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Reinventing Islam

Elias Muhanna, 4 March 2021

The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History 
by Cemil Aydin.
Harvard, 293 pp., £16.95, April 2019, 978 0 674 23817 6
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... In​ the summer of 1325, Abu ʿAbdullah Muhammad al-Lawati al-Tanji, known to posterity as Ibn Battuta, left his home in Tangier to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. He returned 29 years later, having travelled through North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India, Malaysia, China, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Anatolia, Somalia, Tanzania and Mali. When he set off on his journey, Morocco was ruled by Abu Saʿid Uthman, the tenth sultan of the Marinid dynasty, which had its origins in the Berber tribe Banu Marin ...

If the hare sees the sea

Anna Della Subin: Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, 30 November 2017

The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition 
by Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, translated by Elias Muhanna.
Penguin, 352 pp., £11.99, October 2016, 978 0 14 310748 4
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... an ivory vessel.What is missing from the encyclopedia is a chapter on the heroism of translators. Elias Muhanna, now a professor at Brown, first encountered Ultimate Ambition as a student, when he was assigned to translate a hundred pages from an especially forbidding chapter on legal contracts, which included the language to use when agreeing to rent ...

More than a Religion

Malise Ruthven: ‘What Is Islam?’, 8 September 2016

What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic 
by Shahab Ahmed.
Princeton, 609 pp., £29.95, November 2015, 978 0 691 16418 2
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... lets the sources speak for themselves before marshalling them for his argument. As he explained to Elias Muhanna, his former assistant at Harvard, he aimed to erect ‘a scholarly edifice so formidable’ that no one would be able to challenge it. Though many of the ideas he puts forward will be familiar to specialists, lay readers may feel that ...

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