FOREWORD: AN EXCERPT
DR. SHERMAN JACKSON
The Qur’an is among the most widely read books in the world today. It is also among the most misunderstood. This gulf between reading and understanding is not simply a function of language; native speakers of Arabic are just as likely to draw a blank in the face of the Qur’an’s non-linear style as are those who don’t know Arabic or who learned it as full-grown adults. Beyond religious devotion, however, three historical facts ensure that the Qur’an will continue to grow in readership. The first is what some scholars refer to as the “de-secularization of the world.” The second is the spread of Islam outside the traditional Muslim world. The third is the growing perception in the West of Islam as a civilizational contagion and an existential threat. For all of these reasons, the Qur’an is likely to become a much more widely read document than it has ever been in its history, as non-Muslims join Muslims in an attempt to apprehend the meaning and power of this sacred text.
It is precisely in this context, however, that the profound importance and timeliness of the present work, Revelation: The Story of Muhammad, is thrown into bold relief. For the real key to understanding the Qur’an—indeed, Islam as a whole – is a basic grasp of the life and career of the man who served as its delivery system. Muhammad (SAWS) brought life, meaning, depth, human tragedy and human triumph to the Qur’anic adventure. He showed that Islam is not an event that abruptly imposes itself onto human history as a fully constituted fact. Nor is God a divine Santa Claus who immediately damns the naughty and rewards the nice in accordance with some mechanical calculus of good and bad deeds. Rather, Muhammad demonstrated that Islam is a process in which both our ups and our downs expose us to the layers of self-knowledge and spiritual epiphany that surround life’s most profound truth: There is no god except God...
Dr. Sherman Jackson is the King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC). He was formerly the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Visiting Professor of Law and Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).
Dr. Jackson received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. From 1987 to 1989, he served as Executive Director of the Center of Arabic Study Abroad in Cairo, Egypt. He is the author of several books, including Islamic Law and the State: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Shihâb al-Dîn al-Qarâfî (E.J. Brill, 1996), On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abû Hâmid al-Ghazâlî’s Faysal al-Tafriqa (Oxford, 2002), Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Towards the Third Resurrection (Oxford, 2005) Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering (Oxford, 2009), and most recently Sufism for Non-Sufis? Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari’s Taj al-‘Arus (Oxford, 2012).
Dr. Jackson is a co-founder, Core Scholar, and member of the Board of Trustees of the American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM), an academic institution where scholars, professionals, activists, artists, writers, and community leaders come together to develop strategies for the future of Islam in the modern world.
Additionally, Dr. Jackson is a former member of the Fiqh Council of North America, former President of the Shari’ah Scholars’ Association of North America (SSANA) and a past trustee of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). He has contributed to several publications including the Washington Post-Newsweek blog, On Faith, and the Huffington Post. Dr. Jackson is listed by the Religion Newswriters Foundation’s ReligionLink as among the top ten experts on Islam in America and was named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.