Who Is Allah?

By Bruce B. Lawrence

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 13 halftones, notes, bibl., index, 56 sidebars

Not for Sale in the British Commonwealth (except Canada), Europe, the Middle East, or South Asia

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5467-6
    Published: August 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2003-9
    Published: April 2015
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2004-6
    Published: April 2015

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

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Awards & distinctions

A 2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

This vivid introduction to the heart of Islam offers a unique approach to understanding Allah, the central focus of Muslim religious expression. Drawing on history, culture, theology, politics, and the media, Bruce B. Lawrence identifies key religious practices by which Allah is revered and remembered, illuminating how the very name of Allah is interwoven into the everyday experience of millions of Muslims.

For Muslims, as for adherents of other religions, intentions as well as practices are paramount in one's religious life. Lawrence elucidates how public utterances, together with private pursuits, reflect the emotive, sensory, and intellectual aspirations of the devout. Ranging from the practice of the tongue (speaking) to practices in cyberspace (online religious activities), Lawrence explores how Allah is invoked, defined, remembered, and also debated. While the practice of the heart demonstrates how Allah is remembered in Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, the practice of the mind examines how theologians and philosophers have defined Allah in numerous contexts, often with conflicting aims. The practice of the ear marks the contemporary period, in which Lawrence locates and then assesses competing calls for jihad, or religious struggle, within the cacophony of an immensely diverse umma, the worldwide Muslim community.

About the Author

Bruce B. Lawrence, a leading scholar of Islam, is the author or editor of many books, including The Qur'an: A Biography and Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. He is Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Islamic Studies Emeritus at Duke University.
For more information about Bruce B. Lawrence, visit the Author Page.


"Bravely expresses and explores a thesis that is hard to grasp, reflective of the paradoxically known and unknown nature of the deity."--Publishers Weekly

"Fascinating to and educational for very diverse audiences."--Choice

“[A] very engaging book.”--Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“The value of the book . . . is clear and enduring. . . . Succeeds beautifully in communicating the simultaneously elusive yet rock-solid liturgical, confessional, and devotional reality of Allah.”--Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World

“Serves as an ideal reference to anyone interested in contemporary politics surrounding Islam and Muslim societies, and their relations with the global world.”--Canadian Journal of History

"The anticipation evoked by the title 'Who Is Allah?' is divinely gratified by this innovative and engaging approach to hinting at the unknowable. In his masterfully concise book, Bruce B. Lawrence navigates vast epochs of history and traverses a multitude of cultures, weaving threads of traditions and disciplines into a guide for a brief yet intimate encounter with the infinity of the Divine. This labor of love is an eloquent and erudite inquiry that is compassionate yet candid and keenly probing. The mystery of this fast and vast quest for Allah is that it manages to say so much with superb clarity and wit."--Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, author of What Is an American Muslim?