, 2014

Mariam al-Attar, Islamic Ethics: Divine Command Theory in Arabo-Islamic Thought (Routledge, 2010)  explores the meaning, origin and development of “Divine Command Theory” in Islamic thought. In the process, al-Attar underscores the philosophical bases of religious fundamentalism that hinder social development and hamper dialogue between different cultures and nations. Challenging traditional stereotypes of Islam, the book refutes contemporary [...]

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] In Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism­ (Columbia University Press, 2014), Nabil Matar masterfully edits an important piece of scholarship from seventeenth-century England by scholar and physician, Henry Stubbe (1632-76). Matar also gives a substantial introduction to his annotated edition of Stubbe’s text by situating the author [...]

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Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, eds.Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] Modernity and religion have often been seen as fundamentally at odds. However, the articles in Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America (University of Hawaii Press, 2014 ), edited by Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, argue that Protestant Christianity has played an important role in how East Asians understood and adapted [...]

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