Michael Sells is professor of religion at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and the author of four other books including Early Islamic Mysticism. In this long-needed work, he translates and provides commentary on a selection of the earliest "suras" (revelations) of Muhammad. He believes they contain "some of the most powerful prophetic and revelatory passages in religious history. And they offer a vision of a meaningful and just life that anchors the religion of one-fifth of the world's inhabitants."
The accessible translations by Sells are meant to convey the texture, tone, power, and subtlety of the Arabic text. In Muslim schools, children memorize verses and then entire suras from the Qur'an. The author notes: "They are not simply learning something by rote but rather interiorizing the inner rhythms, sound patterns, and textual dynamics taking it to heart in the deepest manner." The reader can join in this process by listening to the CD that accompanies the book containing "The Call to Prayer and Six Suras."
One of the marvels of Approaching the Qur'an is that it reveals many of the central values of Islam including hospitality, generosity, kindness, performing the prayer, and carrying out just deeds. Sells also writes poetically about the day of reckoning. He sees night as "one of the more mystical moments of Islamic life." Here at last is a beautifully designed and user-friendly resource that will enable the general public and devoted students of Islam to come to a fuller understanding of the Qur'an.