Category Archives: Muhammad

I Think I’ll Pass on the Bulgarian Monastery 2012

I am sitting, this late November day in 2012, beside a pool in the Ritz-Carlton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Yesterday, before I left New York, I received a phone call from my first wife. I almost didn’t pick up when the ID flashed, but since this was her first call in 40 years, I […]

Imitatio Muhammadi: Moral Modeling in Islam

The Imitatio Christi, composed by the German monk Thomas à Kempis (d. 1471), is a classic of Christian spirituality, widely read and translated from Latin into a variety of languages. It is not of course an instructional manual for the imitation of Christ—How does one imitate the Son of God?—nor is it, more plausibly, about […]

Religion, Tolerance and Violence

Religion we think we know and violence we know very well indeed, so let us turn directly to the troublemaker of the trio, tolerance, and save the easier notions for later. Literary critics are extremely fond of the figure of “unpacking” when it comes to explaining a word or a notion or a concept. I […]

Medina…in brief

Medina, originally called Yathrib, was an oasis 275 miles north of Mecca. It was an agricultural settlement, with widely scattered palm groves and armed farmsteads, and it numbered among its inhabitants both Arabs and Jews. The two groups lived in a complex political association which late in the sixth century CE began to unravel, resulting […]

Mecca…in brief

Mecca was a holy site for as long as the Arabs had any memory of the place, and whatever the surmises regarding the origin of that sanctity, the Muslims traced the holiness of its sanctuary back to Adam who was directed there and built a cube-like house (kacba) directly beneath an identical  structure in heaven. […]

Muslim Jerusalem….in brief

Jerusalem, generally called simply “the Holy” (al-Quds) by the Muslims, is not mentioned by name in the Quran, but the Muslim tradition unanimously sees a reference to it in the allusion in 17: 1 where Muhammad was borne by night from Mecca to “the distant shrine” (al-masjid al-aqsa). Muslim armies took Jerusalem without resistance in […]

Allah…..in brief

Islam knows no creed, no formal profession of faith that every Muslim is required to proclaim as a sign of his membership in the Islamic community. A number of Muslims have attempted to elaborate such a creed (aqidah) to supply the immediate doctrinal needs of some moment of Islamic history, but none has won the […]

Jesus in Islam

To speak of Jesus in Islam is to plunge immediately into an enormous paradox. Jesus of Nazareth, the person regarded as the Son of God by the Christian Church, reappears emphatically and often in the Quran as a prophet. Though there are signs that some of Jesus’ own contemporaries may also have thought of him […]

Islam on Judaism

“Islam,” no less than “Judaism,” is  a construct, and its contents vary according to what Muslims, or Jews, or indeed anyone else, choose to include in it. But in the case of Muslim and Jews at least there are foundation texts which establish the general outlines of the construct and to some extent point the […]

The Gospel, the Qur’an and the Mishnah in Conversation 3-12

The assumption that sits beneath the monotheistic faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims is that God, the creator of the universe and of everything in it, has chosen, “at sundry times and divers manners,” to communicate with His human creatures. Early on the converse seems to have had a social quality, as when God strolled […]