Pages: 368
Subject: Religion: Islam
Series: The Foundations of Islam
Imprint: Oneworld


Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World

Jonathan A.C. Brown

An updated edition of the leading introduction to hadith
9781786073075 (7 Dec 2017)
RRP £25.00 / US$35.00

The Book

Contrary to popular opinion, the bulk of Islamic law does not come from the Quran but from hadith, first-hand reports of the Prophet Muhammad's words and deeds, passed from generation to generation. However, with varying accounts often only committed to paper a century after the death of Muhammad, Islamic scholars, past and present, have been faced with complex questions of historical authenticity. 

In this wide-ranging introduction, Jonathan A. C. Brown explores the collection and criticism of hadith, and the controversy surrounding its role in modern Islam. This edition, revised and updated with additional case studies and attention to the very latest scholarship, also features a new chapter on how hadiths have been used politically, both historically and in the Arab Spring and its aftermath. Informative and accessible, it is perfectly suited to students, scholars and general readers interested in this critical element of Islam.

Additional Information

Subject Religion: Islam
Series The Foundations of Islam
Pages 368
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Jonathan A. C. Brown is Associate Professor and Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization at Georgetown University. He is the author of Misquoting Muhammad, which is also published by Oneworld. He lives in Washington, DC.


‘Both erudite and highly readable… Jonathan Brown's remarkably learned, engaging, and wide-ranging book will certainly find favor with students of all levels, but it is also accessible to educated lay readers and offers a fruitful read for specialists.'

- International Journal of Middle East Studies

‘It is impossible to understand the Islamic tradition without getting some knowledge of the sciences of hadith. In this fascinating introduction, Jonathan A. C. Brown provides the reader with the necessary means to navigate between the traditional framework and contemporary issues. A brilliant essay written by a widely-acknowledged scholar in the field.'

- Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, University of Oxford

‘Far surpasses all previous introductory surveys. It is especially distinguished by its attention to hadith scholarship throughout the Middle Ages, not just the age of the great collectors.'

- Christopher Melchert, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Oxford

‘A must read and a great read. The combination of impeccable, critical scholarship with a storyteller's style has produced an introductory volume that is both substantive and remarkably engaging.'

- John L. Esposito, Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University

‘A comprehensive study of the scholarship throughout Islamic history dealing with the traditions of the Prophet. A combination of critical analysis and informed understanding that presents a significant new perspective on a much-debated subject.'

- John O. Voll, Professor Emeritus of Islamic History, Georgetown University

‘This work is, in my opinion, without parallel in the English language. Stunning in its scope, it enables one to grasp a highly complex subject in well-written and clear prose. The knowledge of Islam is of utmost importance today, and this book bridges a yawning gap in our access to that knowledge in English. It's essential reading for any serious student of Islam limited by language.'

- Hamza Yusuf Hanson, president and co-founder, Zaytuna College

Table of Contents

Preface to the Revised Edition



Conventions, Abbreviations, and Transliteration


1  The Prophet's Words Then and Now: Hadith and Its Terminology

2  The Transmission and Collection of Prophetic Traditions

3  The Methods and History of Hadith Criticism

4  Prophetic Traditions in Shiite Islam

5  The Function of Prophetic Traditions in Islamic Law and Legal Theory

6  The Function of Prophetic Traditions in Theology

7  The Function of Prophetic Traditions in Sufism

8  The Function of Prophetic Traditions in Politics

9  The Authenticity Question: Western Debates over the Historical Reliability of Prophetic Traditions

10  Debates over Prophetic Traditions in the Modern Muslim World

11  Conclusion





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