Haleem, “Exploring the Qur’an: Context and Impact”

In April, I.B. Tauris Publishers will release Exploring the Qur’an: Context and Impact by Muhammad Abdel Haleem (University of London). The publisher’s description follows:

ibtauris_logoThe teachings, style and impact of the Qur’an have always been matters of controversy, among both Muslims and non-Muslims. But in a modern context of intercultural sensitivity, what the Qur’an says and means are perhaps more urgent questions than ever before. This major new book by one of the world’s finest Islamic scholars responds to that urgency. Building on his earlier groundbreaking work, the author challenges misinterpretations of particular Qur’anic verses from whatever quarter. He addresses the infamous ‘sword’ verse, frequently cited as a justification for jihad. He also questions the ‘tribute’ verse, associated with the Muslim state subjugating Jews and Christians; and the idea of Paradise in the Qur’an, often viewed by the West as emphasising merely physical pleasures, or used by Islamic fighters as their just reward for holy war. The author argues that wrenching the verses out of the context of the whole has led to dangerous ideologies being built on isolated phrases which have then assumed afterlives of their own. This nuanced, holistic reading has vital interfaith ramifications.

Crone, “The Iranian Reception of Islam”

In June, Brill released “The Iranian Reception of Islam: The Non-Traditionalist Strands,” by Patricia Crone (Princeton University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Patricia Crone’s Collected Studies in Three Volumes brings together a number of her published, unpublished, and revised writings on Near Eastern and Islamic history,41vto0um7ol-_sx326_bo1204203200_ arranged around three distinct but interconnected themes. Volume 2, The Iranian Reception of Islam: The Non-Traditionalist Strands, examines the reception of pre-Islamic legacies in Islam, above all that of the Iranians. Volume 1, The Qurʾānic Pagans and Related Matters, pursues the reconstruction of the religious environment in which Islam arose and develops an intertextual approach to studying the Qurʾānic religious milieu. Volume 3, Islam, the Ancient Near East and Varieties of Godlessness, places the rise of Islam in the context of the ancient Near East and investigates sceptical and subversive ideas in the Islamic world.

Spellberg, “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders”

This October, Random House will publish Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders by Denise A. Spellberg (University of Texas at Austin).  The Thomas Jeffersons Quranpublisher’s description follows.

In this original and illuminating book, Denise A. Spellberg reveals a little-known but crucial dimension of the story of American religious freedom—a drama in which Islam played a surprising role. In 1765, eleven years before composing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson bought a Qur’an. This marked only the beginning of his lifelong interest in Islam, and he would go on to acquire numerous books on Middle Eastern languages, history, and travel, taking extensive notes on Islam as it relates to English common law. Jefferson sought to understand Islam notwithstanding his personal disdain for the faith, a sentiment prevalent among his Protestant contemporaries in England and America. But unlike most of them, by 1776 Jefferson could imagine Muslims as future citizens of his new country.

Based on groundbreaking research, Spellberg compellingly recounts how a handful of the Founders, Jefferson foremost among them, drew upon Enlightenment ideas about the toleration of Muslims (then deemed the ultimate outsiders in Western society) to fashion out of what had been a purely speculative debate a practical foundation for governance in America. In this way, Muslims, who were not even known to exist in the colonies, became the imaginary outer limit for an unprecedented, uniquely American religious pluralism that would also encompass the actual despised minorities of Jews and Catholics. The rancorous public dispute concerning the inclusion of Muslims, for which principle Jefferson’s political foes would vilify him to the end of his life, thus became decisive in the Founders’ ultimate judgment not to establish a Protestant nation, as they might well have done.

As popular suspicions about Islam persist and the numbers of American Muslim citizenry grow into the millions, Spellberg’s revelatory understanding of this radical notion of the Founders is more urgent than ever. Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an is a timely look at the ideals that existed at our country’s creation, and their fundamental implications for our present and future.

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