cover image Why I Am a Salafi

Why I Am a Salafi

Michael Muhammad Knight. Soft Skull, $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-59376-606-1

Knight (The Taqwacores) invites readers into “the desert of the real Islam,” offering a deconstructionist take on Islamic texts, tradition, transmission, and theology. Known for celebrating “an Islam of rejected possibilities and subaltern voices,” Knight takes a different tack here by focusing on the fundamentalist perspective. What he discovers is a personalized Salafism that focuses on his individual quest for spiritual origins. For much of the book Knight explains his personal evolution as a converted Muslim through discussions of his early, formative reading experiences (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Yusuf Ali’s The Meanings of the Holy Qur’an) simultaneously introducing readers to many narratives, names, and notables from Islamic history. Yet his conclusion lacks insightful commentary on the habits of this lived and communal “post-authentic Islam,” which does the practicing Muslim reader little good. For Knight, there is no authentic, orthodox, or authoritative Islam, but instead a tangle of traditions. Although the book poses many difficult questions that are never answered, Knight’s ambitious scope and captivating voice make Why I Am a Salafi a must-read for those interested in an alternative side of Islam. (Aug.)