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Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders
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Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  71 reviews
In this original and illuminating book, Denise A. Spellberg reveals a little-known but crucial dimension of the story of American religious freedom—a drama in which Islam played a surprising role. In 1765, eleven years before composing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson bought a Qur’an. This marked only the beginning of his lifelong interest in Islam, and he ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.83  · 
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Fun Fact: Thomas Jefferson was accused by his political opponents of being a secret Muslim in the election of 1800, partly due to his opposition to forming an American state church.

This is a compelling, if a bit unfocused, book about the history of religious tolerance in the early United States. We start with a discussion about Thomas Jefferson and his decision to purchase the Qur'an and use it as a law textbook and the influence of John Locke on his legislation, but the focus moves to John Ada
Joel Trono-Doerksen
Probably one of the best books of the year. So much research has gone into this book by this excellent scholar; the notes are filled with great references and so many other books to read. Although some parts can be a bit repetitive (especially about the different people debating about imagined Muslim civil rights) throughout the author kept me interested and as I was reading it I would look up at a page and realize I was 10 more pages ahead than I thought. The most interesting fact I learned was ...more
M. Azhaari Shah Sulaiman

This is a compelling book about the history of religious tolerance in the early United States.
this book overall paints the Muslims in a positive light, which is good. I learnt that the demonizing of islam has been rooted so deeply in the minds of European and American that it's so common to see plays which portrays false and misleading image of Islam. But few stood up to challenge the misleading portrayal of islam, one being Thomas Jefferson, one of the founder of America.
سامي هاشم
Jan 27, 2014 rated it liked it
So I was sold on the title.
The book deals with how Jefferson's belief in the general principle of the seperation of church and state, imaginatively, includes muslims.

The few parts in the beginning that trace the history of the extension of British biases towards Islam and how it crossed the Atlantic are important to know; politically and personally as a muslim.

It is thorough in explaining thomas's overall attitude towards Islam, which I commend.

The part on muslim slaves was interesting to me on
Roger DeBlanck
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Despite his personal dislike of Islam, Thomas Jefferson worked tirelessly to protect the rights of Muslims and other non-Protestants to practice their respective faiths. His fight for religious equality took place against the widespread prejudice existing among Protestants for any faith other than their own. They deemed Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism as imposture religions. As Jefferson’s understanding of the Qu’ran deepened, he saw the value in Islam’s tenets, particularly its recognition of J ...more
أنور  الغامدي
في العام 1765 قام توماس جيفرسون أحد مؤلفي إعلان الإستقلال و الرئيس الثالث للولايات المتحدة باقتناء نسخة من القرآن مترجمة للإنكليزية أثناء دراسته للقانون ، تقوم الباحثة في هذا الكتاب الثري بالمراجع والمصادر بتقصّي نشوء التسامح الديني وتطوّره من خلال أهم الشخصيات في ذلك الوقت وكيف كافح "الآباء المؤسسون" لضم الأقليات الدينية ضمن مشروع الهوية الوطنية .

ينقسم الكتاب لسبعة فصول وكلمة ختامية للمؤلفة :

في الفصل الأول تتفحص الباحثة كيف عبرت الأفكار السائدة في أوروبا المتحاملة والباغضة للإسلام إلى أميركا وك
Mai Alsharif مي الشريف
أحببت هذا الكتاب .. يحمل الكثثير من المعلومات التي وصلت لي صورة الحياة و انسجام الأديان في الفترة الأولى من بناء الدولة الأمريكية بقيادة الأباء المؤسسين.
rated it liked it
Jan 30, 2014
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
In 2007, Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, swore in on Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an. This book looks at the discussion about Islam in early America (which makes one realise how little has changed), and what Jefferson made of it. The book needs to be far more streamlined (esp the arcane details of debate by minor figures), but documents quite an important test case in Jefferson's thoughts about the new republic and the place of faith communities.
Nov 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
Martin Luther was more Muslim than Lutheran? The Constitution was written with the Muslim in mind first, then the Protestants and Catholics...even though there were no Muslim's in America at the time??? What the what?? Well Ms. Spellberg sounds like a modern day Historical Revisionist! Try reading "Thomas Jefferson and the Barbery Pirates" by Kilmeade to get the real story.
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great piece of research. Authors views of Islam is fair, unlike many others. A surprising discovery of Muslim world relations with founders of modern USA.
Hidayatullah Ibrahim
Buku tentang perjalanan pendiri Amerika Serikat dalam memandang Alquran sebagai falsafah pegangan demokrasi bernegara di Amerika serikat
Abu Malik
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
يكفي أن تقرأ وصف بسيط عن الكتاب في هذه الصفحة وستعلم حينها أنه كتاب شيق لمعرفة تاريخ الإسلام وتأثيره في ثقافة تلك الحقبة واهتمام كبار الشخصيات المؤثرة في السياسة والدين بالقرآن وما يحتويه ومفهوم الدين الإسلامي.
انصح بقراءته ....!!
Peter Goodman
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, philosophy


“Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders,” by Denise A. Spellberg (Knopf, 2013). This is an important book. Spellberg traces the development of the concept of religious freedom---freedom of conscience---in England and then in North America. It was part of the Enlightenment movement away from unthinking worship of Jesus Christ, acknowledgment of the disastrous effects of religious warfare, etc. Englishmen, and western Europeans generally, knew almost nothing about Islam except
Fred Kohn
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: political
I remained confused as to why this book was titled Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an until the last chapter of the book. Although Jefferson owned a Qur'an, there seems to be no evidence at all that he ever read it. Sure, he probably did, but what use he made of it remains pure conjecture. Even worse, it seems clear to me that he never read its excellent (for the time) 200 page introduction, as the author makes clear that he seems totally unaware of the facts contained therein. Most of the book is concer ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Now, as in the eighteenth century, American Muslims symbolize the universality of religious inclusion and equality promised at the nation’s founding by Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Leland, and others, an ideal still in the course of being fully realized more than two centuries later. Any attack upon the rights of Muslim citizens should be recognized for what it remains: an assault upon the universal ideal of civil rights promised all believers at the country’s founding. No group, based on re ...more
Sascha Benjamin Cohen
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is both fascinating and necessary, giving our present day twin obsessions with misinformation about Islam, and mythologizing the founders of the nation an opportunity to be aired in tandem. what Spellberg has done here is provide an engaging and enlightening context for a simple but profound and overlooked truth: Islam is no stranger to the US, and has been post of our dialogs on policy and culture almost since before the founding of the nation.

For anyone who has an interest in Jeffer
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A *very* comprehensive look at virtually everything the Founders wrote and said about Islam and religious tolerance. It shows the complex - and often contradictory - attitudes they and other Americans have had towards Islam during the past four centuries.

Sometimes Spellberg gets bogged down into too much fact-listing to tell a clear story. But I do think it was right for the book to attempt to include everything. I'm naturally suspicious of writers who are selective with facts when it comes to t
Mudasser Iqbal
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Today, Islam is still seen as a stranger but clearly has been in the US for less than three centuries. I knew that Jefferson possessed a noble Qur'an, but had no knowledge of him actually having read it. I found it interesting that how Joe Leland never read the noble Qur'an, but was an advocate to supporting the freedom of Muslim slaves, opposite to Jefferson. It's a good book for those wanting to learn about 18th century views on Muslims and compare to the views portrayed by the mass media
The Advocate
"From early philosophers promoting religious toleration to West African Muslim slaves continuing to practice in the U.S. (one, a Senegalese, wrote his autobiography in Arabic in 1831), “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an” challenges easy assumptions."
Read more here.
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Look of the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797. "The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..." Passed by the US Senate. No votes against it registered. This book was an excellent account of Thomas Jefferson's thoughts about the separation of Church and State and equality for all people to follow their faith without State interference.
Mike Wigal
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Here's an interesting twist in American history: Barack Obama was not the first US president to be accused of being a secret Muslim. Thomas Jefferson beat him out by over 200 years. This book is an excellent rebuttal to the agenda driven morons who claim America was established as a Christian nation.
Erdoan A.
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
One of the best written books on history of US religious pluralism, and can't-put-it-down book that everyone, especially community leaders in the US, should read it! Very highly recommended!
المعلومات في الكتاب جيدة وإن كانت الكاتبة تكررها كثيراً، الكتاب يتحدث عن الاسلام في نظر الأباء المؤسسين وكيف تأثروا بالنظرة الأوربية في ثنائيتها! أظن أنني انسجمت مع الطرح وانهيته في ساعات .
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Pembacaan buku ini sempat tertunda cukup lama, kurang lebih karena terjemahannya serta konteks yang amerikasentris khususnya dalam hal kenegaraan. AS itu asing tetapi saya muak dengannya. Sejarahnya bikin saya ngilu. Stereotip warganya kurang baik (walau kenyataannya saya menemukan beberapa orang dari sana yang enak diajak mengobrol atau berbagi.) Medianya sangat gencar, bahkan sepertinya banyak produk yang saya konsumsi (berupa serial TV, bacaan, dan musik) berasal dari sana. Di samping itu, ke ...more
اسلام بلا حدود
لهذا الكتاب قيمة كبيرة ليس فقط في المكتبة الأمريكية ولكن في جميع مكتبات العالم . إنه كتاب لا تنحصر قيمته في إلقاء الضوء على موضوع تاريخي هام ، وإنما هو كتاب يتشابك موضوعه مع أهم القضايا المثارة في عالمنا المعاصر وهى قضية حوار الثقافات ومدى تقبل الأخر. إنه كتاب يقدم لنا تجربة مهمة جدا في ثقافة التعايش والانفتاح على الآخر. تجربة متميزة فى التعرف على الإسلام من الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية التي تقود الحضارة العالمية الآن . كتاب يلقى الضوء على تجربة شخصية كبيرة بحجم توماس جيفرسون الرئيس الثالث بعد جور ...more
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So this book was quite possibly the most interesting book I have read this year, and is a top fifty ever, perhaps higher. I'm quite impressed by Jefferson's research on the Qur'an and its implications on American policy. Likewise the same to be said for John Adams and surprisingly a few evangelical ministers.

Religious liberty is a big deal to me and this book really made me think even more about it, especially in light of the lack of contact Americans felt they had previous to the nineteenth cen
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: muslim, islam
Really interesting and enlightening read. Never really even thought of this through my love of Revolutionary times. You wouldn't think there would be any Muslims in the colonial US, but then you think of all the western African slaves, and the book goes through that. Amazing to see Jefferson put down on paper the religious freedom for all, not just Protestants. Of course Catholicism is targeted as similar to Islam, due to the factor of thinking they can never fall in line with other leaders than ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
All I could think while reading this book is that I really wish it had been included in the Religion, Law, & Politics seminar that I just took. It's definitely dense, so I think going through it with a class would be beneficial, but more than that, it's really important that Spellberg traces the ways in which non Euro-American Protestantism affected the founding. I particularly appreciated the attention she gives to race as well as religion. Her final chapter considers the contemporary conte ...more
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is more a scholarly work than one written for the general public. The author has predicated this book on the presence of a copy of the Qur'an in Jefferson's position, yet announces early on that this book could have been lost in a fire not long after he acquired it. This author also tends to repeat himself.
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Denise A. Spellberg (born c. 1958) is an American scholar of Islamic history. She is an associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Spellberg holds a BA from Smith College (1980) and a PhD (1989) from Columbia University.
“So, if they hold aloof from you and wage not war against you and offer you peace, Allah alloweth you no way against them” (Qur’an 4:90).” 4 likes
“Thomas Jefferson would be the first in the history of American politics to suffer the false charge of being a Muslim, an accusation considered the ultimate Protestant slur in the eighteenth century.” 1 likes
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