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The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:1

Over the past 2 years, I have conducted extensive surveys of communal violence in India. I arrived in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on February 15, 2002, to work on a micro-finance project in a Hindu slum. Twelve days after my arrival, communal violence erupted and I shifted my work to rehabilitating the 85,000 Muslims displaced during the violence. Contrary to Varshneys thesis, violence in Ahmedabad occurred only in the mixed locales where Muslims and Hindus either worked or lived together. In areas where Muslims ghettoized themselves, violence did not occur. The primary reason for this is because Muslims living in Hindu locales found themselves vulnerable to attacks from neighboring Hindus. If civic interaction is the panacea for communal discord, then why did such networks not prevent the violence in Gujarat? How has the Hindu boycott of Muslim goods ghettoized the Muslims both economically and emotionally? Why do some Hindus and Muslims feel that their only safety lies in creating physical and emotional barriers? Why do some feel that riots are a form of economic empowerment? Two years after the violence, the injustices and the questions linger. Muslims I interview wonder why and how their neighbors, bosses, teachers, and colleagues could turn on them and afflict so much harm. This is a question Ashutosh Varshney fails to answer.
Zahir Janmohamed Former Outreach Director for the Indian Muslim Council-USA Arlington, Virginia

Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism


Scott B. Noegel and Brannon M. Wheeler London: The Scarecrow Press, 2002. 520 pages. As the compilers of this dictionary point out, Quranic and Islamic views of prophecy have been studied largely in isolation, despite the obvious connections between Islam and the Biblical tradition. Comparative studies have focused on what Islam has taken, or borrowed, from Biblical sources, often implying that this material has been manipulated for tendentious motives. The present dictionary works toward a less polemical comparative study of prophecy, investigating the complex relationships between

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Islamic, Biblical, and other Near Eastern views. The dictionary has been designed to examine shared traditions, promote interdisciplinary dialogue, and include a wide range of material not only from the Quran and the Bible, but also from extra-Biblical and extra-Quranic texts, without claiming to be comprehensive. Such texts include Rabbinic literature of many types; Christian pseudepigrapha, apocrypha, and commentaries; Quranic commentary (tafsir), histories, geographies, biographical dictionaries, stories of the prophets (qisas al-anbiya ), and theological discussions of prophetology (dalail al-nubuwah). It also includes several extremely useful additions: a general introduction (pp. xxiii-xxxvii), a chronology (pp. xix-xxii), a brief history of prophecy in the Near East (pp. xxiii-xxxvii), a list of entries (Appendix I: pp. 357-64), a list of prophets (Appendix II: pp. 364-68), a bibliography, and an index. The bibliography, arranged by topic, is extensive and extremely useful for those interested in exploring the topic further (pp. 368-480). The entries on the main characters and prophetic figures shared by the Biblical and Islamic traditions Aaron, Abraham, Adam and Eve, David, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and so on are extremely informative, concise, and accurate synopses. In addition to giving an overview of the Biblical material, they refer precisely to the elements of Biblical accounts that appear in the Quran, providing an excellent basis for comparative study. There is an occasional slip in these discussions, such as the statement that the Arabic term kalim Allah applied to Moses means the spokesperson of God, when it actually means the one to whom God spoke, a reference to the scene at the burning bush on Mount Sinai. All of the Prophets, one would gather from the Quran, are spokespersons of God; Moses is special because God addressed him directly and not through inspiration or an intermediary. The entries also include important scholars, places, texts, and even topics in methodology, such as Form Criticism, Speech Act Theory, and Textual Criticism. A variety of general entries on religious practices appear Divination, Dreams and Dream Interpretation, Sacrifice as well as entries on ancient Near Eastern religious traditions pertinent to prophecy, such as Ebla, Epic of Gilgamesh, Marduk Prophecy, Mari, Ugarit, and entries on Manichaean and Zoroastrian texts. Other entries relate to scholars and commentators in later Jewish, Christian, or Islamic traditions: Maimonides, Jerome, Origen, Saadia ha-Gaon, Ibn Rushd, Tabari, and others.

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The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:1

Perhaps most interesting for a comparative understanding of the Quran are the entries describing lesser known texts related to Biblical narratives in the Quran. Infancy Gospels discusses several non-canonical Christian gospels, including the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which, in one passage, tells of Jesus giving life to a clay bird, and the Gospel of PseudoMatthew, which depicts a palm tree bending down above Mary at childbirth to offer her its fruit. Both stories resemble quite closely scenes depicted in the Quran. The Testament of Solomon portrays King Solomons binding of demons to build the Temple in Jerusalem, paralleling his control over the jinn in the Quran. The Life of Adam and Eve includes a narrative of the fall of Satan that resembles the Quranic story quite closely. The pagan Arab religion has been regularly denigrated in Islamic tradition, just as medieval Christians denounced Greek and Roman religious practices as barbaric. Whereas Greek mythology has been recuperated in the West, nothing similar has occurred with ancient Arabian beliefs in the Muslim world. Modern scholarship has, for the most part, inherited this anti-pagan bias, which often interferes with a sound historical understanding of the Quran and Islamic origins. This makes for poor treatment of the pre-Islamic Arabian religious tradition in most scholarship in the field, including this dictionary. For example, the entry Wadd, Suwa`, Yaghuth, Ya`uq, Nasr simply informs the reader that these were gods worshipped by the people of Noah, as is stated in Surat Nuh (Q 71:23). However, it is well-known that these were pre-Islamic Arabian gods. Their appearance in the Quran as the gods of Noahs opponents represents a significant reinterpretation of the Arabian past to make it part of Biblical history. Similarly, the entry Kabah discusses the well-known Kabah at Mecca without informing the reader that there were many other kabahs , rectangular temples or shrines, located in Arabia. The entry Kahin, meaning soothsayer, discusses the important cultic functions of this individual, but does not name any specific soothsayers. The soothsayers Shiqq and Satih achieved legendary status and appear prominently in the Sirah of Ibn Hisham, predicting the Ethiopian invasion of Yemen and the advent a great Arab Prophet. The false prophets, also designated as kahin, the most famous of whom was Musaylimah the Liar, led religious movements similar to Islam contemporary with the Prophet and just after his demise. Moreover, the entry does not inform the reader that many passages in the Quran draw extensively on the style of pre-Islamic soothsayers oracular pronouncements, including cryptic

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oaths, omens, charms, and curses presented in rhyming and rhythmic cadences (Ar. saj` ). Several entries that present Biblical and ancient Near Eastern material exclusively could have benefited from the additional discussion of pre-Islamic Arabian material, particularly False Prophets, Oracles, and Parallelism. This historical dictionary is an extremely informative and useful work, and hopefully it will promote the more informed comparative study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A Biblical bias is understandable, even expected, in a work framed in a manner such as this one. The short shrift given to pre-Islamic Arabian religious traditions, however, is a major problem in the field and a decided obstacle to an informed understanding of the Quran in context. One hopes that the comparative, interdisciplinary framework will expand to include this material.
Devin Stewart Chair, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies Emory University Atlanta, Georgia

Mulla Sadra, The Elixir of the Gnostics: A Parallel English-Arabic Text


William Chittick, trans. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2003. 192 pages. Professor Chittick undertook the translation from Arabic of the Iksir al`Arifin (Elixir of the Gnostics) at the bequest of the Sadra Islamic Philosophy Research Institute. No doubt, one of the institutes reasons for making this request is because Chittick is currently one of North Americas most formidable scholars of the Islamic sapiental tradition, the stream of thought that combined both falsafah (philosophy) and tasawwuf (Sufism). He has to his credit some of the best English translations of medieval Arabic and Persian texts. Chitticks wealth of knowledge comes out in the extensive endnotes, running 28 pages, which not only help explain obscure passages and terms, but also trace many of the ideas to their sources. The Elixir is a unique work of Sadras in that it is, as Chittick notes in the introduction, something of a translation of Kashanis (d. 1213-14) Persian Jawidan-nama (Book of the Everlasting). One could argue that the Everlasting serves simply as a template for Sadras work, since he