"Magic in Islam" offers a look at magical and occult technologies throughout Muslim history, starting with Islam's earliest and most canonical sources. In addition to providing a highly accessible introduction to magic as it is defined, practiced, condemned, and defended within Muslim traditions, Magic in Islam challenges common assumptions about organized religion.
Michael Muhammad Knight's deeply original book fills a gap within existing literature on the place of magic in Islamic traditions and opens a new window on Islam for general readers and students of religion alike. In doing so, the book counters and complicates widespread perceptions of Islam, as well as of magic as it is practiced outside of European contexts.
"Magic in Islam" also challenges our view of "organized religions" as clearly defined systems that can be reduced to checklists of key doctrines, texts, and rules. As a result, "Magic in Islam "throws a monkey wrench into the conventions of the "intro to Islam" genre, threatening to flip popular notions of a religion's "center" and "margins."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Knight (Why I Am a Salafi) presents this work as a challenge to all kinds of preconceived notions: Islam as a stable and monolithic community, as depicted in the popular introductory genres; Islam as a faith determined only by the text of the Qur’an; Islam as a religious tradition fitting neatly into modern Western perceptions of the world. Instead, as Knight explores fascinating topics such as Muslim approaches to astrology, the existence of jinn, and the use of the Qur’an in healing charms (where it’s treated as a text containing magic independent of its meaning), he exposes the complexities of histories and cultures that underlie contemporary Islam and reveals how the legacy of strict categorization and simplification has left common understandings of Islam incomplete. His writing is lucid and perceptive, and his instincts for the arcane and interesting are unerring, making the text scholarly yet still accessible to the lay reader regardless of familiarity with Islam. Knight refers to this work as “his sandbox to play in,” and his pleasure in the topic shines through on every page, spreading his delight to the reader. (May)