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Journey to the End of Islam Paperback – November 17, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born Irish Catholic in upstate New York, Knight converted to Islam as a teenager and wrote an influential underground novel, The Taqwacores, about young Muslim-Americans struggling to integrate their religious beliefs with an affinity for beer and the Sex Pistols. His latest, a stream of consciousness chronicle of his pilgrimage to holy sites in Pakistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, resembles nothing so much as the archetypal American road novel complete with a harrowing episode of cannabis-induced psychosis, a breezy tone (I spent two months in Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, doing the madrassa thing and considering jihad in Chechnya) and indifference to whether the reader can follow his references (if you aren't acquainted with Muslim history and terminology, you would be well-advised to stay within close reach of Wikipedia). He probes and prods the boundaries of his faith with unabashed emotion and honesty, even questioning, near the end of his journey, whether he really understands anything about Islam. But the book is most engaging when he turns his gaze outward to make pithy observations on the intersection of religion and global capitalist culture (he describes Saudi Arabia as the Wal-Mart of Islam). (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; Original edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593762461
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593762469
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #788,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Knight on April 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is offensive and might even cause some imams to issue a fatwa, but it's entertaining in every level. This was the second book that I read by Michael Muhammad Knight and after I finished reading it-after 5 hours-I was so blown away that I would've paid $100 for it. This book gives an insight into a man's quest for Islam, his Islam and not some artificial one. This book is brutally honest and makes you question your religion, whatever it may be. Completely worth your time, it'll leave you recommending it to your friends and family.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Matt on July 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Journey to the End of Islam is author Michael Muhammad Knight's second travel book about experiencing and documenting lesser known Islamic expressions throughout the world, the first being Blue Eyed Devil: A Road Journey Through Islamic America, which exclusively focused on exploring the United States' "weird" history of Islam. This book begins with Knight musing on the fact that nearly every minority religion has been persecuted and vilified at some point in American history, including its Mormons, Catholics, Jews, etc - and yet all of these faiths have become somewhat "mainstream" over time, especially Catholicism. He then wonders if Islam has become the most "un-American" religion in the nation's history, in terms of how many people regard American Muslims and their faith. Along the way, Knight discovers that there is no such thing as a "real", "fake" or "universal" Islam - and despite the claims of many "moderate" Muslims, culture and religion are intertwined. The only "universal" aspect of Islam is the holy Qur'an in Arabic, but even that is interpreted differently by different people - and even scholars who try to come to a consensus about what this or that verse means, disagree with each other. So nothing, literally no-thing binds Muslims together as a cohesive community - this to the chagrin of many Muslims as well as non-Muslims who want to believe that they are "all the same" for very different reasons. After having had that realization, that there is no such thing as a "universal" Islam, Knight was much more able to objectively explore different expressions of Islam without being overly judgmental.

At one point, however, his "inner fundamentalist" came out while in Pakistan as a man was trying to sell him what appeared to be a Sufi equivilant to a healing voodoo doll.
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Format: Paperback
I had never really had much of an interest in Islam or Muslim studies before discovering Michael Muhammad Knight's Journey to the End of Islam, but through his writing, I have found a voice which brings the misunderstandings and misconceptions of what a Muslim is or might be to a screeching halt and allowed me to see the very human side of one of the World's Largest Religions. Through his adventures in various parts of the Muslim and Non-Muslim world, Michael gives us a poignant look at the degree to which some aspects of Muslim culture do not meet the standards set forth by more conservative forms of the religion, as well as what is gained and lost through the variety of interpretations which those who practice it. Intertwining pieces of his past with what is present within the storyline of the book, Journey to the End of Islam is a great piece for those familiar with his work in further gleaning the insight he brings, while not being so steeped in the lore of previous writings to leave the uninitiated bewildered. I recommend this book to anybody seeking to balance the inconsistencies of what one is told with what one is presented, as well as anybody who seeks to learn more about that which they may not; sometimes what is not known is more familiar than one would ever think it to be.
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I read The Taqwacores without having an appreciation for the journey and story of the author, but after deepening my own path and getting some strong recommendations, I was eager to read more of Knight's work. Journey is a unique work, both travelogue and spiritual autobiography. It is replete with religious and pop culture references, of which I knew an astonishing amount - so much so that I thought, why haven't this brother and I met, already? I suspect that to a general audience, much of it will lead to scratching heads. But if you are Muslim or simply looking to explore a path of Truth with a fellow human being, this book is absolutely worth your time. It demonstrates not only the value of travel on the journey, but also of faith in the driver. Knight isn't afraid to admit the small truths - for example, that his travel was being paid for by advances on the book. He also seasons his moments of Truth with flashes of uncertainty, even ugliness from himself and from the ummah at large. In the end, he succeeds in supporting his early hypothesis that America is perhaps the best place to be a Muslim today - at least to the kind of person, who, when asked if they are Muslim, replies "insha'Allah."
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mitch Horowitz on November 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found almost every one of these chapters magical -- Michael Knight has more to say on a single topic than most writers grapple with in their entire careers. Think I'm exaggerating? He considers the Hermetic connections between the Abrahamic faiths, the uneasy role of Muhammad as both a religious and political revolutionary, Islam's crisis in accommodating the part of women, the charity shown by the faith's most intense acolytes, the harassment of its experimenters in the East and West - and these represent just a fraction of what he confronts. Knight proceeds always with literary precision, historical grounding, and ethical seriousness. Not to mention humor and a right dose of self-questioning. His writing brings a quality to the spiritual search that is missing in other books - a tectonic confrontation of the ancient and the new, with a deep sense of questioning and a willingness to sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong. There is just no voice on the literary world scene like Knight's.
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