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The Qur'an: A Biography (Books That Changed the World) Hardcover – February 8, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0871139511 ISBN-10: 0871139510 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Books That Changed the World
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1St Edition edition (February 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871139510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139511
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As part of this press's series on Books That Changed the World, Lawrence, a professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University, offers an unusual "biography" of the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book. He describes in each chapter how the Qur'an has been experienced throughout its 1,400-year history, as it has fascinated, intrigued and guided millions of Muslims and non-Muslims. Lawrence gracefully describes the Qur'an's interpretation and use—by individuals, leaders, poets and even on building walls. Throughout, Lawrence emphasizes the wide diversity of Qur'anic interpretations around the world and through the ages. The same verses that appear on the walls of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, for example, are written inside drinking glasses in Indonesia, sipped by women seeking the healing powers of the Qur'an. Some Sufis have even claimed that the Qur'an can heal AIDS when people chant its verses. In his boldest analysis, Lawrence examines Osama bin Laden's manipulative citation of the Qur'an. In contrast, Lawrence profiles W.D. Mohammed, the spiritual leader of approximately two million African-American Muslims, who sees the Qur'an as unifying peoples beyond race and culture. This book, like the book it studies, is meditative and unique, a lovely read for any spiritual person, Muslim or not. (Feb.)
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"Michael Prichard's comfort with foreign names and words makes the deluge of dogma easier to understand and digest than the text alone. His smooth voice makes difficult concepts...find relevance." ---AudioFile
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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There should surely have been very much more about Sunnis and Shi'ites.
Ralph Blumenau
What disappointed most is the very uncritical, almost dogmatic orientation of the book in parts.
Will Jerom
Overall, this is an excellent book for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Sahra Badou

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By L. F Sherman on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Bruce Lawrence provides a "biography" of the Qur'an that is well designed to introduce the significance of the Qur'an before one attempts to wrestle with the text itself. Lawrence is a serious scholar of Islam and Sufism who here has found a way to simplify that does not oversimplify and is therefore extremely useful for those new to the study of Islam and also others with much more familiarity to get fresh perspective. It is well worth reading by a fairly broad range of readers, Muslim and non-Muslim.

After two chapters on Prophet Muhammad and one on A'isha (the `favorite' wife of his later days in Medina after a long monogamous marriage to Khadija), chapters are about the Qur'an and its interpretation, introducing issues in simple and effective terms via those who have written about and been inspired by the Qur'an.. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Taj Mahal have extensive quotations carved into them, one emphasizing the oneness of God and the other the character and image of Paradise.

Others chapters introduce writings and inspiration for the likes of Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Iqbal in India, Ibn Arabi the mystic and philosopher, and still others. In this way one begins to see "life story" -- the role of traditional interpretation, the critical importance of in depth study to understand, as well as the place of "science" and inspiration. One Another chapter discusses Osama bin Laden's warped use of the Qur'an - so very like the selective quotations to portray Islam by its detractors. Of course detractors and bin Laden "feed" off each other.

This well written "biography" is about interpretations and many important people moved by the Qur'an.

(There are other books in the series - major books of Plato, Darwin, Marx, Thomas Paine - and more to come. The first reviewer missed the point of the series and yet still enjoyed this book.)
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sahra Badou on July 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very simple attempt to explain the Qur'an. I personally don't think it should have been called a biography, for it isn't. However, the book is very well written and easy to read, and will introduce the reader, whether Muslim or not, to how Muslims have used and interpreted the Qur'an throughout the centuries.

The first chapters are on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his followers, his wars, and on one of his youngest wives, A'isha. These chapters will introduce the reader to how and why the Qur'an descended to the people of the world. The rest of the chapters are about how Muslims have used and interpreted the Qur'an.

I did enjoy the chapter on the use of the Qur'an for healing. According to the author, Muslims have used the Qur'an to heal themselves from diseases such as cancer and AIDS. Qur'anic verses have also been used to adorn murals such as in the Mosque of the Dome and the Taj Mahal, and the author does a great job explaining their history.

The author points out that not all Islamic scholars or Imams interpreted the Qur'an in the same way. This caused branches in Islam, among which are the Sunnis, Shiites, Sufis, Wahabis, Dancing Dervishes, and Nation of Islam, to name just a few. The author goes through some of these branches of Islam and he does a great job explaining their origins.

I did also enjoy the chapter on jihad, a subject captivating the minds of everyone after 9/11. Some Muslim scholars view Jihad as a means of fighting your enemies (e.g. Osama Binladen), while other scholars view Jihad as a spiritual struggle within oneself.

The author talks about prominent Muslim figures from the United States, India, and Pakistan, and about their differing views on how one should approach the Qur'an. Those chapters were fascinating.
Overall, this is an excellent book for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book on the Qur'an is sub-titled "A Biography" and it is issued as part of a series dubbed "Books That Shook the World." Neither of those catch phrases is really a propos. What this book really is is an introduction to the Qur'an, and it is a somewhat quirky one and ultimately only a so-so one.

I say "quirky" because Lawrence organizes his book, and presents the Qur'an, through a series of what he calls "vignettes" -- separate chapters that the author claims "can be read consecutively or selectively" and each of which, according to Lawrence, "has a distinct geo-historical context." If the intent was for each vignette to be a piece of a mosaic, the overall design fails because at the end of the book no clear, coherent picture of the Qur'an emerges. Instead, the book has an episodic feel -- snapshots of the Qur'an through time.

The book is short -- just less than 200 pages, type-set in a reader-friendly fashion that has relatively few words per page (it can be read in an afternoon). It contains brief accounts of the Prophet Muhammad as the recipient/source of the Qur'anic revelations/recitations and his wife 'A'ishah and her role in preserving the Qur'an for future generations. In addition, there are individual chapters on seven of the principal "interpreters" of the Qur'an through history, as well as chapters on the Dome of the Rock and the Taj Mahal as architectural embodiments of the Qur'an. Finally, the book closes with three "vignettes" that cursorily discuss the Qur'anic background for three contemporary issues: racial equality, "jihad" a la Osama bin Ladin, and the Qur'an as a cure for AIDs and other earthly illnesses.

The book is well-written. My problem with it is that it is not sufficiently informative, even as an introduction.
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