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Jesus and Muhammad are two of the best known and revered figures in history, each with a billion or more global followers. Now, in this intriguing volume, F.E. Peters offers a clear and compelling analysis of the parallel lives of Jesus and Muhammad, the first such in-depth comparison in print. Like a detective, Peters compiles "dossiers" of what we do and do not know about the lives and portraits of these towering figures, drawing on the views of modern historians and the evidence of the Gospels and the Quran. With erudition and wit, the author nimbly leads the reader through drama and dogma to reveal surprising similarities between the two leaders and their messages. Each had a public career as a semi-successful preacher. Both encountered opposition that threatened their lives and those of their followers. Each left a body of teaching purported to be their very words, with an urgent imperative that all must become believers in the face of the approaching apocalypse. Both are symbols of hope on the one hand and of God's terrible judgment on the other. They are bringers of peace--and the sword. There is, however, a fundamental difference. Muslims revere Muhammad ibn Abdullah of Mecca as a mortal prophet. Although known as a prophet in his day, the Galilean Jew Jesus was and is believed by his followers to have been the promised Messiah, indeed the son of God. The Quran records revelations received by Muhammad as the messenger of God, whereas the revelations of the Gospels focus on Jesus and the events of his life and death. A lasting contribution to interfaith understanding, Jesus and Muhammad offers lucid, intelligent answers to questions that underlie some of the world's most intractable conflicts.
The Quran is a sacred book with profound, and familiar, Old and New Testament resonances. And the message it promulgated, Islam, came of age during an extraordinarily rich era of interaction among monotheists. Jews, Christians, and Muslims not only worshipped the same God, but shared aspirations, operated in the same social and economic environment, and sometimes lived side by side, indistinguishable by language, costume, or manners. Today, of course, little of this commonality is apparent, and Islam is poorly understood by most non-Muslims. Entering Islam through the same biblical door Muhammad did, this book introduces readers with Christian or Jewish backgrounds to one of the world's largest, most active, and--in the West--least understood religions.

Frank Peters, one of the world's leading authorities on the monotheistic religions, starts with the central feature of Muslim faith and life: the Quran. Across its pages move Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. The Quran contains remarkably familiar accounts of Genesis, the Flood, Exodus, the Virgin Birth, and other biblical events. But Peters also highlights Muhammad's very different use of Scripture and explains those elements of the Quran most alien to Western readers, from its didactic passages to its remarkable poetry.


Peters goes on to cogently explain Islam's defining features--including the significance of Mecca, the manner of Muhammad's revelations, and the creation of the unique community of Muslims, all in relation to the Judeo-Christian tradition. He compares Jesus and Muhammad, describes Islamic commandments and rituals, details the structures of Sunni and Shi'ite communities, and lays out central Islamic beliefs on war, women, mysticism, and martyrdom.


The result is a crucial and extremely accomplished book that offers Western readers a professional yet highly accessible understanding of Islam, and at a time when we need it most.

To enable the reader to shape, or perhaps reshape, an understanding of the Islamic tradition, F. E. Peters skillfully combines extensive passages from Islamic texts with a fascinating commentary of his own. In so doing, he presents a substantial body of literary evidence that will enable the reader to grasp the bases of Muslim faith and, more, to get some sense of the breadth and depth of Islamic religious culture as a whole. The voices recorded here are those of Muslims engaged in discourse with their God and with each other--historians, lawyers, mystics, and theologians, from the earliest Companions of the Prophet Muhammad down to Ibn Rushd or "Averroes" (d. 1198), al-Nawawi (d. 1278), and Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406). These religious seekers lived in what has been called the "classical" period in the development of Islam, the era when the exemplary works of law and spirituality were written, texts of such universally acknowledged importance that subsequent generations of Muslims gratefully understood themselves as heirs to an enormously broad and rich legacy of meditation on God's Word.

"Islam" is a word that seems simple to understand. It means "submission," and, more specifically in the context where it first and most familiarly appears, "submission to the will of God." That context is the Quran, the Sacred Book of the Muslims, from which flow the patterns of belief and practice that today claim the spiritual allegiance of hundreds of millions around the globe. By drawing on the works of the great masters--Islam in its own words--Peters enriches our understanding of the community of "those who have submitted" and their imposing religious and political culture, which is becoming ever more important to the West.

F.E. Peters, a scholar without peer in the comparative study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, revisits his pioneering work. Peters has rethought and thoroughly rewritten his classic The Children of Abraham for a new generation of readers-at a time when the understanding of these three religious traditions has taken on a new and critical urgency.

He began writing about all three faiths in the 1970s, long before it was fashionable to treat Islam in the context of Judaism and Christianity, or to align all three for a family portrait. In this updated edition, he lays out the similarities and differences of the three religious siblings with great clarity and succinctness and with that same remarkable objectivity that is the hallmark of all the author's work.


Peters traces the three faiths from the sixth century B.C., when the Jews returned to Palestine from exile in Babylonia, to the time in the Middle Ages when they approached their present form. He points out that all three faith groups, whom the Muslims themselves refer to as "People of the Book," share much common ground. Most notably, each embraces the practice of worshipping a God who intervenes in history on behalf of His people.


The book's text is direct and accessible with thorough and nuanced discussions of each of the three religions. Footnotes provide the reader with expert guidance into the highly complex issues that lie between every line of this stunning edition of The Children of Abraham. Complete with a new preface by the author, this Princeton Classics edition presents this landmark study to a new generation of readers.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe that their Scriptures preserve God's words to humanity, and that those words were spoken uniquely to them. In The Voice, the Word, the Books, F. E. Peters leads readers on an extraordinary journey through centuries of written tradition to uncover the human fingerprints on the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran, sacred texts that have enriched millions of lives.

Bringing the latest Biblical and Quranic scholarship to a general audience, Peters explains how these three powerfully influential books passed from God's mouth, so to speak, to become the Scriptures that we possess today. He reveals new insights into their origins, contents, canonization, and the important roles they have played in the lives of their communities. He explores how they evolved through time from oral to written texts, who composed them and who wrote them, as well as the theological commonalities and points of disagreement among their adherents. Writing in the comparative style for which he is renowned, Peters charts the transmission of faith from the spoken word to the printed page, from the revelations on Sinai and Mount Hira to Mamluk ateliers in Cairo and Gutenberg's press in Mainz.


Peters is an acknowledged expert who has written extensively on these three great world religions, each of them an inheritor of the faith of Abraham. Published in conjunction with an exhibit at the British Library, this illustrated book includes beautiful images of the rare editions on exhibit and constitutes Peters's most ambitious and illuminating examination yet of the sacred texts that so inform civilization both East and West.

The world's three great monotheistic religions have spent most of their historical careers in conflict or competition with each other. And yet in fact they sprung from the same spiritual roots and have been nurtured in the same historical soil. This book--an extraordinarily comprehensive and approachable comparative introduction to these religions--seeks not so much to demonstrate the truth of this thesis as to illustrate it. Frank Peters, one of the world's foremost experts on the monotheistic faiths, takes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and after briefly tracing the roots of each, places them side by side to show both their similarities and their differences.

Volume I, The Peoples of God, tells the story of the foundation and formation of the three monotheistic communities, of their visible, historical presence. Volume II, The Words and Will of God, is devoted to their inner life, the spirit that animates and regulates them.


Peters takes us to where these religions live: their scriptures, laws, institutions, and intentions; how each seeks to worship God and achieve salvation; and how they deal with their own (orthodox and heterodox) and with others (the goyim, the pagans, the infidels). Throughout, he measures--but never judges--one religion against the other. The prose is supple, the method rigorous. This is a remarkably cohesive, informative, and accessible narrative reflecting a lifetime of study by a single recognized authority in all three fields.



The Monotheists is a magisterial comparison, for students and general readers as well as scholars, of the parties to one of the most troubling issues of today--the fierce, sometimes productive and often destructive, competition among the world's monotheists, the siblings called Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

The world's three great monotheistic religions have spent most of their historical careers in conflict or competition with each other. And yet in fact they sprung from the same spiritual roots and have been nurtured in the same historical soil. This book--an extraordinarily comprehensive and approachable comparative introduction to these religions--seeks not so much to demonstrate the truth of this thesis as to illustrate it. Frank Peters, one of the world's foremost experts on the monotheistic faiths, takes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and after briefly tracing the roots of each, places them side by side to show both their similarities and their differences.

Volume I, The Peoples of God, tells the story of the foundation and formation of the three monotheistic communities, of their visible, historical presence. Volume II, The Words and Will of God, is devoted to their inner life, the spirit that animates and regulates them.


Peters takes us to where these religions live: their scriptures, laws, institutions, and intentions; how each seeks to worship God and achieve salvation; and how they deal with their own (orthodox and heterodox) and with others (the goyim, the pagans, the infidels). Throughout, he measures--but never judges--one religion against the other. The prose is supple, the method rigorous. This is a remarkably cohesive, informative, and accessible narrative reflecting a lifetime of study by a single recognized authority in all three fields.



The Monotheists is a magisterial comparison, for students and general readers as well as scholars, of the parties to one of the most troubling issues of today--the fierce, sometimes productive and often destructive, competition among the world's monotheists, the siblings called Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

For the non-Muslim, Mecca is the most forbidden of Holy Cities--and yet, in many ways it is the best known. Muslim historians and geographers have studied it, and countless pilgrims and travelers--many of them European Christians in disguise--have left behind lively and well-publicized accounts of life in Mecca and its associated shrine-city of Medina, where the Prophet lies buried. The stories of all these figures, holy men and heathens alike, come together in this book to offer a remarkably revealing literary portrait of the city's traditions and urban life and of the surrounding area. Closely following the publication of F. E. Peters's The Hajj (Princeton, 1994), which describes the perilous pilgrimage itself from the travelers' perspectives, this collection of writings and commentary completes the historical travelogue. The accounts begin with the Muslims themselves, in the patriarchal age of Abraham and Ishmael, and trace the sometimes glorious and sometimes sad history of Islam's central shrine down to the last Grand Sharif of Mecca, Husayn ibn Ali, whose fragile kingdom was overtaken by the House of Sa`ud in 1926. Because of chronic flooding and constant rebuilding, there is little or no material evidence for the early history of Islam's holy cities. By assembling, analyzing, and fashioning these literary accounts of Mecca, however, Peters supplies us with a vivid sense of place and human interaction, much as he did in his widely acclaimed Jerusalem (Princeton, 1985).

Originally published in 1994.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Invoking a concept as simple as it is brilliant, F. E. Peters has taken the basic texts of the three related--and competitive--religious systems we call Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and has juxtaposed them in a topical and parallel arrangement according to the issues that most concerned all these "children of Abraham." Through these extensive passages, and the author's skillful connective commentary, the three traditions are shown with their similarities sometimes startlingly underlined and their well-known differences now more profoundly exposed. What emerges from this unique and ambitious work is a panorama of belief, practice, and sensibility that will broaden our understanding of our religious and political roots in a past that is, by these communities' definition, still the present. The hardcover edition of the work is bound in one volume, and in the paperback version the identical material is broken down into three smaller but self-contained books. The third, "The Works of the Spirit," focuses on spirituality and worship and contains material on monasticism, theology, mysticism, and the "End Time." Throughout the work we hear an amazing variety of voices, some familiar, some not, all of them central to the primary and secondary canons of their own tradition: alongside the Scriptural voice of God are the words of theologians, priests, visionaries, lawyers, rulers and the ruled. The work ends, as does the same author's now classic Children of Abraham, in what Peters calls the "classical period," that is, before the great movements of modernism and reform that were to transform Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Jesus and Muhammad are two of the best known and revered figures in history, each with a billion or more global followers. Now, in this intriguing volume, F.E. Peters offers a clear and compelling analysis of the parallel lives of Jesus and Muhammad, the first such in-depth comparison in print. Like a detective, Peters compiles "dossiers" of what we do and do not know about the lives and portraits of these towering figures, drawing on the views of modern historians and the evidence of the Gospels and the Quran. With erudition and wit, the author nimbly leads the reader through drama and dogma to reveal surprising similarities between the two leaders and their messages. Each had a public career as a semi-successful preacher. Both encountered opposition that threatened their lives and those of their followers. Each left a body of teaching purported to be their very words, with an urgent imperative that all must become believers in the face of the approaching apocalypse. Both are symbols of hope on the one hand and of God's terrible judgment on the other. They are bringers of peace--and the sword. There is, however, a fundamental difference. Muslims revere Muhammad ibn Abdullah of Mecca as a mortal prophet. Although known as a prophet in his day, the Galilean Jew Jesus was and is believed by his followers to have been the promised Messiah, indeed the son of God. The Quran records revelations received by Muhammad as the messenger of God, whereas the revelations of the Gospels focus on Jesus and the events of his life and death. A lasting contribution to interfaith understanding, Jesus and Muhammad offers lucid, intelligent answers to questions that underlie some of the world's most intractable conflicts.
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