Sources: Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God

Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God. Edited by Coeli Fitzpatrick and Adam Hani Walker. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. 2 vols. Acid free $189 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-177-2). Ebook available (978-1-61069-178-9), call for pricing.

Countless encyclopedic works have been published recently on Islam, some covering the subject broadly and others tackling discrete topics within the religion. This reference set is entirely unique in that it approaches Islam through the lens of the Prophet Muhammad’s life and theological and historical place within the religion and wider world. The book contains roughly 170 entries listed alphabetically and there is also a “Guide to Related Topics” section, which groups the entries into subject areas such as “Culture,” “Ethics and Philosophy,” and “Other Religions and the West.” The entries are superbly researched and easy to read, covering topics as far ranging as “Pluralism,” “Caliphate and Imamate,” “Family,” and “Depiction of the Prophet.” The latter being a rather timely topic. In fact, there is a longer, related entry titled “Images,” delving into iconography of the Prophet.

Other features of the work include a short chronology and an extensive index of mor than sixty pages, which together allow the reader to understand the time frame of events being discussed as well as easily locate, people, places, and sub-topics within the work. There is also a bibliography and a very short glossary that seems incomplete at best. For instance, all five pillars of the faith are listed accept the first one, shahada, or declaration of faith. Another oddity of the encyclopedia is that the Qur’an and hadith (sayings of the Prophet) seem to have been arbitrarily mined for material at times. Although interesting and illustrative of the granular nature of Muhammad’s influence on all aspects of Islamic life and culture, it is a curious choice to provide entries for “Bandits,” “Honeybee,” and “Toothbrush,” which seem arbitrary and out of place compared to the other headings. A hundred similarly narrow topics might have been explored, why these?

Despite some omissions and peculiarities along the way, this is an important work that provides a rare focused look at the Prophet Muhammad for beginning researchers of Islam. Recommended for all academic libraries.—Brent D. Singleton, Coordinator for Reference Services, California State University, San Bernardino, California

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