Reading list of Dr Joseph Lumbard

Joseph Lumbard
former Assistant Professor, Brandeis University
presently Scholar of Islamic Studies, American University in Sharjah 
co-author The Study Quran

(Compiled 2009)

Courtesy : Amman Message

Download in PDF format : Recommended books by Dr Joseph Lombard



Izutsu, Toshihiko. Ethico-religious Concepts in the Qur’ān (Montreal: McGill-Queen’sUniv., 2007).

Perhaps the best academic study of the Qur’an in any European language. Advanced historical-linguistic analysis of the Qur’an. Can be very difficult, but well worth the effort.

Izutsu, Toshihiko. God and Man in the Koran: Semantics of the Koranic Weltanschauung (North Stratford: Ayer Company, 1998).

Similar to Ethico-Religious Concepts.

al-Khu’i, Al-Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Musawi. Prolegomena to the Qur’an (Oxford University Press, 1998).

Al-Khui revisits many critical and controversial topics connected with the collectionand ultimate canonization of the text that have received little attention in contemporary Muslim scholarship. For instance, he tackles what is probably the single most controversial subject in Qur’anic studies: the question of possible alterations to the Qur’an as maintained by some succeeding generations of compilers of the Qur’an. Al-Khui stresses the importance of understanding the historical setting in which the Qur’an was revealed. His arguments illuminate some of the substantial yet little-understood and appreciated issues that have been debated between the two principal segments of the Muslim community.

Mattson, Ingrid. The Story of the Qurʼan: Its History and Place in Muslim Life (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008).

The best introduction to the Qur’an for those who wish to know how Muslims read and interact with the Qur’an. A delicate balance of highly scholarly material and inviting anecdotes, bringing the Qur’an alive in ways only someone fully engaged with Islam and sensitive to twenty-first century realities can.

Rahman, Fazlur. Major Themes in the Quran (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 1999).180 pgs.

A nice introduction to the basic themes of the Qur’an, divided into seven categories: God, Man as Individual, Man as Society, Nature, Prophethood and Revelation, Eschatology, Satan and Evil.

Sells, Michael. Approaching the Quran (White Cloud Press, 1999)

Nice translations with straightforward explanations that make the text more accessible than an independent translation. An excellent way to begin understanding the depth and complexity of the Qur’anic message. Includes a CD to provide an auditive approach.

Tabātabāʼī, Muhammad Husayn. The Qu’ran in Islam (Tehran: Islamic Propagation Organization, 1990).130 pgs—

A straightforward account of the central teachings of the Qur’an by one of the leading Muslim scholars of the 20th century. An excellent opportunity to see how an traditional scholar attempts to think with the Qur’an.


Qur’anic Commentary:

Ayoub, Mahmoud M. The Qur’an and its Interpreters, vol.1-2. (Albany: SUNY Publications, 1984).

The most accessible selection of translations from traditional Qur’anic commentaries. Good for an introduction but requires historical and intellectual contextualization. Gatje, Helmut.

The Qur’an and Its Exegesis (Oxford: Oneworld; 2Rev Ed edition, 1996).328pgs.

Saleh, Walid A. The Formation of the Classical Tafsir Tradition: The Qur’an Commentary of al-Tha’labi, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2003).

An introduction to the genre of classical tafsir and an in depth study of one of its major architects. Through a detailed study of al-Tha’labi’s al-Kashf and the history of its reception, Saleh demonstrates how the tradition of tafsir has developed and narrowed over time.


 Sirah—Biography of the Prophet:

Lings, Martin. Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (Cambridge, Islamic Texts Society).

Thoroughly researched and grounded in the traditional sources, this is the definitive biography of the Prophet Muhammad in the modern period. Written in beautiful English with great sensitivity and attention to detail. A remarkable achievement.

Watt, William Montgomery. Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford: Clarendon, 1953).

Still one of the best treatments of the life of the Prophet. Unlike many biographies in the modern period, this usually allows the primary texts to speak for themselves and does not distort the texts through the over-application of modern academic theories.

Watt, William Montgomery. Muhammad at Medina (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956).

The continuation of Muhammad at Mecca, written with the same care and sensitivity.



Lucas, Scott. Constructive Critics, Hadith Scholars, and the Articulation of Sunni Islam (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2004).

Demonstrating the central role of third/ninth century hadith scholars in the articulation of Sunni Islam, this book bases its findings largely upon the analysis of multiple biographical dictionaries. Part I establishes conceptual and historical frameworks for the study of Sunni hadith scholarship. Part II examines in detail the three foundational principles of Sunni Islam: 1) the collective probity of the sahaba, 2) the discipline of hadith-transmitter criticism, and 3) a historical vision of the authoritative channels by which hadith traversed the two centuries between the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the first major hadith books.

Motzki, Harald. The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence: Meccan Fiqh Before the Classical Schools, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2002).343pgs.

Though ostensibly about early Islamic Law, this work presents the clearest outline of the development of skepticism towards the hadith among Western scholars and the inaccuracy of their hypothesis. Employing texts that were previously unavailable, Motzki demonstrates that many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad were in circulation by the end of the first century. This undercuts the theoretical basis for all skeptical approaches toward the development of the hadith and jurisprudence that have dominated academia over the last fifty years. It is a must read for every scholar of early Islam and anyone who wishes to understand the arguments regarding the authenticity of the hadith tradition.

Siddiqi, Muhammad Zubair. Hadith Literature: Its Origins, Development and Special Features (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1996).192pgs.

A concise introduction to the development of the hadith sciences and some of the basic terminology. A nice introduction, but should be supplemented by other materials.


Islamic History:

Hodgson, Marshal. The Venture of Islam, Volume 2: The Expansion of Islam in the Middle East (Chicago: Chicago University, 1977).618 pgs.

The most comprehensive history of the Islamic World in the Medieval Period. Deals with dynastic, culture and intellectual developments. Well written and extremely erudite, it is a reference used by all specialists in the field.

Hodgson, Marshal. The Venture of Islam, Volume 3: The Gunpowder Empires and Modern Times, (Chicago: Chicago University, 1977).476 pgs.

Continues the brilliant analysis of Volume 2. The most comprehensive history of the Islamic World in the pre-modern and modern periods. Well written and extremely erudite, it is a reference used by all specialists in the field.

Lapidus, Ira. A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2nd edition, 2002).1000 pgs.

Perhaps the most comprehensive single volume on Islamic history. Focuses upon the distinctive development of communal, religious and political institutions within the Islamic world. Covers the transformation of pre-Islamic Middle Eastern civilization, the diffusion of Islam to other regions, and the disruption of Muslim societies under European domination.

Saunders, John Joseph. A History of Medieval Islam (London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1972).

A simple, straightforward account of medieval Arab history into the Ottoman period. Excellent for one’s first exposure to the history of the region, but should be complemented by other materials.


Islamic Law:

On Legal History:

Coulson, Noel J. A History of Islamic Law (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007).

A good introductory text in Islamic law. Covers most of the basics.

Dutton, Yasin. Origins of Islamic Law: The Qur’an, the Muwatta’ and Madinan Amal (RoutledgeCurzon, 2002).

If the Qur’an is the first written formulation of Islam in general, Imam Malik’s Muwatta’ is arguably the first written formulation of the Islam-in-practice’ that becomes Islamic law. This book considers the methods used by Malik in the Muwatta’ to derive the judgments of the law from the Qur’an and is thus concerned on one level with the finer details of Qur’anic interpretation. However, since any discussion of the Qur’an in this context must also include considerations of the other main source of Islamic law, namely the sunna, or normative practice, of the Prophet, this latter concept, especially its relationship to the terms of had the and ‘amal (praxis), also receives considerable attention, and in many respects, this book is more about the history and development of Islamic law than it is about the science of Qur’anic interpretation.

Hallaq, Wael. Origin and Evolution of Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2004).246 pgs.

A coherent narrative of the formation of Islamic jurisprudence that provides an overview of the organic development of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence from the Qur’an and sunna. Very good treatment of early period, but lacking in treatment of the later period.

Hallaq, Wael. A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An Introduction to Sunni usul al-fiqh (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1999).304 pgs.

A lucid, nuanced, and sophisticated study based on extensive reading in the sources. Traces the history of Islamic legal theory from its beginnings until the modern period, an essential tool for the understanding of Islamic legal theory in particular and Islamic law in general.

Makdisi, George. The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1981).

Demonstrates how education developed around mosques in the early Islamic period and then developed into madrasas focused upon Islamic law and the propagation of particular schools. Then examines how the rise of these colleges influenced the rise of the university in the Medieval Christian West. Among the most important studies of the intellectual exchange between Islam and the West.

Motzki, Harald. The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence: Meccan Fiqh Before the Classical Schools, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2002).343pgs.

Though ostensibly about early Islamic Law, this work presents the clearest outline of the development of skepticism towards the hadith among Western scholars and the inaccuracy of their hypothesis. Employing texts that were previously unavailable, Motzki demonstrates that many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad were in circulation by the end of the first century. This undercuts the theoretical basis for all skeptical approaches toward the development of the hadith and jurisprudence that have dominated Western academia over the last fifty years. It is a must read for every scholar of early Islam and anyone who wishes to understand the arguments regarding the authenticity of the hadith tradition.

Stewart, Devin J. Islamic Legal Orthodoxy (University of Utah Press, 1998).280 pgs.

Demonstrates the manner in which Shi’ite fiqh developed in the context of Sunni legal debates. An invaluable contribution to our understanding of the early history of Islamic law.

On Legal Theory:

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Islamic Texts Society, 3rd edition, 2005).550 pgs.

A good outline of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence and their application is specific fields. Pretty much the standard for Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh) in the English language. It explains most of the various methodological tools that are used in deriving law, often with examples. Requires concentration, but accessible to the undergraduate with proper guidance.

Rauf, Feisal Abdul. Islam a Sacred Law: What Every Muslim Should Know About Shariah, (Threshold Books, 1999).210 pgs.

Helps one understand the richness and complexity of Islamic legal traditions while also examining the underlying spirit of Islamic Law, not just its outward form. Includes examples of immediate dilemmas Muslims face in modern life, thus making it more accessible to the non-specialist.

Weiss, Bernard G. The Spirit of Islamic Law (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006). 211 pgs.

A detailed yet accessible summary of the basic issues of Islamic Law. Good summary of how legal theories were developed.

Also Recommended:

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Freedom of Expression in Islam (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1997).340pgs.

Offers the only detailed presentation in English of freedom of expression from both the legal and moral perspectives of Islam. Attempts to examine both the evidence on freedom of expression in the sources of the Shari’ah and the limitations, whether moral, legal or theological, that Islam imposes on the valid exercise of this freedom.


Islamic Theology:

Jackson, Sherman. On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance on Islam (Oxford University, 2002).156 pgs.

The long introduction provides a good outline of some central debates in Islamic theology, particularly the tension between rationalists and traditionalists. But does not provide a full understanding of the comprehensive understanding from direct experience that al-Ghazali sees as the only path to true knowledge.

Martin, Richard C. and Mark Woodward with Dwi S. Atmaja. Defenders of Reason in Islam, Mu‘tazilism from Medieval School to Modern Symbol (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1997).251 pgs.

A good introduction to the early development of Islamic theology with useful translations of primary texts and interesting comparisons to developments in the modern period.

Watt, Montgomery. An Introduction to Islamic Philosophy and Theology (Edinburgh:Edinburgh University).

A nice introduction, though somewhat outdated. Focuses more upon theology than philosophy. Provides a general outline of the main issues that divided Muslim thinkers and the schools of theology that arose therefrom.

Wolfson, Harry A. The Philosophy of the Kalam (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1976).

Still the best examination of the debates over the nature of the Quran in Islamic theology. But the book does enter in some very esoteric debates and is not a good introduction to Kalam.


 Islamic Philosophy:

Chittick, William. The Heart of Islamic Philosophy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

The Introduction is perhaps the best summary of the real intentions behind Islamic philosophy, especially in the later period. A must read for anyone who is truly interested the subject.

Izutsu, Toshiko. The Fundamental Structure of Sabzawari’s Metaphysics, (Tehran: McGill University, 1972).

A tour de force. The introduction is still the best essay on Islamic philosophy in any European language. Provides an unparalleled exposition of the development of the philosophy of being (wujud), the key philosophical concept in all Islamic philosophy.

Leaman, Oliver. An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).253 pgs.

Perhaps the best general introduction to Islamic philosophy available, though not without mistakes, especially as regards later Islamic philosophy and some aspects of Ibn Sina’s ontology.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Islamic Intellectual Tradition in Persia (London: Curzon Press, 1997).

A collection of essays on Islamic philosophy written over the past forty years by one of the leading experts on Islamic philosophy who studied within the classical Islamic philosophical tradition. Though written originally as introductory essays, many of the essays have yet to be surpassed in modern scholarship.

Wisnovsky, Robert. Avicenna’s Metaphysics in Context (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003).320 pgs.

An in depth analysis of the development Avicenna’s treatment of both God and the soul. Demonstrates how Avicenna built upon previous thinkers, yet created an entirely new frame of reference, thus inaugurating a new philosophical tradition. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the early period of Islamic Philosophy.

Yazdi, Mehdi Ha’iri. The Principles of Epistemology in Islamic Philosophy: Knowledge by Presence (Albany: SUNY Publications, 1992). 248 pgs.

A remarkable outline of developments in Islamic philosophy by one of the few people to have mastered both the Western and Islamic philosophical traditions. Explains the key concepts of Islamic epistemology and how knowledge by presence has played a crucial role its development over the centuries.


Essential Reference Works:

Corbin, Henry. History of Islamic Philosophy. trans. Liadain Sherrard (London: Kegan Paul, 1993).

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein and Oliver Leaman. History of Islamic Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1996).

The most comprehensive study of Islamic philosophy. Quite uneven. Some essaysare excellent, others are poorly researched and incomplete.


On Sufi Thought:

Burckhardt, Titus. An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine (Wellingborough, 1976).

A masterful exposition of the teachings of the School of Ibn al-Arabi. Should be read many times over by the serious student of Islamic thought.

Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn Al-Arabi’s Metaphysics of Imagination (Albany: State University of New York, 1989).

The most comprehensive examination of Ibn al-Arabi’s teachings available in any European language. The introduction is a beautiful synopsis of Ibn al-Arabi’s worldview.

Chodkiewicz, Michel. The Seal of the Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn al-‘Arabi (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993).

A detailed and concise examination of Ibn al-Arabi’s understanding of prophecy and sainthood. Though limited to one specific area, this is perhaps the best book on Ibn al-‘Arabi in any European language.

Lings, Martin. What is Sufism (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, New Edition, 1999).134 pgs.

The most eloquent introduction to Sufism in any European language, but some of the discussions assume knowledge of certain aspects of Sufism.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Sufi Essays (London: Allen and Unwin, 1972).

An enduring collection of essays that presents many important aspects of Sufism which have yet to be explored in full by modern scholarship.


On Sufi History and Practice:

Ernst, Carl. The Shambala Guide to Sufism (Boston: Shambala, 1997).

A very accessible account of the main teachings of Sufism, the relation of Sufism to other aspects of Islam and the place of Sufism within Islamic civilization.

Karamustafa, Ahmet T. Sufism: The Formative Period (University of California, 2007).256 pgs.

An accessible account of the development of early Sufism, with a real taste for its inner meaning. This is the book I will use for course on Sufism.

Knysh, Alexander. Sufism, A Brief History (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2004).

A Nice outline of the early historical development of Sufi ideas, but somewhat dry in presentation. Never really gets to the heart of the matter

Lings, Martin. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad Al-ʻAlawī; His Spiritual Heritage and Legacy (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993).

A moving account of the life and teachings Shaykh al-Alawi. Shows Sufism in action,not merely in theory.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Sufism: The Mystical Dimension of Islam (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina).

The classic resource for the development of early Sufism by one of the most influential scholars in the field. The presentation of later Sufism and the school of Ibn al-Arabi is, however, lacking.

Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam (New York: Oxford, 1998).333pgs.



Amir-Moezzi, M. Ali. The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism, (Albany, SUNY, 1994).

An excellent discussion of the full meaning of the imamate as a spiritual, not just a political, reality, with a heavy emphasis on metaphysical and mystical ideas within Shi`ism. The sheer breadth of the sources employed makes this a truly exceptional work.

Modaressi, Hossein. Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shi’ite Islam: Abū Ja’far Ibn Qiba Al-Rāzī and His Contribution to Imāmite Shī’ite Thought (Princeton: Darwin, 1993).

An excellent study of the Imamate as it develops over time, especially from the period of Ja`far al-Sadiq through the disappearance of the Twelfth Imam, and the political and theological issues involved in establishing the doctrine of the ghaybah (Incultation) of the Twelfth Imam. Provides edited and translated texts of theological and polemical debates between the Twelver thinkers trying to establish the soundness of the ghaybah doctrine, and their Zaydi and Sunni detractors.

Newman, Andrew. The Formative Period of Twelver Shi`ism (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 2000).

The best available study of Shi`ite hadith literature and the way in which it reflects tensions between different centers of Shi`ite thought in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Sobhani, Ja`far. Doctrines of Shi`i Islam: A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices. trans. Reza Shah Kazemi (London: I.B. Tauris/Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2001). A nice overview of fundamental Shi`ite beliefs from a prominent contemporary Shi’ite scholar, with good sections on the more interesting dimensions, such as taqiyyah and bada.

Tabatabai, Allamah Hossein. Shi’ite Islam (Albany: SUNY, 1977).

Watt, Montgomery. The Formative Period of Islamic Thought (Oxford: Oneworld, 1998).

Has some good sections for an introduction to Shi’ite thought and its relationship toother branches of Islam, but should be used in conjunction with other works on Shi’ism.


Islamic Art and Architecture:

Burckhardt, Titus. The Art of Islam: Language and Meaning (London: World of Islam Festival Publ. Co., 1976).

An amazing book with excellent pictures and penetrating insight.

Burckhard, Titus. Sacred art East and West (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2001).

An incredible exposition of the unifying principles underlying all forms of religious art.

Al-Faruqi, Lois Lamya. Islam and Art (Islamabad: National Hijra Council, 1405 /1985).

Gonzalez, Valérie. Beauty and Islam: Aesthetics in Islamic Art and Architecture(London: I.B. Tauris, 2001).

Grabar, Oleg. The Formation of Islamic Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).

Revised and enlarged edition.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Islamic Art and Spirituality (Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1987).

A beautiful collection of essays on calligraphy, poetry and architecture in the Islamic world.


Islam and the West/Islam in the Modern World:

Bulliet, Richard. The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (New York: Columbia University, 2006).

Offers insights that are desperately needed in the current environment.

Daniel, Norman. Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1993).

An excellent study of the relations between Islam and the West for over one thousand years. A must read for any serious student of the subject.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Islam and the Plight of Modern Man (Chicago: Kazi, 2002).

Perhaps S. H. Nasr’s most important book, contains both historical examinations and philosophical essays. An excellent book for contextualizing current misunderstandings between Islam and the West.

Voll, John. Islam Continuity and Change in the Modern World, 2nd Edition (Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1994).


Islamic Fundamentalism:

Algar, Hamid. Wahhabism, a Critical Essay. (Oneonta, NY: Islamic Publications International, 2002).

A concise account of the history and teachings of Wahhabi Islam, arguing that this sect is a complete historical aberration.

El Fadl, Khaled M. Abou. The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005).320 pgs.

Argues that the extremist sects of Islam, mainly Wahhabism, blatantly defy the true values of Islam. Clarifies that Wahhabism was once an unpopular, fringe, cult like movement, which only grew through a chance partnership with the Saudi Arabian ruling family and the discovery of oil that created an unprecedented infusion of petro-dollars into the fledgling, conservative belief system.

Lumbard, Joseph. Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars (Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom, 2004).326 pgs.

A collection of essays covering the Religious, Historical and Political dimensions of fundamentalist interpretations of Islam by Muslim authors from many different ethnic backgrounds.

Oliveti, Vincenzo. Terror’s Source: The Ideology of Wahhabi Salafism and its Consequences, Vincenzo Oliveti (UK: Amadeus Press, 2002).

A concise account of the aberrations from which modern fundamentalism arises.


Islam and Other Religions:

Parrinder, Geoffrey. Jesus in the Quran, Geoffrey Parrinder (Oxford: One World, 1995).

A well-researched book with excellent insights into the underlying relationship between Islam and Christianity.

Shah-Kazemi, Reza. The Other in the Light of the One: The Universality of the Qur’ån and Interfaith Dialogue (London: Islamic Texts Society, 2006).

Examines verses of the Quran that discuss other religions in light of the Sufi principles of Quranic interpretation. An incredible achievement that should change the view of way the Quran presents other religions for both Muslims and non-Muslims.




Peace and love