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Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism [Hardcover]

Nabil Matar

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Book Description

24 Jan 2014
Henry Stubbe (1632--1676) was an extraordinary English scholar who challenged his contemporaries by writing about Islam as a monotheistic revelation in continuity with Judaism and Christianity. His major work, The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism, was the first English text to document the Prophet Muhammad's life positively, celebrate the Qur'an as a divine revelation, and praise the Muslim toleration of Christians, undermining a long legacy of European prejudice and hostility. Nabil Matar, a leading scholar of Islamic-British relations, standardizes Stubbe's text and situates it within England's theological and intellectual climate in the seventeenth century. He shows how, to draw a historical portrait of Muhammad, Stubbe embraced travelogues, Latin commentaries, studies on Jewish customs and Scripture, and, most important, Arabic chronicles, many written by medieval Christian Arabs who had lived in the midst of the Islamic polity. No European writer before or for a long time after Stubbe produced anything similar to what he wrote about Muhammad the "great Prophet," Ali the "gallant" advocate, and the "standing miracle" of the Qur'an. Stubbe's book therefore makes a unique contribution to the study of the representation of Islam in Western thought.

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This is a work of significant historical revisionism, dedicated to refuting popular misunderstandings and presenting, for the first time, Christian Arab writers as 'indispensable interlocutors who challenged Western historiography and the Western canon.' -- Jonathan Burton, Whittier College Matar is the leading literary historian of Islam's influence in Britain during the early modern period through the Enlightenment and perhaps the sole scholar competent to produce an edition of this kind. He is a textual editor who also possesses the breadth of literary, historical, and theological knowledge to introduce and explain the text. -- John Michael Archer, New York University The most acute literary historian of Islam in the West has now given us a valuable, critical edition of Henry Stubbe's The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism, contextualized by a well-researched introduction. Stubbe's manuscript treatise, which drew for the first time on Arabic and non-Christian sources in Latin translation, was revolutionary in its methodology and understanding of Islam. He presented the first historical biography of the Prophet and told the story of the spread of Islam, dispelling many untruths, such as conversion by the sword, while recognizing Muslim toleration for other religions. Nabil Matar's work illuminates an important moment in the late seventeenth century. -- Donald R. Dickson, Texas A&M University Stubbe's story deserves to be told, and Matar does so with flair, placing in front of us not a collage of isolated facts but an interesting story fluid in motion. As always, the scholarship is finely tuned, balanced, and intelligent, giving the complete picture, with crisply written force and precise historical detail. We walk away not only with a greater appreciation for Stubbe, as Matar intends, but also uncannily with the past held as a mirror. -- Anas Al-Shaikh-Ali, European Regional Director, International Institute of Islamic Thought, and Vice-President, Institute for Epistemological Studies, Belgium Matar takes us on a fascinating journey through time and into the depth of the human mind. As he reveals the secret of Stubbe's 'cure for the disease of ignorance,' he achieves the ultimate goal: to make the world aware of how much there is that all of us are yet to learn. -- Elma Dizdar, University of Sarajevo

About the Author

Nabil Matar is Presidential Professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He is also a member of the History Department and the Religious Studies Program. He has written extensively on relations between Western Europe and the Islamic Mediterranean. His latest publications were with Gerald MacLean, Britain and the Islamic World, and with Judy Hayden, Through the Eyes of the Beholder: The Holy Land, 1517--1713. His forthcoming work is British Captives in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, 1563--1760.

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