This review article examines Shahab Ahmed's What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic in light of the book's challenge to the notion that the sharia consists of Islam's orthodox core, and Muslim literary, artistic, and philosophical truths constitute a periphery. Written from a historian's perspective, it draws out the ways in which Ahmed is able to illuminate aspects of the past that might be unfamiliar to modern Muslim readers. It also shows how Ahmed's argument risks flattening Muslim pasts by failing to disengage with the dynamism of historical forces and with how historical texts are embedded in relations of gender and power.

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