Former-Baha'i, historian and scholar Prof. Juan Cole writes a book on the life of Prophet Muhammad


About Juan Cole from his own website:
He was interested in modern literature, and took several years of German so as to be able to read authors such as Goethe and Hermann Hesse. Juan was very interested in Sufism, having become fascinated with the Islamic tradition in Asmara, and was intrigued by the allegations of Idries Shah that Arabic as a language had special advantages for the mystical path. Being in Evanston, Juan in 1972 encountered the Baha’i religion, which has a temple in nearby Wilmette, and embraced it. The Baha’is said they believed in the unity of the world religions, the elimination of racism, the equality of women and men, and world peace — values that resonated with Juan’s own interests and convictions. 
He continued, however, with his studies of Buddhism and Sufi Islam, and was always a fish out of water in the often cult-like and anti-intellectual Baha’i community. Individual Baha’is and families were often very kind to him, and he is grateful to them and respects their beliefs. But it ultimately wasn’t for him. It gradually became apparent that most Baha’is do not actually believe in the equality of women and men, excluding women from their elective highest body, the Universal House of Justice, and holding that women have a different function in society than men. Then it gradually became apparent that whatever they privately believed about racism, they were unwilling to take a political stand, as quietists, against Apartheid. Then it became clear that they are no more religious pluralists than Roman Catholics or Muslims, admitting partial truth in other traditions, but insisting that only in their own tradition is the fullness of the contemporary truth manifest. Then it became clear that the Baha’i authorities were not exactly pacifists. The top leadership has a secret cult-like belief in a Baha’i theocracy that will rule the world, rather on the same model as the theory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that Muslim clergy should replace civil governments globally. Cole gradually lost his enthusiasm for the community and the administration. When he married outside it in 1982, he stopped going to services because his non-Baha’i wife was excluded. He was also increasingly disturbed by the censorship practices imposed on Baha’i writers by the religion’s administration, and refused to submit to them. 
(When email lists came along in the 1990s and he was active in Baha’i discussions of the religion’s history and policies, in which he retained an academic interest, and some hopes of reform, and he came to be hated by the fundamentalist leadership. In 1996 they had a high official call him at home and threaten him with being declared a “covenant-breaker,” i.e. a heretic, because of his critical email postings. Baha’is shun “covenant-breakers” and shun people who are in contact with them. Cole was astonished at the narrow-minded and coercive tactics of the administration, and declined to remain in the community. He angrily resigned. He is now not interested in organized religion as a personal matter. Cole was all along an American liberal, and had thought the Baha’is were on his side, which he discovered to be an error, at least with regard to the secretive and duplicitous leadership.
This book is widely welcomed by the intellectuals and academics. Following are some reviews from Amazon.

"Cutting-edge....Muhammad is not just eruditely informative, but also ambitiously revisionist....a more uplifting image of the Prophet Muhammad, waiting to be discovered not just by non-Muslims, but also many Muslims themselves."―New York Times Book Review

"A captivating biography of Muhammad that captures the centrality of peace in his prophetic revelation and in the faith community he established. A brilliant and original book destined to challenge many Western preconceptions about Islam."
Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs: A History

"Juan Cole's Muhammad comes at precisely the right time. During a moment where Islam has been positioned as an enhanced threat to America and the West, Cole provides a historical account that trenchantly takes down the mis-narrative that the Prophet Muhammad was, above all, war-mongering and wed to violence. This is more than historical work, but writing that equips readers with the knowledge to navigate our turbulent present."―Khaled A. Beydoun, professor of law and author American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear

"Juan Cole's Muhammad draws deeply on the text of the Qur'an and on a vast selection of the best modern scholarship to make a convincing case for Muhammad as apostle of tolerance and peace. Cole shows how this original message of peace, consistently articulated in the Qur'an, was distorted by later Islamic tradition and denied by more than a thousand years of European polemic against Islam. Filled with astute observations at every turn."
Fred M. Donner, professor of near eastern history, University of Chicago

"A groundbreaking book, written in an accessible and engaging style, that should be read by scholars, students, policymakers, religious leaders, and media commentators alike. Cole's thoroughly original and firmly-rooted scholarship challenges long established Western narratives of Islam as a religion of violence, war and intolerance. A brilliant reconstruction of early Islamic history."― John L. Esposito, university professor and professor of religion & international affairs, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"Illuminates the conditions Islam arose in and gives us food-for-thought."―Usman Butt, The New Arab
"An essential read in a turbulent, dangerous time."―The Historical Novels Review 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts

Total Pageviews


Blog Archive