Saturday, October 23, 2010

Interpretations of the Prophet's life in the twentieth century

Islam is a broad church, divided as well as united by readings of the life of its founder. The twentieth century saw the Prophet reinvented in multiple and sometimes improbable ways: as a pacifist (by Hasan Askari), a radical socialist (Mustafa al-Siba'i), a Third Worldist, anticolonial hero (Ali Shariati), an Arab nationalist (Michel Aflaq), a Nietzchean or at least a Bergsonian superman (Allama Iqbal), an eco-warrior (Fazlun Khalid), a feminist (Fatima Mernissi), an arch-conservative (King Fahd), a scientist (Maurice Bucaille), a postmodern foe of metanarratives (Farid Esack), and a proto-democrat (Muhammad Asad). The list could be extended, but the diversity must answer finally to an authority - not to an hierarchy, which for better or worse has been largely absent from Islam - but to historians, and, more complicatedly, to patterns of devotion to the Prophet which are recurrent enough in Islamic history cautiously to be described as normative.

-"Muhammad from a Muslim Perspective" by Tim Winter in "Abraham's Children: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Conversation," pg. 114

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