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The Emergence of Islam: Classical Tradtion in Contemporary Perspective [Kindle Edition]

Gabriel Said Reynolds
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

This brief survey text tells the story of Islam. Gabriel Said Reynolds organizes his study in three parts in order to tell of Muhammad’s early life and rise to power, of the origins and development of the Qur’an, with a distinctive, if unique, juxtaposition between the Qur’an and biblical literature, and concluding with an overview of modern and fundamentalist narratives of Islam’s origin, which reveals how those who represent Islam’s future begin by shaping its past.

Product Description


"Reynolds' book is a lucidly written and unique contribution to the study of Islam. By highlighting scholarly perspectives on Muhammad and the Qur'an in an accessible and well-researched manner, Reynolds has provided students and general readers with a remarkable resource. The extension of his insights to the implications of the material for Muslim discussions about their faith in contemporary times provides a stimulating introduction to the relevance of history to today's world." -- Andrew Rippin "University of Victoria"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3521 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press (1 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #378,720 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars For any who want to know.. 2 Jun. 2014
Useful resource for students of Islamic Studies or history, or in my case writing an essay on seventh century Arabia. Scholarly and does not shy away from tough issues, such as issues and debates surrounding the authorship of the Quran and the so called 'satanic verses'.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding, Accessible Introduction To Islam's Origins, Contrasting Traditional Muslim Views With Modern Scholarship 30 Dec. 2013
By Ulrich - Published on
Most books on early Islam are either one-sided or highly specialized -- popular works on this subject tend to present either a pious repetition of traditional Muslim narratives, or else shrill partisan attacks against those traditions. Academic works tend to avoid those same pitfalls, but they are usually so technical and narrow that they remain inaccessible for a general audience.

This book is very different. Professor Reynolds has beautifully and clearly set forth (1) the traditional Muslim narrative of the emergence of Islam *and* (2) the problems and historical difficulties that modern scholars have identified with that traditional narrative. In analyzing those historical difficulties, he explains how the Quran itself sheds light on how Islam emerged, what sort of religious environment it emerged in, and why the hadith/sira/shariah were later developed to explicate certain features of the more ancient text, while addressing what were (by then) a much later and radically different set of social/religious issues. As a simple example, the later Muslim tradition is heavily focused on Mecca, arguing that Mohammed began speaking against the polytheists in Mecca. Yet the Qur'an itself is primarily directed at Christians and Jews, and does not directly even mention Mecca, with relatively few mentions of polytheism (the Arabic word often translated as "polytheists" actually meaning "associators," i.e. those who falsely associate other persons (Jesus/Holy Spirit) with Allah). Read through the later Muslim tradition, the Qur'an is all about Mohammed receiving a monotheistic revelation and attempting to convert the polytheists, receiving this new revelation in the isolated polytheistic city of Mecca. Read through modern scholarship, Islam seems to have been much more of the product of Arab engagement with Christian and Jewish theology/religion, emerging considerably to the North, next to and amongst Christian and Jewish Arab populations.

The text is so nicely edited and carefully planned that the book will be easily comprehensible to nearly any interested reader, despite the fabulous complexities of the scholarly issues it addresses. Reynolds gives excellent, clear examples of why modern scholars disagree with certain aspects of the Muslim tradition, while not being overly dogmatic. If a reader has any familiarity with the Byzantine complexities of modern critical scholarship on Islam's emergence, the task of simplifying and summarizing that scholarship would seem nearly impossible. But Reynolds does it quite well. It's hard to imagine much of a better generalist introduction to the early history of Islam.

I didn't experience the book binding problem that seems to have plagued the other reviewers, so hopefully the issue has been fixed. My copy seems fine, and it is a rather handsomely produced text with nice illustrations/images that further the discussion, so it would be a shame to see people avoid it in favor of the Kindle edition.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-Read, Even With Bad Binding 12 Dec. 2012
By Kitchen Magician - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The binding on my almost-new copy also self-destructed and I had to clip the pages together. Nevertheless, this is a must-read book authored by an accomplished "Western" Islamic scholar for non-Muslims and even Muslims seeking an insightful view of Islam and its teachings. The book should be easily understandable for the layperson as well as highly informative for others more knowledgeable. As a devotee of the eminent scholar of Islam Bernard Lewis, I think this book equals and even surpasses Dr. Lewis's works in presenting a more contemporary and objective perspective of Islamic ideology. The centerpiece of the book for me explains the Biblical-derived nature of the Quran in which the key figures of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are rendered [Arab] Muslims. Thus, Abraham becomes Ibrihim, Moses becomes Musa and so forth. The Exodus chapter of Jewish history becomes "Allah" bringing "Musa" and the Israelites out of Egypt and "Allah" gave "Musa" the "Book of Allah" on Mount Sinai. The Jewish and Christian Biblical narratives are, in effect, transformed into Arab Muslim narratives. According to Islamic doctrine, Moses and Jesus were originally given Islamic books of scripture later "corrupted" and falsified into the Torah and Gospels as we know them, today. Thus, a "correct" and "uncorrupted" scripture was necessary, the Quran brought to the world courtesy of the "Prophet" Muhammad.

My personal view of all this is though Muslims have the right to believe as they wish, this unfortunate aspect of Islamic belief that "curses" Jews and Christians for allegedly fabricating and altering their Bibles is one motivation for the intolerance, hatred and persecution of Jews and Christians emanating from the Islamic world. And, since the Quran is the direct and immutable word of "Allah," this doctrine cannot be changed, the inevitable consequence of which will be the continued global Muslim war against the infidels.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars substandard binding 25 Nov. 2012
By Allen J O'Loughlin - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reynolds has put together a sensitive and provocative book that looks at the original sources of Islam in a new light. He proposes that the most reliable way to construct a biography of Muhammad is to look only to the Qur'an. He suggests that the other sources (hadith and sira) were written later for the purpose of explaining ambiguous Qur'anic passages and to makes sense of the Qur'an's message. It is written in a readable style and is beautifully presented.

HOWEVER!! I am not happy with the construction of the book itself. My first copy fell apart at the binding. It was replaced by Amazon at no cost. Now my second copy is also falling apart (other students in my class are having similar experiences). I cannot return this copy to Amazon so am stuck with it.

I expect the publisher should do something about this, and the author should be pushing them. This book is a valuable scholarly asset - I want to keep it, but am not happy with the poor quality binding.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book! 12 Jun. 2012
By AymanPhD - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dr. Reynolds is an expert in this field. The book is an easy read and very interesting. The reading would be a fun time, especially for those who are interested in knowing more about the emergence of Islam and the life of its Prophet. It shows a very balanced assessment/presentation of scholarly arguments and historical accounts.

Reynolds presents, in an excellent way, both the traditional view of Islam adopted by Muslims and the "new" or "revisionist" views. He shows due respect to the tradition without diluting/ignoring the critical assessment offered by recent scholarly research. The entire book is a masterpiece, yet four chapters in specific are must read: "The Quran and its Message," "Rethinking the Biography of the Prophet," "The Historical Context of the Quran," and "Contemporary Muslim Narratives of Islam Emergence."

I would highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to know about Islam or the Quran.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book... shame about the binding 23 Oct. 2012
By Matt D - Published on
This is a great scholarly work on Islam which serts out both a traditional and contemporary perspective on interpreting Qu'ran and Hadith tradition. I am using it for a Graduate level introduction to Islam.

My only complaint, and I'm not alone in my class, is that the bindingon our books fell apart on the first read. 8 out of my class had to return books because the pages were falling out within one week of reading it.

In summary, I highly recommend the book... save yourself the hassle and get the Kindle edition though!
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