Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review: "The Qur'an: A Biography"

An installment in the "Books that Changed the World" series published Atlantic Monthly Press, Bruce Lawrence's The Qur'an: A Biography (2006) didn't quite do what I'd hoped it would. Rather than a history of the text's historical development, translations, influences, &c. (i.e. what I would have thought of as a "biography", and what other titles in this series generally focus on), Lawrence offers up a very abstract Introduction touching on the Qur'an's importance to Muslims, followed by a series of short profiles of people connected in one way or another with the Qur'an (from Muhammad to Osama bin Laden to early translator Robert Ketton).

While I was generally underwhelmed by Lawrence's work (when I wasn't just plain confused, since he alternates sharply between over-explanation and none at all), considering recent events a paragraph from his epilogue rang true: "There will be more headline stories about the Qur'an. Though they will likely concern its abuse rather than its use, it is its use that will finally matter most in the decades and centuries ahead. Scholars will continue to debate its style and content, its medieval and modern interpretations, and also its application in law and politics as well as interfaith dialogue."

There have got to be better books out there that will offer more of what I was looking for than this one did. I'll be on the lookout.

1 comment:

Bookseller Bill said...

Check out Karen Armstrong's "Islam: A Short History." She might have some good suggestions in the bibliography.