The Night Journey and Ascension in Islam: The Reception of Religious Narrative in Sunnī, Shīʿī and Western Culture, by by R. P. Buckley

Stijn Aerts


The Night Journey and Ascension in Islam : The Reception of Religious Narrative in Sunnī, Shīʿī and Western Culture, by R.P. Buckley (Library of Middle East History, 36) (London & New York: I. B. Tauris, 2013), ix + 360 pp., ISBN: 978-1-84885-986-9, £59.50 (hb)

(First paragraph)

The book under review is a study of the discourses on the isrāʾ and the miʿrāj, Muḥammad’s Night Journey to Jerusalem and his Ascension to heaven, in Sunnī and Shīʿī Islam as well as in the (non-Muslim) West. It does not deal with the historical development of the isrāʾ and miʿrāj narratives in the formative period of Islam, nor with the literary dimensions of the narratives of the nocturnal journeys. The author’s goal is to draw up an inventory of the intellectual activity inspired by or centering on these narratives. The study covers early classical as well as modern Islam, and everything in between: present-day internet sources of sectarian groups such as the “Qurʾān-Only” Movement are quoted next to medieval Imāmī sources and early Khārijite and Muʿtazilite opinions – surely one of the strengths of the book. The reader should not, however, expect to find a comprehensive “history of ideas” (p. viii). Although the author systematically sketches the existence of ideas in pre-modern times (but not the formative period of Islam), there is limited attention for the dynamics of the transmission of ideas and the intellectual contexts in which they originated and blossomed. All in all, the book contributes more to our knowledge of Muslim thought in the medieval and especially the modern period than the centuries before.

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Ilahiyat Studies: A Journal on Islamic and Religious Studies, 2009-2019 eISSN 1309-1719

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