Rajab 1445 | January 2024

Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law: A Fresh Interpretation by Mohammad Hashim Kamali

In Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law: A Fresh Interpretation, Mohammad Kamali considers problems associated with and proposals for reform of the hudud punishments prescribed by Islamic criminal law, and other topics related to crime and punishment in Shariah. He examines what the Qur'an and hadith say about hudud punishments, as well as just retaliation (qisas) and discretionary punishments (ta'zir), and looks at modern-day applications of Islamic criminal law in 15 Muslim countries. Particular attention is given to developments in Malaysia, a multi-religious society, federal state, and self-described democracy, where a lively debate about hudud has been on-going for the last three decades. Malaysia presents a particularly interesting case study of how a reasonably successful country with a market economy, high levels of exposure to the outside world, and a credible claim to inclusivity, deals with Islamic and Shariah-related issues. Kamali concludes that there is a significant gap between the theory and practice of hudud in the scriptural sources of Shariah and the scholastic articulations of jurisprudence of the various schools of Islamic law, arguing that literalism has led to such rigidity as to make Islamic criminal law effectively a dead letter. His goal is to provide a fresh reading of the sources of Shariah and demonstrate how the Qur'an and Sunnah can show the way forward to needed reforms of Islamic criminal law. (Publisher's Description.)

Sha'ban 1445 | February 2024

The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Written in the sixth century, The Consolation of Philosophy was one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages. Boethius composed the masterpiece while imprisoned and awaiting the death sentence for treason. The Christian author had served as a high-ranking government official before falling out of favor with Roman Emperor Theodoric, an Arian. In the Consolation, Boethius explores the true end of life-knowledge of God-through a conversation with Lady Philosophy. Part prose, part poetry, the work combines Greek philosophy and Christian faith to formulate answers to some of life's most difficult and enduring questions. (Publisher's Description.)

Ramadan 1445

Trial and Tribulation in the Qur'an by Nasrin Rouzati and Jews and the Qur'an by Meir M. Bar-Asher

Jews and the Qur'an
In this panoramic and multifaceted book, Meir Bar-Asher examines how Jews and Judaism are depicted in the Qur’an and later Islamic literature, providing needed context to those passages critical of Jews that are most often invoked to divide Muslims and Jews or to promote Islamophobia. He traces the Qur’anic origins of the protection of Jews and other minorities living under the rule of Islam, and shows how attitudes toward Jews in Shi‘i Islam are substantially different from those in Sunni Islam. Bar-Asher sheds light on the extraordinary contribution of Jewish tradition to the Muslim exegesis of the Qur’an, and draws important parallels between Jewish religious law, or halakha, and shari‘a law. An illuminating work on a topic of vital relevance today, Jews and the Qur’an offers a nuanced understanding of Islam’s engagement with Judaism in the time of Muhammad and his followers, and serves as a needed corrective to common misperceptions about Islam.

Trial and Tribulation in the Qur'an
This book offers a critical analysis and re-examination of the notion of Divine trial, first by providing a comprehensive typology and a contextual interpretation of the Qur'anic narratives pertaining to the concept. Divine trial is then investigated through a historical review of prophetic tradition (hadith) and the exegetical literature (tafsir); followed by a discussion on Prophetology, and an overview of bala in the lives of the prophets. The book further develops key aspects of Muslim theology and mysticism through an examination of the works of Rumi and al-Ghazali. Nasrin Rouzati takes up a neglected aspect of Islamic religious experience. The concept is actually at the heart of the Qur’an and Rouzati’s research in the Qur’anic materials, both classical and modern, on the subject is ground-breaking.

Explore Year 2 of the Book Club

January

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age by David Mikics

This opening reading for the year serves as a thematic continuation of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, the January 2022 reading. In Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, literary scholar David Mikics lays out, through fourteen rules, how we can develop the practice of slow, meaningful reading, and then demonstrates their value when exploring the various literary genres.

February

The Abolition of Man and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Perhaps the most influential Christian apologist of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis wrote more than thirty books, many of which have been recognized as classics. We will be exploring two of those works: The Abolition of Man and The Screwtape Letters. The former, ranking seventh on National Review’s “100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century,” brilliantly argues against subjectivism in morality and values. The latter, a masterpiece in religious satire, reveals the many machinations of the devil and how to recognize and avoid them.

March

The Two Greatest Ideas by Linda Zagzebski

In this book, philosopher Linda Zagzebski explores the two eponymous “greatest ideas:” the human mind can grasp the universe and the human mind can grasp itself. She examines how the interplay of these two ideas have led to much of the moral and political strife of the past and present, discussing the gaps in our understanding of ourselves and the world and the soon to be coming third reality, where the human mind can understand the other.

April

The Qur'an: A New Translation by Dr. Thomas Cleary

The late Dr. Cleary, one of the greatest translators of all time, left behind a brilliant translation and interpretation of the Qur’an in the English language. Praised for its clarity and subtle poetic style, Cleary’s translation serves as an excellent study during the sacred month of revelation.

May

Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a singular author. A distinguished economist by training, Sowell has a gift for expressing complex ideas in clear and enjoyable prose. His essays are gripping and thought-provoking, challenging the zeitgeist. This book collects six striking reflections on subjects ranging from history to culture.

June

Bhagavad Gita (translated) by Stephen Mitchell

The Emperor Who Never Was by Supriya Gandhi

The Bhagavad Gita, an extended dialogue from the Mahabharata, one of the great Sanskrit epics, is considered a holy text in Hinduism. Where the rest of the epic tells a grand narrative of war, dynastic politics, and the pantheon, the Gita is a focused philosophical reflection. It has attracted a wide commentary tradition over the centuries and remains an accessible point for understanding an important strain of Indic civilization.

The Emperor Who Never Was is a biography that chronicles the life of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and brother of the emperor Aurangazeb. Both Darah Shikoh and his brother took a scholarly path instead of the ostentatious of their father, with the former penning great works of comparative religion under the direction of his Qadiri Shaykh, Mian Mir, and Aurangazeb producing one of the great compendiums of jurisprudence. However, Darah Shikoh, originally heir apparent, was executed by his brother in dynastic politics, making him ‘the Emperor who never was’. 

July

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, who would become Roman emperor at 40, received an extensive education under great scholars, including the rhetorician Fronto and the Stoic philosopher Rusticus. His correspondence with his teachers shows a rich sense of reflection and evolution in his thought over the years. He spent his rule largely engaged in military campaigns and wrote the this work as a philosophical manual for his own use during his late campaigns. It reflects his deep training in the Stoic tradition, but also an appreciation for thinkers of various stripes.

August

An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope

The Secret of the Golden Flower (translated) by Thomas Cleary

In the didactic poem An Essay on Man, the great poet and translator Alexander Pope lays out a philosophy of mankind’s place in the natural order in relation to the world and under the ultimate authority of God. It made an immediate and lasting impact, both in Britain and in the Commonwealth, with thoughtful admirers and critics alike. Today, it provides an excellent opportunity to delve into Pope’s verse–not nearly as widely studied today as it used to be–and to reflect on the philosophical themes therein.

The Secret of the Golden Flower is a Daoist work on meditation that became well-known in the west as a psychological manual, due to a translation by Richard Wilhelm with a commentary by his friend, Carl Jung. However, this effort was hampered by fundamental mistakes in translation and cultural context, making the product rather inaccurate to the Chinese original. As a result, Dr. Cleary translated the work in order to correct the misconceptions that surround it.

September

Treatise on Maqasid al-Shari'ah by Ibn Ashur

Ibn Ashur, a 20th century Muslim jurist and professor at the ancient Zaytuna madrasah of Tunis, is vividly remembered for his defense of Ramadan in the face of a laïciste regime that sought to abolish it. While classically trained in the sciences of Islam, Ibn Ashur grappled with the issues raised by the reformists and sought to find solutions using the traditional methods, rather than throwing them out as they had done. He lays out his approach in this widely admired treatise.

October

Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires by Juan Cole

In this book, a non-Muslim historian examines the life and times of the Holy Prophet ﷺ against the backdrop of the great power politics of the time. Cole sketches a vivid picture of the wider world in which the last message arrived, a world with which the nascent Muslim civilization found itself engaged.

November

by Rashid Khalidi

In this landmark work, Dr. Khalidi examines the ongoing tribulation of the Palestinian people, weaving together deep historical research with personal accounts, including from family members who found themselves in the midst of the conflict. The reading guide will be available on the book club dashboard in the coming weeks.

December

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the tsars, is determined to overreach his humanity and assert his untrammeled individual will. When he commits an act of murder and theft, he sets into motion a story that, for its excruciating suspense, its atmospheric vividness, and its depth of characterization and vision is almost unequaled in the literature of the world. The best known of Dostoevsky’s masterpieces, Crime and Punishment can bear any amount of rereading without losing a drop of its power over our imaginations. Dostoevsky’s drama of sin, guilt, and redemption transforms the sordid story of an old woman’s murder into the nineteenth century’s and most profound and compelling philosophical novel.

Explore Year 1 of the First Command Book Club

January

How to Read a Book

Mortimer Adler’s classic work aims to equip the avid reader with the tools necessary to critically analyze and enjoy books from any tradition. This foundational skill makes an excellent start to the book club, as you will be able to apply its lessons throughout the year.

February

Cynical Theories

In Cynical Theories, Pluckrose and Lindsay analyze and break down the modern sociopolitical narratives that inform the present-day social justice movement.

March

The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History

The great Maliki scholar Ibn Khaldun is considered a pioneer of the social and natural sciences. While his bibliography is vast, it is the Muqaddimah that brings together his most famous and penetrating insights.

April

The Koran Interpreted

A. J. Arberry’s translation of the Holy Qur’an has been praised for its use of language, which remains striking and accessible even decades after its release.

May

Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen’s debut novel is a classic of English prose that offers a clever and witty depiction of middle-class life in nineteenth century England.

June

Politics

This text by the great Greek philosopher is perhaps the most foundational work of political philosophy. It famously follows his ethical treatise, The Nicomachean Ethics, underscoring Aristotle’s view that ethics necessarily precedes politics when establishing a just society.

July

Notes from Underground and Bartleby, the Scrivener

Notes from Underground provides poignant social critique, philosophical musings, and detailed reflections on life in late-nineteenth-century Russia. Bartleby, the Scrivener, an American short story from the same era, explores both philosophical and psychological themes through the experiences of its titular character

August

The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky’s final novel is a philosophical and theological reflection set against the backdrop of social change in Russia.

September

Islam and Secularism

In this seminal work, Professor Syed Naquib al-Attas analyzes a crisis of knowledge in the modern day and proposes a framework for a harmonious use of knowledge from various sources, so long as they follow an intellectual and spiritual hierarchical order.

October

Al-Shama’il Al-Muhammadiyya and Muhammad ﷺ: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources

This famous work by Imam al-Tirmidhi beautifully presents a careful selection of hadith that extol the blessed appearance, character, manners, and lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It allows readers to deepen their appreciation for and love of God’s best and most perfect of all creation. To complement this study, we will also read the pioneering English sirah, Muhammad ﷺ: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources.

November

The Drama of Atheist Humanism

De Lubac traces modern atheism to its original sources, demonstrating how this intellectual genealogy has reverberated across a range of schools of thought.

December

The Bacchae, Measure for Measure, Pygmalion, and Tartuffe

Each of these four plays is an archetype of its era and literary style. The first three, an ancient Greek tragedy, an Elizabethan comedy, and grand siècle French comedy offer deep insights on the contrasting elements of vice and virtue, and religion and secularism, which remain relevant today. The last, a modern classic, draws upon these influences to sketch a portrait of class, language, and education in England.