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A great introduction to Islam

  • Oct 18, 2008
Rating:
+5
Ever since the events of September 11th 2001 there has been an increase in the interest for Islam in the West, and particularly in the US. This increased interest has resulted in a formidable increase in the number of studies, publications and college courses, all of which try to explain and inform the public about what Islam is, what its basic teachings are, and what is the history of the Islamic world. One was faced with a veritable embarrassment of riches, and there was no easy way to decide which author was truly an expert in the field, and which ones were trying to capitalize on a new publishing fad. With that in mind, one person that clearly stands out head and shoulders above all the other polemicists and scholars is Bernard Lewis, a doyen in the field of Oriental and Middle Eastern studies. He has been actively involved in this field since at least World War II, and his knowledge of the Islamic history is second to none. His books have explored several different themes, but now in one volume comes a digest of all the basic facts about Islam. This is a very accessible and informative first introduction to Islam, and it covers all the basics really well. It avoids both of the traps that many other books fall into: either painting Islam with overly rosy spectacles, or vilifying it to the point that it becomes a distortion of what it really is. The end of the book provides reader with a list of terms and topics, which in itself is a useful guide to the main words and ideas that frequently occur in all discussions about Islam. Many of those terms have by now become familiar to the public at large, but even those benefit form having some new light shed on them. Overall, if you either don't know much about Islam, or would like to systematize and refresh what you already know, this is a great book to read.

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More Islam: The Religion and the Pe... reviews
review by . November 19, 2008
This gracefully written book combines history, philosophy, theology, and humor to explain the central concepts of Islam and its relationship with other populations.    Lewis explains the sometimes confusing varieties of Islam, as well as the changes in political and theological positions over time. He approaches difficult topics such as the place of women in Muslim society, suicide bombings, the concept of the jihad, and radical Islam. Throughout, the tone is compassionate and …
review by . November 17, 2008
Of the making of books about Islam, there is no end, especially not in the post- 9/11 environment. Unfortunately, books about Islam published to a popular readership too often fall into the mutually exclusive categories of hagiography (e.g., those by Karen Armstrong) or demonology (e.g., those of Robert Spencer). Well, almost mutually exclusive. Stephen Schwartz manages both to sanctify Sufism and demonize Wahhabism in the course of one book (The Other Islam). What is needed is a just-the-facts-ma'am …
review by . November 09, 2008
I'm not sure how the writing duties were divided up between the two authors - Lewis is given decidedly top billing - but the result is very satisfactory. At 223 pages, (not quite the 256 mentioned in Amazon's description) the book is not encyclopedic, nor does it try or pretend to be, but it offers more than just a brief overview. A comprehensive tome would be too overwhelming for most readers, and a brief introduction would likely be misleading. This is a good compromise. It's a worthy, solid introduction …
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Bojan Tunguz ()
Ranked #56
I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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Lewis (Near Eastern studies, emeritus, Princeton Univ.;The Crisis of Islam) and Churchill (former president, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia) offer an accessible introduction to Muslims and their faith. In clear language, the authors cover the faith's development, its five pillars, Scripture and tradition, law, the mosque, diversity, sectarian divisions, government, economics, women, dress, language, war and peace, and radicalism. There are three particular strengths. First, Lewis and Churchill insist that Islam cannot be reduced to extremes as either a bloodthirsty creed or solely a message of peace. The Qur'an advocates a range of responses according to specific circumstances. Second, the authors humanize Islam by including insets on "Islamic humor" in every chapter. Third, the book replaces dangerous characterizations of Islam as an enemy with an understanding of Islam as a faith intimately connected to Christianity and Judaism. Through understanding Islam, readers may see that the minority who espouse a radicalized totalitarian version of Islam represent neither the faith nor most of its followers. Highly recommended for all libraries.—William P. Collins, Library of Congress
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ISBN-10: 0132230852
ISBN-13: 978-0132230858
Author: Bernard Lewis
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Wharton School Publishing
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