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Nominating Karen Armstrong for Literature Nobel Prize

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Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Karen Armstrong has been a prolific writer and almost all her works are for enlightening mankind and bringing them together. In my opinion, her Magnum opus is her biography of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet.

A chapter in the book titled, Muhammad the Enemy, can bring the Christians and the Muslims together by promoting insight into some of the limitations of the past.  To share one quote from the book: “If we could view Muhammad as we do any other important historical figure we would surely consider him to be one of the greatest geniuses the world has known.”  For a more detailed excerpt from her book, click here.

Amazon can be your guide, for the list of books that she has written and I really admire all the books that she has written about Islam, other religions and the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born Karen Armstrong
November 14, 1944 (age 67)
Wildmoor, Worcestershire, England
Occupation Writer, Academic
Nationality British
Alma mater Oxford University


Karen Armstrong FRSL (born 14 November 1944), is a British author and commentator who is the author of twelve books on comparative religion. A former Roman Catholic nun, she went from a conservative to a more liberal and mystical faith. Armstrong first rose to prominence in 1993 with her book, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, an international best seller that is now required reading in many theology courses. Her work focuses on commonalities of the major religions, such as the importance, in many, of compassion or “The Golden Rule“.

Armstrong received the $100,000 TED Prize in February 2008. She used that occasion to call for the creation of a Charter for Compassion, which was unveiled the following year.


Early life

Armstrong was born at Wildmoor, Worcestershire,[1] into a family of Irish extraction who, after her birth, moved to Bromsgrove and later to Birmingham. In 1962, while still in her teens, she became a nun in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, a teaching order, in which she remained for seven years. Once she had advanced from postulant and novice to professed nun, she enrolled in St Anne’s College, Oxford, to study English. Armstrong left her order in 1969 while still a student at Oxford. After graduating with a Congratulatory First, she embarked on a DPhil on the poet Tennyson. According to Armstrong, she wrote her dissertation on a topic that had been approved by the university committee. Nevertheless it was failed by her external examiner on the grounds that the topic had been unsuitable.[2] Armstrong did not formally protest this verdict, nor did she embark upon a new topic but instead abandoned hope of an academic career. She reports that this period in her life was marked by ill-health stemming from her life-long but, at that time, still undiagnosed temporal epilepsy.[3][4]


In 1976, Armstrong took a job as teaching English at a girls’ school in Dulwich while working on a memoir of her convent experiences. This was published in 1982 as Through the Narrow Gate to excellent reviews. That year she embarked on a new career as an independent writer and broadcasting presenter. In 1984, the British Channel Four commissioned her to write and present a TV documentary on the life of St. Paul, a project that involved traveling to the Holy Land to retrace the steps of the saint. Armstrong described this visit as a “breakthrough experience” that defied her prior assumptions and was the inspiration for virtually all her subsequent work. In A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, she traces the evolution of the three major monotheistic traditions from their beginnings in the Middle East up to the present day and also discusses Hinduism and Buddhism. As guiding “luminaries” in her approach, Armstrong acknowledges (in The Spiral Staircase and elsewhere) the late Canadian theologian Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a Protestant minister,[5] and the Jesuit father Bernard Lonergan.[6] In 1996, she published Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths.

Armstrong’s The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (2006) continues the themes covered in A History of God and examines the emergence and codification of the world’s great religions during the so-called Axial age, identified by Karl Jaspers. In the year of its publication Armstrong achieved the distinction of being invited to choose her eight favourite records for BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs programme.[7] She has made considerable appearances on television, including appearances on Rageh Omaar‘s programme on The Life of Muhammad. She was also an advisor for the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (2002), produced by Unity Productions Foundation.

In 2007, Armstrong was invited by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore to deliver the “2007 MUIS Lecture”.[8]

Armstrong is a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars and laypeople which attempts to investigate the historical foundations of Christianity. She has written numerous articles for The Guardian and other publications. She was a key advisor on Bill Moyers‘ popular PBS series on religion, has addressed members of the US Congress, and was one of three scholars to speak at the UN’s first ever session on religion.[9] She is a vice-president of the British Epilepsy Association, otherwise known as Epilepsy Action.

Armstrong, who has taught courses at Leo Baeck College, a rabbinical college and centre for Jewish education located in north London, says she has been particularly inspired by the Jewish tradition’s emphasis on practice as well as faith: “I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It’s about what you do. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.” [10] She maintains that religious fundamentalism is not just a response to but, paradoxically, a product of contemporary culture[11] and for this reason concludes that, “We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”[12]

Awarded the $100,000 TED Prize in February 2008, Armstrong called for drawing up a Charter for Compassion, in the spirit of the Golden Rule, to identify shared moral priorities across religious traditions, in order to foster global understanding and a peaceful world.[13] It was presented in Washington, D.C. in November 2009. Signatories include Queen Noor of Jordan, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Paul Simon.[14]


In 1999 Armstrong received the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Media Award[15][16][17].

Armstrong was honoured by the New York Open Center in 2004 for her “profound understanding of religious traditions and their relation to the divine.”[18]

She received an honorary degree as Doctor of Letters by Aston University in 2006[19].

In May 2008 she was awarded the Freedom of Worship Award by the Roosevelt Institute, one of four medals presented each year to men and women whose achievements have demonstrated a commitment to the Four Freedoms proclaimed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 as essential to democracy: freedom of speech and of worship, freedom from want and from fear. The institute stated that Armstrong had become “a significant voice, seeking mutual understanding in times of turbulence, confrontation and violence among religious groups.” It cited “her personal dedication to the ideal that peace can be found in religious understanding, for her teachings on compassion, and her appreciation for the positive sources of spirituality.” [20]

She has also received the TED Prize 2008[21].

Armstrong was honored Nationalencyklopedin’s International Knowledge Award 2011[22] “for her long standing work of bringing knowledge to others about the significance of religion to humankind and, in particular, for pointing out the similarities between religions. Through a series of books and award-winning lectures she reaches out as a peace-making voice at a time when world events are becoming increasingly linked to religion.”

On November 30, 2011 (St. Andrew’s Day) Armstong was made honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Saint Andrews.[23]


Armstrong has been called “a prominent and prolific religious historian”[24] and described as “arguably the most lucid, wide-ranging and consistently interesting religion writer today”.[25] Juan Eduardo Campo, author of the Encyclopedia of Islam (Encyclopedia of World Religions) (2009), included Armstrong among a group of scholars whom he considered as currently conveying a “more or less objective” (as opposed to polemical) view of Islam and its origins to a wide public in Europe and North America.[26] She is in demand as a speaker on the Abrahamic tradition; in the last decade increasing interest in and debate surrounding Islamic issues has brought her even wider visibility.[citation needed]

Armstrong has been criticised for her portrayal of Islam, which historian Efraim Karsh considered “ahistorical”[27] while librarian Raymond Ibrahim characterised her work as Islamic apologetics.[28]


Journal articles:
  • “Women, Tourism, Politics” (1977)
  • “The Holiness of Jerusalem: Asset or Burden?” (1998)
  • “Ambiguity and Remembrance: Individual and Collective Memory in Finland” (2000)
  • Through the Narrow Gate (1982)
  • The First Christian: Saint Paul’s Impact on Christianity (1983)
  • Beginning the World (1983)
  • Tongues of Fire: An Anthology of Religious and Poetic Experience (1985)
  • The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity’s Creation of the Sex War in the West (1986)
  • Holy War: The Crusades and their Impact on Today’s World (1988)
  • Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (1991)
  • The English Mystics of the Fourteenth Century (1991)
  • The End of Silence: Women and the Priesthood (1993)
  • A History of God (1993)
  • Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths (1996)
  • In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis (1996)
  • Islam: A Short History (2000)
  • The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2000)
  • Buddha (2001)
  • Faith After September 11 (2002)
  • The Spiral Staircase (2004)
  • A Short History of Myth (2005)
  • Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time (2006)
  • The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (2006) ISBN 978-037-541317-9
  • The Bible: A Biography (2007)
  • The Case for God (2009)[29]
  • Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (2010) ISBN 978-0307595591
  • A Letter to Pakistan ISBN 978-0199063307

See also


  1. ^ Armstrong, Karen (2005). Through A Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery (Revised ed.). Macmillan. pp. 7. ISBN 0312340958.
  2. ^ Armstrong, Karen. The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out Of Darkness. New York: Random House, 2004.
  3. ^ McGrath, Alister (2006). “Spirituality and well-being: some recent discussions”. Brain 129 (1): 278–282. doi:10.1093/brain/awh719.
  4. ^ “The runaway nun”. New Statesman. 5 April 2004.
  5. ^ See The Case for God, p. 87, footnote 42
  6. ^ The Case for God, p. 283.
  7. ^ “Desert Island Discs, February 12, 2006: Karen Armstrong”. BBC Radio 4 Website. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  8. ^ Karen Armstrong delivers the 2007 MUIS lecture, muis.gov.sg
  9. ^ Karen Armstrong Speaker Profile at The Lavin Agency, thelavinagency.com
  10. ^ Dave Weich, “Karen Armstrong, Turn, Turn, Turn”.
  11. ^ “Voices on Antisemtisim interview with Karen Armstrong”. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 2007-07-05.
  12. ^ The Charter for Compassion.
  13. ^ “TEDPrize 2008 Winner :: Karen Armstrong”. TEDPrize Website. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
  14. ^ Chapman, Glenn (2009.11.12). “Online call for religions to embrace compassion”. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  15. ^ “Last Chance to Buy Your Tickets to MPAC Media Awards Gala on Sunday, June 1st”. Muslim Public Affairs Council. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  16. ^ “Karen Armstrong”. Westar Institute. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  17. ^ “Bill Moyers Journal, Karen Armstrong”. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  18. ^ “Open Center Gala Honorees”. [2009]. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  19. ^ “Honorary Graduates of the University”. Aston University. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  20. ^ “The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards: Freedom of Worship: Karen Armstrong”. Four Freedoms Award website. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  21. ^ “2008 Winners”. TED Prize. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  22. ^ “Intervju med Karen Armstrong”. The Knowledge Awards. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  23. ^ “The point of religion”., University of St Andrews, News archive
  24. ^ Bonos, Lisa (2011-01-16). “Review of Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life””. Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  25. ^ Miller, Laura. “”Buddha” by Karen Armstrong”. Salon. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  26. ^ Juan Eduardo Campo (November 1996). “Review of [Muhammad and the Origins of Islam] by F. E. Peters”. International Journal of Middle East Studies 28 (4): 597–599.
  27. ^ Karsh, Efraim (2006-09-25). “The Perfect Surrender”. New York Sun. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  28. ^ Ibrahim, Raymond (07-05-07). “Islamic Apologetics”. National Review.
  29. ^ LAtimes.com

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Karen Armstrong
Audio and video


Posted by on May 7, 2012. Filed under Ahmadiyyat: True Islam,Literature,Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

38 Responses to Nominating Karen Armstrong for Literature Nobel Prize

  1. Shahid Bangalore

    May 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Both thumbs up. Best person for the Nobel Prize for Peace and Literature

  2. Ansar Raza

    May 7, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I fully endorse the views of Mr. Zia Shah about Karen Armstrong.

  3. wajid

    May 7, 2012 at 9:53 am

    My vote to Karen Armstrong for Nobel Prize.

  4. Sabiha Ijaz

    May 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Our Interfaith organization has recently joined her foundation, so I agree that Karen should be nominated for the Nobel Prize.

  5. Azhar Iqbal, MD FAAP

    May 7, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Karen Armstrong has done a tremendous job in creating an atmosphere of peace and understaning between great religions of the world. Her writings are sourse of knowledge for both Muslims and non Muslims. Her commentary on religion is always non judgmental and devoid of any biases. i definitely would reccomend her for Nobel Prize for literature and for promoting peace.

  6. Koya

    May 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Dear Dr. Zia Shah sahib:

    This is the best and most pleasing news I have had in recent days. Congratulations on wonderful recommendation.

    As I said to in my email. I met Haren in San Francisco oh book promotion during the hieght of Irag War/Crsis. One open ciritc of war, Karen spoke with coniction courage in favor of Islam like a true Muslim to the rosuing cheers of the San Franciscans who hate wars anyway.

    May Allah bless her for her stand with such wonderful work inclding her sought-after book on MUHAMMAD.


  7. anisa

    May 7, 2012 at 11:41 am

    She deserves it.Noble deeds are like fragrant flowers that can never be hidden and are very well appreciated by gentlemen people.
    My salutation for her.

  8. Shahnaz Latif

    May 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Mr. Zia you endorse the right person, she deserves this nomination. Her writings making bridges between religions.

  9. Rafiq A. Tschannen

    May 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    The humble thought comes up … how could Karen Armstrong study Islam so deeply, react so positively, and not take the step of becoming a Muslim? – Just wondering….

  10. Jameel Matin

    May 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Mr. Zia, I hope this articles reaches a very vast audience so they may be witness to Ms. Armstrong’s strong moral character. We need more people like her in this world. She sheds light on true Islam.

  11. Zia H. Shah

    May 7, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Dear friends

    Everyone who has endorsed this nomination, please share this URL with your friends and family, so we can have some additional endorsements here and greater momentum.

    Thanks again.

  12. Zia H. Shah

    May 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Qualified Nominators

    The right to submit proposals for the Nobel Prize in Literature shall, by statute, be enjoyed by:
    1. Members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies which are similar to it in construction and purpose;
    2. Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges;
    3. Previous Nobel Laureates in Literature;
    4. Presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries.


  13. Amatul Wadood

    May 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    My vote for Karen Armstrong, for Nobel Prize in literature.

  14. Maryam

    May 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I would like to vote for Karen Armstrong for the Nobal Prize in literature.

  15. Alhaj Dhul Waqar Yaqub

    May 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    My vote is for Karen Armstrong towards the Nobel Prize in literature.

  16. Fazal Qureshi

    May 7, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Yes. I am in the favor on nominated her.

  17. Anisa

    May 7, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Brother Rafiq, good point, one day she might. We should always be optimistic and hope for the best from Allah.
    If she had said this while being a Muslim she may not have been taken seriously by the majority of people.
    And now after this work of hers if she becomes one. Still her work as an outsider be considered rational.
    That’s my opinion.


    May 7, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    keeping in view her life long literary contribution,i fully endorse her nomination for NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR LITERATURE.

  19. Bakri

    May 8, 2012 at 2:17 am

    May she be Blessed with the Nobel Peace Prize fo Literarture.

  20. Rafiq A. Tschannen

    May 8, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Thanks, of course I agree that her work is outstanding and that she deserves the Nobel Price for Literature. (just wondering the other thing, not only about her but about all similar authors who studied Islam)

  21. Husein Jasim Al Maqsri

    May 8, 2012 at 3:28 am

    Peace to all of you:
    I want to comment here that you allow me, on the view of the beloved brother Mr. Rafik A.Tschannen and say that the work of Karen Armstrong is a good and reasonable in terms of integrity and objectivity, there are many others of course who have studied Islam deeply and impartially as it should, and if we compare what she did with what others Were unable to hide their bias and their hostility, we will reach a result Which is All the appreciation and Full respect to her and to all who are like her, but why not be guided to the faith message of Islam, this return is no doubt to the intention of the person and his or her desire for real knowledge of the truth and willingness then to accept the delivery, And Obedience.Thank You

  22. Abdul Ahad

    May 8, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Greetings of peace!

    In her erudite writings, Dr. Armstrong has evidenced a keen insight into the spiritual loftiness of the Abrahamic faiths and the fundamental commonalities they possess. Readers are shorn of their presumptions and prejudices.

    In my humble capacity as a world citizen dedicated to peace-making, I support Dr. Armstrong’s being nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

    Peace to all!

  23. Nemat Ali

    May 8, 2012 at 5:26 am

    I fully endorse the views of Mr. Zia Shah about Karen Armstrong for Nobel Prize for peace and Litrature.

  24. Koya

    May 8, 2012 at 5:42 am

    It would have been w wonderul idea to AMC to invite as guest speaker at the upcoming USA Jalsa where Haxoor Purnoor give our own AMC award as well. Hazoor did mention her name (among others) who have stood in favor of Islam at the UK Jalsa a few years ago.

  25. MNA KHAN

    May 8, 2012 at 6:18 am

    According to the prevailing situation in the world, our Globe needs Peace, interfaith harmony and mutual understanding between different faith and nations.
    The peace promoting writers can do this job very well to convert our Globe into a peace loving Global village.
    No doubt the books written by Karen Amsterdam are a serious effort to this noble cause. Being a Lady prominent writer and with so precious and demanding work She definitely deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. It will be an incentive and a courage for all peace promoters.

  26. luqman

    May 8, 2012 at 7:16 am

    I support and recommend Dr Karen Armstrong for nobel prize.we need to talk about similarities rather than differences in this age.Her work answered many questions for the readers and students of religion studies.Her research tries to built up mutual understanding between two major religions.

  27. Rafiq A. Tschannen

    May 8, 2012 at 8:17 am

    From comments to this suggestion we note that in fact Ms. Karen Armstrong should receive BOTH the Nobel Price for Literature AND the Nobel Peace Price. Yes, why not! She does deserve both!!!

  28. Muhammad Sharif Khan

    May 8, 2012 at 9:37 am

    i fully endorse name of this learned lady, she has worked tirelessly to present true picture of Prophet Muhammad (saw) the Prince of Peace to the world. may she be rewarded by All Mighty Allah, also.

  29. Usama Riaz

    May 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Karen has done great work in building bridges between faiths and has shed an impartial light on our beloved Prophet (saw). She deserves the Nobel Prize!

  30. Jami lUsman

    May 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I strongly endorse Karen’s nomination for the Nobel Literature prize.

  31. nadia siddiqua

    May 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I would like to vote for Karen Armstrong for the Nobel Literature prize.Her efforts are admireable to shed light on true teachings of Islam and Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH).We definately need people like her to convey the message of love and peace throughout the world.May Allah Almighty bless her for her efforts.Ameen

  32. Renate Chaudry

    May 9, 2012 at 5:25 am

    I read Karen Armstrong’s book ‘The Life of Muhammed’ a few years ago and I also plan to read her latest book. She certainly deserves to be a strong contender for the Nobel Prize.

  33. syed ahmed

    May 9, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Absolutely she deserve Nobel for Peace.

  34. Shamim Ahmed Khandekar

    May 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    She deserves support for Nobel Prize from every Muslim

  35. Humaira Latif

    May 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Indeed, Karen Armstrong for the next Nobel Peace Prize. I really hope & pray she is nominated for this honourable prize.

  36. adnan hashmi

    May 15, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Absolutely she deserves Nobel Price.

  37. Nasir Gondal

    May 21, 2012 at 11:33 am

    She is a remarkable person and well deserving of a recognition.

  38. Noman Loun

    May 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    she deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature! My vote goes to her.

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