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Muhammad's Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0231137423
ISBN-10: 0231137427
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Editorial Reviews


"Innovative... A welcome addition to undergraduate and graduate curricula, and an important source book for scholars." -- Kathryn Kueny, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

"A welcome contribution... Muhammad's Grave does more than fill the gap. " -- Ian Straughn, American Anthropologist

"A truly impressive display of textual scholarship fused with historical anthropology and lit up by enthusiasm." -- Barnaby Rogerson, Times Literary Supplement

"The definitive history of its subject before modern times." -- Speculum

"Halevi's book is highly recommended" -- al-Qantara

"a masterful, well-written work filled with original research." -- Middle East Quarterly

"This book will be highly valued by anyone who works on early Islam and the process
through which a distinctively Islamic community came about." -- Martyn Smith, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"An erudite and engaging study." -- Marion Katz, Islamic Law and Society

Book Description

2007 Albert Hourani Book Award, Middle East Studies Association

2008 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, Phi Beta Kappa Society

2008 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in Analytical-Descriptive Studies, American Academy of Religion

2011 John Nicholas Brown Prize, Medieval Academy of America

Short List—2008 Best First Book in the History of Religions, American Academy of Religion

Long List—Cundill International Prize and Lecture in History at McGill University


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231137427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231137423
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,514,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Michael Rubin on May 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Western policymakers and academics often concern themselves with death in Islam only in the context of suicide terrorism. But the Islamic treatment of death is far more complicated. Halevi, professor of history at Vanderbilt University, has written a masterful, well-written work filled with original research that shows how Islamic notions of death coalesced in the first centuries of the new religion.

Well-organized by theme, the separate chapters in Muhammad's Grave (on such topics as cover tomb stones, the washing of corpses, shrouds, wailing, processions, and tomb construction) will primarily interest medievalists and theologians. At the same time, Halevi's work makes for interesting reading to all Middle Eastern experts.

Halevi is an expert linguist and, with training at Princeton, Yale, and Harvard, equally at ease with Muhammad bin Isma'il al-Bukhari's compilations of the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, with the Babylonian Talmud, or with the essays of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French and German scholars. Because Halevi has mastered such a breadth of sources, he is able--as is Qur'anic scholar Khaleel Mohammed at the University of California--to provide the context to Islam's early years. [1] Islam did not arise in a vacuum.

Classical Muslim scholarship--lost to a generation of modern scholars who have mastered neither language nor historiography--acknowledges how both Judaism and Christianity influenced Islam's development and the evolution of its rites more than some contemporary studies suggest. Hence, when discussing the washing of corpses, Halevi is able to provide the Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian contexts with a bit of humor. Why, he asks, did "Basrans and Kufans stray from the Medinese [prevalent in Medina] model?
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