Prophet, statesman, jurist, mystic, shaman, husband, father: there are infinite ways to remember and imagine Muhammad. This book provides forty different windows into his life, his teachings, and his legacy.
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.