UPDATE to what I wrote in the paragraph below: This reprint of Wansbrough's pioneering work is made more accessible to the motivated scholar by a section of annotations--these are English translations of the Arabic citations contained within the text-- and a glossary of technical terms used in advanced scholarship. Both of these are provided by Professor Andrew Rippin, whose work has helped to place this text back into print with Prometheus publishing. These appear at the end of the work, so as not to disrupt the flow of the text. Of course, Dr. Rippin does advise there that for those who have absolutely no foundation in any textual, Biblical, or Near Eastern scholarship, and no exposure to Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, German or French vocabulary, at least those typically found in ancient studies and textual scholarship, This Work Is Not the Place to Start, and I agree entirely. I have put that phrase with capitals to emphasize this point. In fact, Professor Rippin himself has referred to his working through this text multiple times to yield its fruits! Sadly, there are few scholars, and fewer students, with the breadth of Wansbrough's erudition to keep the academic "conversation" laid out in this text thriving, and perhaps still fewer, besides Professor Rippin and a handful of others, with the courage to address these sophisticated issues of textual analysis of Islamic texts stripped of dogmatic or tendentious agendas. But I am adding this update to state that, if one already has something of a background and patience, like I said in my first review, the rewards here are sine qua non. I can't sufficiently describe the hunger I felt for satisfactory secular scholarly analysis of the Qu'ranic text(s); I finally feel like I have the beginnings of the answers, and at least the arguments well laid out. This extra comment is largely directed to my fellow travelers in ancient, classical, and/or religious studies who may have worked to the graduate level or developed a comprehensive background through serious (i.e. academic) study. Whatever you may glean from Wansbrough's essays here, you will have entirely found it worth the effort. I certainly have, and I continue to.
This book is a work of scholarship, written by a scholar and for scholars. It presupposes a familiarity not only with classical textual criticism but also elements of Biblical criticism and Near Eastern studies, and the terminology used on the graduate level or higher in the academy. The terminology isn't 'esoteric' or 'exotic,' it is the language of scholarship used to describe very specific complex ideas. As such, there aren't 'soundbytes' or quick 'zingers' to prove anything to anyone, sanguine or skeptic. Rather, it is a mature and sophisticated scholarly approach that relies upon first the assumption that the text may be treated as we find it, and then by use of the tools of textual criticism can be analyzed apart from traditional Muslim exegesis, and in order to do so, "bracketing," to use the academic term, the issues of divine origins and inimitability.
It's just as well Wansbrough wasn't inclined to attempt to simplify his work--the shrill noise on either side of this unsurprisingly contentious subject already drowns out serious and sober inquiry not motivated by theological concern or polemic, or at least make it very difficult to track down a reliable body of work not stalked in reviews by the usual partisan crowds. So, if you really are able to read academic works in Biblical Studies and/or classics, and have spent the time and energy to familiarize yourself with Greek, Hebrew and Latin, are familiar with common terms from 20th century biblical scholarship, then this book will hold numerous rewards. Even if you are lacking in some, but not all, of these, you may discern some insight here. I am lucky enough to be in that position, and even more fortunate that there was a scholar willing to put this together during his tenure for the posterity of other motivated scholars not interested in pointless debates about inviolable texts or parrying insults about what is acceptable to study academically and what isn't.
- Hardcover: 316 pages
- Publisher: PROMETHEUS BOOKS; 1 edition (1 June 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591022010
- ISBN-13: 978-1591022015
- Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.3 x 21.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 612 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 364,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)