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A worthwhile and sometimes challenging read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The character and life of Muhammad based on a collection of his sayings.

Knight (Religious Studies/Univ. of Central Florida; Magic in Islam, 2016, etc.) draws on the hadith tradition in Islam—collections of sayings by Muhammad—to provide his own introduction to the prophet, seeking “Muslim traditions that offer representations of Muhammad that speak from outside canonical privilege.” The author’s portrait of Muhammad is progressive, sometimes controversial, and he aims to be inclusive of a variety of Muslim voices. The hadith structure works well as a framework for approaching the complex character of Muhammad from a variety of angles. Some chapters are relatively straightforward and portray the prophet as, for instance, a doting grandfather, an orphaned boy, or even an advocate against animal cruelty. But most chapters dig deeper into Muhammad’s personality and his legacy. Knight finds in Muhammad radical hospitality, patience in judgment, and, above all, a paragon of “the greater jihad”—the battle against one’s ego. As in previous books on Islam, the author occasionally delves into contentious territory, especially in discussions of Muhammad’s sexuality; at one point, he asks readers to “imagine the Prophet…as a gay man.” Later, in discussing the variety of forms that Islam has taken, Knight discusses the Nation of Islam and other related controversial groups. The author also uses the hadith tool to explore those who were close to Muhammad and who had an influence on the beginnings of Islam. For instance, he explores the life of Aisha, one of Muhammad’s later wives, and through her brings a feminist focus to the roots of the Muslim faith. During his conclusion, Knight states, “if someone objects to me with the clichéd charge that I treat Islam ‘like a buffet,’ I answer that I treat it like a dozen buffets.” Indeed, readers will find 40 buffets in this single book.

A worthwhile and sometimes challenging read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59376-147-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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