Forty Introductions

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Book Description

A “scholarly, hip, and digressive” primer on the life and teachings of the great prophet Muhammad—and the stunning diversity of Islam (New Yorker)
Muhammad is perfect . . . a book designed to seduce, educate, and irritate its audience into curiosity about Islam and Muhammad, and on all three fronts it succeeds.” —NPR Books

He ranks among the most venerated historical figures in the world, as well as among the most contested. Muhammad: Forty Introductions offers a distinct and nuanced take on the life and teachings of the prophet Muhammad, using a traditional genre of Islamic literature called the forty hadiths collection.

Hadiths are the reported sayings and actions of Muhammad that have been collected by the tens of thousands throughout Islamic history. There is a tradition in which Muslim scholars take from this vast textual ocean to compile their own smaller collections of forty hadiths, an act of curation that allows them to present their particular understanding of Muhammad’s legacy and the essential points of Islam.

Here, Michael Muhammad Knight offers forty narrations that provide windows into the diverse ways in which Muslims envision Muhammad. He also examines his own relationship to Muslim traditions while exploring such topics as law, mysticism, sectarianism, gender, and sexuality. By revealing the Prophet to be an ongoing construction, he carefully unravels notions about Islam’s center and margins.

About the Author

Praise For This Book


"The Hunter S. Thompson of Islamic literature." --The Guardian

"A prolific writer, he often satirizes his fellow Muslims, pricking the traditionalists. He is a court jester to the Islamic world, a provocateur in a kufi." --The New York Times

"Islam's gonzo experimentalist." --Publishers Weekly

"He's a writer only America could have produced, one whom contemporary American readers should be primed to appreciate - and maybe even learn from." --SF Gate

Praise for Why I Am a Salafi

"Knight (The Taqwacores) invites readers into "the desert of the real Islam," offering a deconstructionist take on Islamic texts, tradition, transmission, and theology....Knight's ambitious scope and captivating voice make Why I Am a Salafi a must-read for those interested in an alternative side of Islam."--Publisher's Weekly Starred Review

"Knight traverses the scenic highways of Islamic history...Erudite, introspective, and relentlessly provocative, the author interrogates the traditions of Islamic historiography, Quranic exegesis, and hadith verification, elucidating how participating in the life of the Muslim community inevitably shapes, alters, and re-creates that community....The author's humor and generosity of spirit shine through... A vigorous treatment of how the sacred, in all its multifarious forms, continues to exercise power."--Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Tripping with Allah: Islam, Drugs, and Writing

"Framed as a kind of memoir-as-road-novel, Knight's account is ostensibly about his journey to drinking ayahuasca, a psychedelic tea popular in South America. Yet, as with any good journey, the path includes numerous detours, and Knight's side trips add depth and complexity far beyond what one might expect from the story of some guy looking to trip out. . . . Knight . . . never loses his authenticity, whether he is discussing religion, sex, or drug use. -Booklist

Praise for Journey to the End of Islam

"Knight's storytelling allows for a memorable arrival at the destination." --Publishers Weekly

"Does Knight succeed in melding ayahuasca and Islam? It's most certainly worth reading this intelligent book to find out, for it has, beg pardon, a higher purpose than its surface gonzoism might suggest at first, with its smart meditations on consciousness and the passage of time. William James, suffice it to say, would probably be appalled at first, and then fascinated." --Kirkus Reviews

"What's best about the Knight oeuvre is not just that he gets progressively more sophisticated in his readings of religion and the inherent tension between tradition and innovation, institutionalization and anarchy, but that his rage against hypocrisy is aimed at himself as well; he is critically wary of his own privilege, his own flaws--including, notably, that sin of thinking that one's thinking makes one superior or that self-reflection insulates oneself from the flaws of others." --Rain Taxi

Praise for Blue-Eyed Devil

"In the end you realize Knight has grown dramatically during his odyssey, and this is what makes this tale so fascinating. Rarely does a reader get to share an author's actual personal transformation page by page--it is an intimate experience." --Lonely Planet

Praise for The Taqwacores

"Compels the reader instantly... This is [...] a true brother to Howl and On the Road with Jehangir Tabari as Dean Moriarty and Yusef Ali as Sal Paradise... Knight has given us something wonderful: Introductory Islam, (a dictionary and Islam reference are essential companions for readers unfamiliar with Islamic terminology) a head-on clash of punk and the Quran." --Bookslut

"Knight's talent lies in his ability to create this incredibly diverse group of characters who not only spring off the page because they are so vividly described, but also represent a variety of viewpoints when it comes to what constitutes being Muslim. What's even more realistic is how he shows that doubts can cut both ways; for while the liberal punks might doubt themselves on occasion, the hardline character has cracks through which his doubts about strict adherence to the scripture comes through." --Seattle Post Intelligencer

"Not many people can say they created a music movement out of thin air, but one of the few who can is Michael Muhammad Knight, a writer whose 2004 novel, The Taqwacores, introduced the world to Muslim punk before Muslim punk was a thing that actually existed." --The Austin Chronicle

"A manifesto for the Muslim punk movement." --Newsweek