The Mantle Odes Arabic Praise Poems to the Prophet Muhammad by Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010. pbk. 306 pages)

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Francis Robinson

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Abstract

Non-Muslims, perhaps blinded by the claims of their own faiths, have long
underestimated Muslim reverence for the Prophet Muhammad. By the
same token, they have paid relatively little attention to Muslim traditions
of praising the Prophet, whether it be the naths sung by Sufi qawwali musicians
in South Asia, the maulid lectures on the first twelve days of Rabi al-
Awwal ‒ or the biographies of the Prophet, which have become so numerous
over the past century. This is unfortunate because, intermingled with
praise for the Prophet, there are often other messages, which non-Muslims
need to note if they are better to understand their Muslim neighbors.
The Mantle Odes contains translations, and interpretations in their context,
of three of the most highly prized poems in the Arab-Islamic tradition
in praise of the Prophet. One poem dates from the time of the Prophet, the
second from the thirteenth century AC under the Mamluks, and the third
from Egypt under colonial rule in the early twentieth century. The author’s
aim is “to bring these Islamic devotional masterpieces into the purview of
contemporary literary interpretation in a way that makes them culturally
relevant and poetically effective for the modern reader, whether Muslim or
non-Muslim” (xi) ...

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