Islam in Retrospect
Recovering the Message
Maher S. Mahmassani
published 2014 • 6" x 9" • 800 pages
ISBN 9781566569224 • paperback • $35.00 •
“This is a timely and seminal book… a major scholarly work… will come as a shock to many in the west as well as in today’s Islamic world… It is a must read.”
—Ziad Hafez, Managing Editor, Contemporary Arab Affairs
“Legal consultant Mahmassani outlines his views on Islam, aiming to present his interpretation of the Koran (Islam's holy book) and the Hadith (the prophetic traditions) and show how they are compatible with contemporary notions of secularism and rights to freedom and equality. The book is divided into three parts. The first part explores the conditions under which early Islam was propagated and how one should interpret the Hadith and Koran. The second segment discusses theory of the state as it relates to Islamic doctrine (as interpreted in part one). Here the author considers issues of statehood, law making focusing on Sharia law (Islamic law), and the theory of a divine (Islamic) state. The emphasis is on showing a multiplicity of Sharia laws and the myth of attaining a divine state. Part three looks at rights and freedoms and their consequences. Mahmassani believes that Islam is a universal faith, valid for all peoples at all times, including—with the proper interpretation—today. He shows its compatibility with contemporary notions of statehood, rights, freedoms, and pluralism. VERDICT Recommended for those interested in learning about a moderate view of Islam.”
RENEWING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF ISLAM IN TODAY’S WORLD
Islam, in many of its current guises, no longer resembles its original Message. In a world of intractable conflicts plagued by political Islam and Islamophobia—and where other forms of fundamentalism within the major religious creeds are on the rise, as well—this book serves as a reminder. It aims to recover and reaffirm Islam’s underlying and guiding principles. Setting out to distinguish the divine from the human in order to elucidate the pristine nature of the divine Message, Mahmassani reasserts Islam’s universal, secular, and progressive character.
In Part One of this comprehensive and meticulously researched volume, the author places the Message of Islam within its historic, geographic, and cultural contexts. Focusing on the primacy of the Holy Qur'an among the sources of Islam, he examines the controversies which have surrounded the Prophetic Tradition—Sunna and Hadith—as a source of Islam, demonstrating the full scope of Islam’s universality. In Part Two he goes on to clarify Islam’s secular nature by reconsidering inherited beliefs about the relationship between Islam and the state, and Islam and Sharia’a law, revealing Islam’s inherent humanism. This leads, in Part Three, to reflections on the progressive nature of Islam, and on the importance of the role of the mind in understanding and taking full benefit of religion as an engine of progress. In particular, the author focuses on human rights, including issues of human dignity, freedom of faith, and gender equality.
Islam in Retrospect: Recovering the Message is a rich contribution to continuing efforts to reform perceptions of Islam. Scholars and students in the fields of Islamic studies, religion, and the humanities, teachers, policy makers, and general readers will find this carefully constructed sourcebook invaluable for its fresh outlook and approach to understanding Islam and Muslim Scriptures in the light of today’s world. As Mahmassani affirms, “Islam, as a divine message, has been—and continuously remains—perfect.”
Maher S. Mahmassani has written two books and numerous articles in anthologies and law journals, in Arabic, English and French, on matters ranging from Islamic law to finance, investment and family law. He earned his doctorate in 1972 and taught law in Beirut at the Lebanese University Law School and the Arab University Law School. For over two decades, he was Chief Counsel for the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia at the International Finance Corporation. He now resides in McLean, Virginia.
Olive Branch Press
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