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Introducing Islam [Paperback]

Ziauddin Sardar , Zaffar Abbas Malik
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 22 2009 Introducing (Icon Books)
Islamic culture has produced some of the finest achievements of humanity. "Introducing Islam" is a fascinating look into a sometimes misunderstood faith.

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About the Author

Ziauddin Sardar is a columnist, TV presenter and much more besides. His latest books are Balti Britain (Granta, 2008) and, with Merryl Wyn Davies, Will America Change? (Icon, 2008). Zafar Abbas Malik is the art director of Arts and the Islamic World.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a good pictorial history of Islam Sept. 5 2002
Format:Paperback
I am no scholar of Islam or even of comparative religions. This book came my way in my job, and being curious, I picked it up. In a few minutes I had learned far more about the early life of Muhammad (the Prophet) and about the social conditions in which Islam had originated, than I had learned from many other books and articles. While this book is definitely anti-colonial in its approach, it provides a good synthesis of the development of Islam, the contributions of Muslims worldwide in science and philosophy, the interactions with Western Europe before, during and after the Crusades, and the state of Islam today. There is a critique of fundamentalist theories that ignore the teachings of the Koran, and most interestingly for me, a discussion of the position of women in Islam today. [And yes, there is a reference to the terrorist attacks of September 11, and how that is no more representative of Islam than atrocities by adherents of other religions would be of their community]. What I liked was that there was also a short bibliography for further reading.
The authors are two UK-based Muslims who are journalists and/or designers. The book is part of what looks like an interesting series "Introducing ....." that attempts to present famous thinkers, branches of sciences, religions and so forth in simple but not simplistic terms.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a good pictorial history of Islam Sept. 5 2002
By bookjunkiereviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am no scholar of Islam or even of comparative religions. This book came my way in my job, and being curious, I picked it up. In a few minutes I had learned far more about the early life of Muhammad (the Prophet) and about the social conditions in which Islam had originated, than I had learned from many other books and articles. While this book is definitely anti-colonial in its approach, it provides a good synthesis of the development of Islam, the contributions of Muslims worldwide in science and philosophy, the interactions with Western Europe before, during and after the Crusades, and the state of Islam today. There is a critique of fundamentalist theories that ignore the teachings of the Koran, and most interestingly for me, a discussion of the position of women in Islam today. [And yes, there is a reference to the terrorist attacks of September 11, and how that is no more representative of Islam than atrocities by adherents of other religions would be of their community]. What I liked was that there was also a short bibliography for further reading.
The authors are two UK-based Muslims who are journalists and/or designers. The book is part of what looks like an interesting series "Introducing ....." that attempts to present famous thinkers, branches of sciences, religions and so forth in simple but not simplistic terms.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a little like walking on egg shells... June 8 2008
By Mark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read several of the Introducing...series, including Introducing Christianity. I purchased Introducing Islam, as I'll be spending alot of time in the middle east next year, and would like to have a better understanding and appreciation of the religion and culture.

Where it works: Introducing Islam provides a good historical overview of Islam, including it's powerful influence on science, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, art, poetry, government, and the legal system.

Where it doesn't work so well: The Introducing series are popular because they delve into the philosophical aspects of whatever they are discussing, including the controversial. Introducing Christianity does an excellent job of this. However, in Introducing Islam, you sometimes get the impression Sardar is walking on eggshells. The text is mostly apologetic. There is a perception, whether deserved or not, that Islam is an intolerant religion. Sardar could have pointed out the philosphical differences and conflicts within Islam, which he does not.

Why is there a prohibition on publishing an image of Mohammed? Why do women live under such heavy restrictions in the Muslim world? Why did large parts of the Muslim world slip back into cultural, artistic, and scientific oblivion after dominating all three of these areas for centuries? Why was there no universal outcry in established Islam after the events of 9/11? None of these issues were answered. For 9/11, Sardar includes a picture of the twin towers and the simple statement "There is no relationship between Islam and the events of 9/11." but says nothing else. One almost suspects that Sardar fears the same monstrous intolerance that has dominated the headlines-both real and imagined-in the Western world. This was an opportunity for Sardar to really set the record straight, but in this regard, mostly says nothing.

So ultimately, very much worth reading, but in some ways a lost opportunity.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gift-worthy book Oct. 31 2006
By Javed Shaikh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I sometimes wonder how much a good book is actually worth as opposed to what you pay for it the first time you buy it? In case of this particular book, it cost me more for the simple fact that I bought it at the ISNA Bazaar at the ISNA Convention in Rosemont in September and registration for the event alone was a cool $65. But I can say this without a doubt that this book is worth every penny just for the sheer creativity with which it presents the case.

The book mainly focuses on introducing Islam as an innovative 'idea' (I will come back to this) complete with illustrations,callouts and Fez -the book's very own tour guide. So is this the right approach of explaining something as complex and misunderstood as Islam? Is the author trying to oversimplify things? 'Yes' to the former and 'Maybe' to the latter. But let's be honest here. How many people actually like 'to read'? Personally I think reading is the most 'faked' hobby anyone has for the simple fact that it is literally fake-able. You see people peering down at a newspaper or a fat paperback and you are convinced. But if that was so why do we have such a dearth of 'well-read' induviduals?

Anyway, the point is that people do less reading and more looking and for that reason alone, something that serves both purposes, this book is perfect.

The book breaks the mould by not presenting the basic Islamic teachings first off but starts by talking about Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) directly and correcting the (new) readers of not calling Muslims 'Mohammedians'. This is the first misconception and it is quite widespread.

The book continues further to explain a bit of history and the revelation of the Quran, it's importance and impact. Here's such an extract from the book :

"The need for interpreting the Quran arose immediately after the death of the Prophet. Early interpretations of the Quran relied on the comments and analysis of the Companions of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) and their successors. Written commentaries of the Quran began to appear towards the end of the 9th century. Amongst the earliest and most frequently cited are those of al-Tabari, al-Wahid etc. These authors developed Quranic interpretation into an elaborate science, with numerous specialist branches known as 'tafsir'."

However the best part of the book is the sheer research the authors have done to highlight the works of Islamic thinkers, scientists, mathematicians and various pioneers in other fields. To name just a few of them :

-Nizam al-Mulk, builder of the first school or 'madrassah' - institute of learning in 1067

-Al Ghazzali , theologian & author of 'The Revival of the Religious Sciences in Islam'

-Ibn Sina, physician and author of 'Canons of Medicine' and 'the most famous scientist Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places an times'

-Ibn al-Haytham, optics expert, author of 'Optical Thesaurus' - one of the most plagiarised text in the history of science.

But coming to the point of whether the book does justice in presenting Islam as an idea, I think it does but with caveats. The purpose of any idea is to make people think, implore and to seek out. Islam in that very sense is then the 'ultimate' idea there could ever be. But the book is not a scholarly reference. Some contemprary topics have been explained only superficially such as the role of women, the place of fine arts, Islamic jurisprudence. Keeping in mind the short memory of many readers these topics are better left to the scholars for their dissertation. Any such topic that does not take into account the opposite/papallel view in consideration could be charged with oversimplification so I think i will leave the reader to his own conclusion about this. Having said that, 'Introducing Islam' is the sort of book every non-Muslim must browse through before any finger-pointing competition. I would also appeal to my Muslim brothers and sisters to definitely consider gifting this book in case you want to help someone unaware of Islam, get his/her facts right. It's one of those things that will definitely do you some good in return.

(Introducing Islam is actually part of a series published by Icon Books UK on various popular subjects including philosophy, science, politics, religion etc.)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent little illustrated primer on Islam May 22 2009
By T. Burrows - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This was a great little primer on the history and teachings of Islam, which is something that I had been seeking for some time. This is part of a series of such books from Britain's Icon Books. It is very well illustrated (by Malik) with excellent drawings that derive from Islamic artistic and decorative traditions. The text is clear and concise, and it is a pretty quick read. Nevertheless, I spent a fair amount of time with it, reading some sections over several times. Despite the simplicity of the work, it is clear that Sardar is very knowledgable and has much of value to impart to Western readers. It attempts to tell the story of a perfectly reasonable religious faith that has been unfairly villified in Europe and the USA, and the culture and knowledge that grew up in the wake of Muhammad. The author's view appears to be that of an educated and fairly liberal, but still devout, Muslim. This title is worth keeping around as a reference book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An AWAIR Pick!!! May 16 2011
By AWAIR Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What an absolutely wonderful book - if you haven't ordered a copy, do it now!

From the publisher who always makes what we think are complex issues, understandable - and fun - and does it visually.

This is obviously a labor of love - the black-and-white graphics are delightful and the sense of humor marvelous. Don't let its introducing fool you; there is much depth and perception here. And it is not just about Muhammad - but the whole of Islam and Muslim history - including the present. (In its first incarnation it was "Introducing Muhammad" and in the second "Introducing Islam" and now in its third incarnation as "Introducing Islam: A Graphic Novel".

Teachers/Librarians: 5th grade - adult, Social Studies/Humanities. There is much here for use as overhead transparencies - allowing students to focus visually while you present a full-period's lecture around what is depicted in graphic form.
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