Jonathan A. C. Brown
Jonathan A.C. Brown
Jonathan Brown in 2018
|Alma mater||Georgetown University (B.A.)|
University of Chicago (Ph.D.)
|Institutions||Georgetown University (2010-)|
University of Washington (2006-2010)
|Thesis||The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: the Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon (2006)|
|Doctoral advisor||Wadad Kadi|
Jonathan Andrew Cleveland Brown (born 1977) is an American scholar of Islamic studies. Since 2012, he has been associate professor at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He holds the Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization at Georgetown University.
He has authored several books including Slavery and Islam, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenges and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy, Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction, and The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim. He has also published articles in the fields of Hadith, Islamic law, Salafism, Sufism, and Arabic language.
Background and education
Brown was born on August 9, 1977 in Washington, DC. He was raised as an Episcopalian and converted to Islam in 1997. Brown is Sunni and follows the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence. Brown graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 2000 from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., studied Arabic for a year at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad at the American University of Cairo, and completed his doctorate in Islamic thought at the University of Chicago in 2006. Professor Brown is married to Laila Al-Arian, Executive Producer at Al Jazeera.
From 2006 to 2010 he taught in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he was awarded tenure. He then gave up tenure to move to Georgetown in 2010. After serving as an assistant professor he was tenured again in 2012 teaching Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Understanding in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is also a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Brown served as the director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding till 2019.
Publications and speeches
Brown has published work on Hadith, Islamic law, Sufism, Arabic lexical theory and Pre-Islamic poetry and is currently focused on the history of forgery and historical criticism in Islamic civilization and modern conflicts between late Sunni Traditionalism and Salafism in Islamic Thought.
Misquoting Muhammad (book)
In his book Misquoting Muhammad, Brown argues that the “depth and breadth” of the early Muslim scholars’ achievement in assessing the authenticity of sayings and texts “dwarfed” that of the fathers of the Christian church. The book received a number of positive reviews, and was named as one of the top books on religion of 2014 by The Independent. One review of the book in a Catholic journal called it "generous to a fault when it comes to remarks about Christianity."
Writings on slavery
In a 2017 article, Brown stated that "the term ‘slavery’ is so ambiguous as to be functionally useless for the purposes of discussing extreme domination and exploitation across history," especially in the context of Islamic history. Brown wrote that the current understanding of "slavery" is defined primarily in terms of legal ownership and violations of autonomy. According to Brown, this understanding does not accurately reflect the way slavery was practiced in many times and places in the Islamic world. For example, some enslaved Ottoman officials held authority over free people, while some forms of extreme exploitation happened to legally free persons. Brown writes that while slavery's evil "is so morally clear and so widely acknowledged", and that it is the "Hitler of human practices", he also wishes to challenge the current understanding of slavery.
A lecture presenting this article, and in particular comments Brown made during the Q&A session, sparked criticism from a number of conservative commentators, some of whom accused Brown of supporting slavery and rape. In addition, some liberal scholars of Islam criticized Brown for relativizing the concepts of slavery, human autonomy, and consent, and took issue with his suggestion that Muslims cannot view all historical forms of slavery to be immoral since the Islamic prophet Muhammad had owned slaves.
In response, Brown wrote on Twitter, "Islam as a faith and I as a person condemn slavery, rape and concubinage." In a subsequent essay and interview Brown elaborated his views and apologized for having addressed the subject too cerebrally, adding that members of the alt-right had bombarded him and his family with threats of death and rape over the controversy.
- Slavery and Islam, Oneworld Publications, 2019 | 416 p | ISBN 978-1786076359
- Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy, Oneworld Publications, 2014 | 384 p | ISBN 978-1780744209
- Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2011 | 160 p | ISBN 978-0199559282
- Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, Oneworld Publications, Foundations of Islam series, 2009 | 320 p | ISBN 978-1851686636
- The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon, Brill Publishers, 2007 | 434 p | ISBN 978-9004158399
- A Segment of the Genealogy of Sunni Hadith Criticism: The Relationship between al-Khatib al-Baghdadi and al-Hakim al-Naysaburi.
- "The Rules of Matn Criticism: There Are No Rules," Islamic Law and Society 19 (2012): 356-96.
- "Is Islam Easy to Understand or Not?: Salafis, the Democratization of Interpretation and the Need for the Ulama". Journal of Islamic Studies (2014).
- "Even if it’s not True it’s True: Using Unreliable Hadiths in Sunni Islam." Islamic Law and Society 18 (2011): 1-52.
- "The Canonization of Ibn Majah: Authenticity vs. Utility in the Formation of the Sunni Hadith Canon." Revue des Mondes Musalmans et de la Medeterranee 129 (2011): 171-83.
- "Did the Prophet Say It or Not?: the Literal, Historical and Effective Truth of Hadiths in Sunni Islam". Journal of the American Oriental Society 129.2 (2009): 259-85.
- "How We Know early Hadith Critics Did Matn Criticism and Why It's So Hard to Find" (PDF). Islamic Law and Society (15): 143–84. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-30. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
- “New Data on the Delateralization of Dad and its Merger with Za’ in Classical Arabic: Contributions from Old South Arabian and the Earliest Islamic Texts on D / Z Minimal Pairs,” Journal of Semitic Studies 52, no.2 (2007): 335-368.
- "The Last Days of al-Ghazzali and the Tripartite Division of Sufi World: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali's Letter to the Seljuq Vizier and Commentary." The Muslim World 96, no. 1 (2006): 89-113.
- "Criticism of the Proto-Hadith Canon: al-Daraqutni's Adjustment of al-Bukhari and Muslim's Sahihs." Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies 15/1 (2004): 1-37.
- The Social Context of Pre-Islamic Poetry: Poetic Imagery and Social Reality in the Mu'allaqat." Arab Studies Quarterly 25/3 (2003): 29-50.
- Brown, Jonathon A.C.; Ali, Abdullah Hamid (Feb 7, 2017). "Slavery and Islam – Part 1: The Problem of Slavery" (PDF). Cite journal requires
- Stoning and Hand Cutting—Understanding the Hudud and the Shariah in Islam
- Islam is not the Cause of Honor Killings. It’s Part of the Solution
- "Review of The Encyclopedia of Canonical Hadith," Journal of Islamic Studies 19, n. 3 (2008): 391-97.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_UB0W820qY (initials at 1:17:30)
- Oneworld Publications, Hadith by Jonathan A.C. Brown
- Ahsen Utku (2010-08-18). "Jonathan Brown on Being Inspired by Prophet Muhammad". LastProphet.info. LastProphet.info. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- Brown, Jonathan (18 June 2016). "The Shariah, Homosexuality & Safeguarding Each Other's Rights in a Pluralist Society | ImanWire". Al-Madina Institute.
- "Johnathan A.C. Brown : CV" (PDF). 18.georgetown.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-09-08. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- Knight, Michael Muhammad (2014-12-12). "Book review: 'The Lives of Muhammad,' by Kecia Ali and 'Misquoting Muhammad,' by Jonathan A.C. Brown". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- "Membership Roster - Council on Foreign Relations". Cfr.org. 2016-02-15. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- Faculty, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding
- "Jonathan Brown". Patheos.com. Archived from the original on 2015-06-28. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- "Islam and hadiths: Sifting and combing". The Economist. 28 Oct 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Karen Armstrong (2014-08-10). "Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy by Jonathan AC Brown". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- Muhammad, Michael (2014-12-12). "Book review: 'The Lives of Muhammad,' by Kecia Ali and 'Misquoting Muhammad,' by Jonathan A.C. Brown". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- Mona Siddiqui (2014-08-07). "Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy by Jonathan A C Brown, book review | Reviews | Culture". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- Marcus Tanner (2014-12-12). "Books of the year 2014: The best books on religion | Features | Culture". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
- Damian Howard SJ (2015-04-17). "Misquoting Muhammad. The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy". Thinking Faith. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- Brown, Jonathon A.C.; Ali, Abdullah Hamid (Feb 7, 2017). "Slavery and Islam – Part 1: The Problem of Slavery". Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. Archived from the original on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2019."Slavery and Islam – Part 1: The Problem of Slavery" (PDF). Cite journal requires
- Brown, Jonathon A.C.; Ali, Abdullah Hamid (Feb 7, 2017). "Slavery and Islam – Part 1: The Problem of Slavery" (PDF): 18. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
Slavery is the ideal example to invoke because its evil is so morally clear and so widely acknowledged. Who would defend slavery? It is the Hitler of human practices. Yet despite all its power, the word "slavery" is rarely defined.Cite journal requires
- "Dr. Jonathan AC Brown - Islam and the Problem of Slavery | IIITMedia". youtube.com. 9 February 2017.
- Valerie Strauss (Feb 17, 2017). "Georgetown professor under fire for lecture about slavery and Islam". Washington Post.
- Rod Dreher (Feb 11, 2017). "Georgetown Prof Defends Islamic Slavery". The American Conservative.
- MICHAEL LUCIANO (Feb 10, 2017). "Islamic Studies Professor On Whether Rape and Slavery Are Wrong: It Depends". The Daily Banter.
- Jonathan AC Brown [@JonathanACBrown] (11 February 2017). "Islam as a faith and I as a person condemn slavery, rape and concubinage" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Jonathan AC Brown (2017-02-16). "Apology without Apologetics". Muslim Matters. Retrieved 2017-02-22.