You can tell that Chittick and Murata have refined much of this material in classrooms--they frequently provide analogies that Western readers can understand, and anticipate objections and confusions predictable from newcomers. I appreciated their sensibility that can teach both those within Islam and those observing it from the "outside"; they assume that both groups will learn from their fair-minded approach. While a bit soft on the Islamists and their narrow interpetations, they do criticize (pretty late in the book) such limitations, although typically in a gentle, understated manner. It's only fair to notice when this book appeared. My only reason for four stars is because a revised edition would be very appropriate with the renewed interest in Islam and the need for an updated global context.
However, most of the wisdom in this study is timeless. My favorite part was that devoted to the Muslim conception of the afterlife and the intersection of good and evil within the power of the divine. Not the easiest topics, but very worthwhile for the careful, patient reader. The attention devoted to these ideas pays off. Over hours spent thinking about the authors' encounter with the hadith of Gabriel, I came away from this book enriched and invigorated.
Carefully compiled and meticulously written, the combination of Western objectivity and personal enthusiasm (in the root sense: to be filled with God!) motivates what must have been a labor of love as well as a considerable effort intellectually for the authors to compile. No mere textbook, but no fuzzy inspirational tract, this volume combines scholarship with love and scrutiny.
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