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Prophecy and Power: Muhammad and the Qur'an in Light of Comparison

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A posthumous work by the most rigorous comparativist in her generation of Islamic studies scholars, Prophecy and Power proposes a major innovative approach to both the Prophet Muhammad and the Noble Qur’an. By the end of the ninth century the Prophet Muhammad had emerged as an intercommunal norm beyond compare, and yet the very constructedness of this model of Muhammad allows historians of religion to see how the process itself requires us to undercut the terms used. We undercut them by qualifying them with multiple meanings, both overlapping and corrective, but we also decapitalize them in order to suggest how much broader they were in earlier contexts, and how much broader they may become, or were intended to become, in later contexts.

Published: Aug 1, 2012


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Bruce B. Lawrence
Prologue: Inviting Prophets and Entertaining Comparisons Marilyn Waldman †
Opening a Black Box: Rethinking the Comparative Study of Prophecy Marilyn Waldman †
Comparatively Speaking: Qur’anic Comparison as a Modality of Change Marilyn Robinson Waldman
Beyond Compare: Muhammad as Exemplar and Foil Marilyn Robinson Waldman
An Experiment in Comparison: Muhammad and Alinesitoué Robert M. Baum, Marilyn Robinson Waldman
Suffering by Comparison Lindsay Jones
End Matter
Works by Marilyn Robinson Waldman Bruce B. Lawrence
Bibliography Bruce B. Lawrence
Index Bruce B. Lawrence

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Overall, despite a few shortcomings of Waldman's work, her insightful observation and inquiries outline an interesting psychological portrait of Qur'anic messengership and prophethood, their specificity and functions, and this largely thanks to the unorthodox assumptions of Waldman's methodology. The book's editor, B.B. Lawrence, deservedly calls Waldman 'a prophetess of the art of comparison.' Prophecy and Power is an inspiring encouragement to risk more than an unconventional look into the world of comparative cultural studies. Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 2015 (110.2) Marilyn Waldman died in 1996, at the age of only 53, leaving behind a rough, incomplete manuscript that Bruce Lawrence and others have edited into this remarkable book, which is a “must read” for those engaged in comparative religion. Although certainly accessible to the general reader, scholars who teach so-called Abrahamic or Western religions courses would greatly benefit from Waldman’s insights because of the comparisons inherent in such courses.
Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

This is a remarkable book that provides significant material for extended reflection; it will prove profitable to all those who feel that religious studies really is about “comparative religion” and who thus wish to think about what that really means and how best to go about the task. The work is complemented by two very appreciative essays on Marilyn Waldman and a bibliography of her works.
Studies in Religion
, 2013