Muhammad: Forty Introductions is part gonzo devotional, part Muslim primer, and, ultimately, a soul-stirring portal into a personal vision of Muhammad ... a decidedly contemporary collection, reaching into queer theology, feminist commentary and core Islamic teachings. Something of a crash course in Muhammad, Knight’s intellectually charged collection of fragments makes for a multi-textured, many hued mosaic ... Alternating between the professorial and the personal, Knight hits his highest notes when he pushes away from the seminar table and bares his own soul ... While the introductions he’s chosen cover a full range and complexity—from Muhammad’s physical appearance to his family life, infallibility, legal authority and mystical nature—and while Knight boldly puts one interpretation or argument up against another (a seamless synthesis is hardly the point here), it seems particularly telling that he chooses as his closing introduction Islam’s parallel to the Golden Rule ... Knight reminds why this, of all teachings in all religions and world views, matters most in the end.
As intellectually diverse as a book can get ... When Knight is in professor mode, Muhammad is perfect. He is scholarly but never dry, learned but never a show-off. He's superb at providing frameworks to fit new ideas in, and at helping readers reassess old ones ... problems arise when Knight can't pick a persona. When he fails to settle into personal writing but opts not to go academic, he flounders ... chapters can seem disorganized, and Knight's tonal switches can be disorienting ... a highly personal project. It's valuable — and aggravating — for precisely that reason, which Knight knows ... a book designed to seduce, educate, and irritate its audience into curiosity about Islam and Muhammad, and on all three fronts it succeeds. By the end, it's clear that 40 introductions are nowhere near enough. Knight's readers will want many more.
More than a survey of the prophet’s life and times, this book is an introduction to the stunning diversity of Islam and the ways in which Muslims think, dream, and make Muhammad into their very own prophet ... Anyone who picks up this sparkling book will be introduced to the many Muhammads who exist in the world and the ways in which they are in conversation with each other in the lives of Muslims across the globe.
The author’s portrait of Muhammad is progressive, sometimes controversial, and he aims to be inclusive of a variety of Muslim voices. The hadith structure works well as a framework for approaching the complex character of Muhammad from a variety of angles ... A worthwhile and sometimes challenging read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.