New Books in Religion

Kecia Ali


The Lives of Muhammad by Alicia Ali (Harvard University Press, 352 pages, October 2014).

Recent outbursts sparked by a viral video and controversial cartoons powerfully illustrate the passions and sensitivities that continue to surround the depiction of the seventh-century founder of Islam. The author delves into the many ways the Prophet’s life story has been told from the earliest days of Islam to the present, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Emphasizing the major transformations since the nineteenth century, she shows that far from being mutually opposed, these various perspectives have become increasingly interdependent.


Partners of Zaynab: A Gendered Perspective of Shia Muslim Faithby Diane D’Souza (University of South Carolina Press; 264 pages; 2014). How do pious Shia Muslim women nurture and sustain their religious lives? How do their experiences and beliefs differ from or overlap with those of men? What do gender-based religious roles and interactions reveal about the Shia Muslim faith? In Partners of Zaynab, Diane D’Souza presents a rich ethnography of urban Shia women in India, exploring women’s devotional lives through the lens of religious narrative, sacred space, ritual performance, leadership, and iconic symbols.

Cambridge Companion to American Islam edited by Juliane Hammer and Omar Safi (Cambridge american islamUniversity Press; 350 pages; Aug. 2013). This volume covers the creative ways in which American Muslims have responded to the myriad serious challenges that they have faced and continue to face in constructing a religious praxis and complex identities that are grounded in both a universal tradition and the particularities of their local contexts.

Christians, Muslims, and Jesus by Mona Siddiqui (Yale University Press; 296 pages; May 2013). With a nuanced and carefully considered analysis of critical doctrines the author provides a refreshingly honest counterpoint to contemporary polemical arguments and makes a compelling contribution to reasoned interfaith conversation.

Death, Resurrection, and Human Destiny: Christian and Muslim Perspectives edited by David Marshall and Lucinda Mosher (Georgetown University Press; 312 pages; May 2014). Essays that combine scholarly and personal perspectives in considering death and resurrection in the two Abrahamic faiths.

Embracing Epistemic Humility: Confronting Triumphalism in Three Abrahamic Religions by Donald Borchert (Lexington Books; 236 pages). Borchert builds a case that encourages advocates of world views, especially the children of Abraham—Jews, Christians and Muslims—to embrace an attitude of epistemic humility toward their views and thereby defeat the contemporary triumphalism which has infected all too many in the Abrahamic traditions.

The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations by Carol Bakhos (Harvard University Press; 285 pages; June 2014). Grounding her study in a close examination of ancient Jewish textual practices, medieval Muslim Stories of the Prophets and the writings of the early Church Fathers, Bakhos demonstrates that ancient and early-medieval readers often embellished the image of Abraham and his family.

book_future of islam

The Future of Islam by John L. Esposito (Oxford; 256 pages; $16.95). Esposito is one of the leading U.S. authorities on Islam. The book often underscores the unexpected similarities between the Islamic world and the West and at times turns the mirror on the US, revealing how we appear to Muslims, all to highlight the crucial point that there is nothing exceptional about the Muslim faith.

Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement esalafismdited by Roel Meijer (Oxford University Press; 400 pages; Oct. 2013) The contributors carefully outline not only the differences in the Salafi schools but the broader currents of Islamic thought that constitute this trend as well.

Irish Religious Conflict in Comparative Perspective: Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims edited by John Wolffe (Palgrave Macmillan; 280 pages; May 2014). Topics include parallels in history between anti-Catholicism and Islamophobia.

Islam and the Challenge of Civilization by Abdelwahab Meddeb (Fordham University Press; 192 pages; June 2013). Meddeb makes an urgent case for an Islamic reformation, located squarely in Western Europe, now home to millions of Muslims, where Christianity and Judaism have come to coexist with secular humanism and positivist law.

Islam in Indonesia: Contrasting Images and Interpretations edited by Jajat Burhanudin and Kees van Dijk (Amsterdam University Press, distributed by University of Chicago Press; 279 pages; Aug. 2013). Topics include Indonesian Muslim feminist reinterpretations of inheritance, and the construction of the country’s Islamic identity.

Lines in Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia edited by Eliza F. Kent and Tazim R. Kassbook_linesinwateram (Syracuse University Press; 416 pages; $49.95). Essays on such topics as the living traditions of Ismaili Muslim ginans.

Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam by Aaron W. Hughes (Columbia University Press; April 2013). Hughes’s work challenges the dominance of traditional terms and concepts in religious studies. Making extensive use of contemporary identity theory, Hughes rethinks the teaching of Islam and religions in general and helps facilitate a more critical approach to Muslim sources.

Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism by Julian Baldick (New York University Press; 208 pages; $23). This accessible work covers the origins of Sufism and early influences, particularly from Christianity; the rise of the great Sufi organizations; the thought of Sufism’s main theorist and systemizer, Ibn Arabi; Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes; relations with Shi’ism in Iran; Sufi practices in the twentieth century, and much more.

Natural Law: A Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Trialogue by Anver M. Emon, Matthew Levering, and David Novak (Oxford University Press; 231 pages; May 2014). Offers a comparative perspective on natural-law doctrine in the three Abrahamic traditions, with reference to such thinkers as Maimonides, Augustine, and al-Ghazali.


Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws: From Islamic Empires to the Taliban by Shemeem Burney Abbas (University of Texas Press; 204 pages; July 2013). Combines scholarly and personal perspectives in a study of the history and impact of such laws, described here as neither following the dictates of Islam or the Qur’an.

The Punjabis in British Columbia: Location, Labour, First Nations, and Multiculturalism by book_punjabisKamala Elizabeth Nayar (McGill-Queen’s University Press; 384 pages; Oct. 2012). Traces the history of the Punjabi community in the province from first settlement in the rural Skeena region to a second migration to the lower mainland of BC.

Religion and Democratization: Framing Religious and Political Identities in Muslim and Catholic Societies by Michael D. Driessen (Oxford University Press; 338 pages; May 2014). Explores the potential of “religiously friendly democratization” through case studies of Italy and Algeria and additional comparative discussion of Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, and Indonesia.

Religious Conversions in the Mediterranean World edited by Nadia Marzouki and Olivier Roy (Macmillan; 208 pages; August 2013). Based on first-hand ethnographical research from several countries throughout the Mediterranean region, this book is the first of its kind in studying and analyzing contemporary conversions and their impact on recasting ideas of nationalism and citizenship.

Shibli: His Life and Thought in the Sufi Tradition by Kenneth Averyshi'i islam book (State University of New York Press; 160 pages; June 2014). Draws on Arabic and Persian sources in a study of Abu Bakr al-Shibli (d. 946), an enigmatic early Sufi master born in what is now Iraq.

NEW August 2014 Shi’i Islam: An Introduction by Najam Haider (Cambridge University Press; 264 pages; Aug. 2014). This book covers, for the first time in English, a wide range of Shi’i communities from the demographically predominant Twelvers to the transnational Isma’ilis to the scholar-activist Zaydis.

book War-Peace

FREE ONLINE PDF War and Peace in Islam: The Uses and Abuses of Jihad edited by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan), Professor Ibrahim Kalin, and Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali (MABDA; 521 pages; free pdf or order copy). Written by a number of Islamic religious authorities and Muslim scholars, this work presents the views and teachings of mainstream Sunni and Shi’i Islam on the subject of jihad. It authoritatively presents jihad as it is understood by the majority of the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims today, and supports this understanding with extensive detail and scholarship.

Understanding the Qur’anic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age by Isra Yazicioglu (Penn State University Press; 208 pages; Nov. 2013). Examines the premodern and modern reception of miracle stories in the Qur’an, including those shared with Judaism and Christianity.

Women anwomend the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam by Asma Sayeed (Cambridge University Press; 239 pages; Aug. 2013). Focuses on engagement with the Hadith in a study of Muslim women’s participation in religious learning from the beginnings of Islam through the 17th century.

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight against Muslim Fundamentalism by Karima Bennoune (W.W. Norton; 416 pages; August 2013). Documents the activism of artists, scholars, and others of Muslim heritage in 26 countries.

Zayd by David S. Powers (University of Pennsylvania Press; 174 pages; July 2014). A biography of a man the prophet Muhammad adopted as his son, just before the first revelation, but later repudiated and sent to certain death on the battlefield; uses accounts of Zayd to document ties between Islamic texts and the Hebrew Bible.

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