Symbols of Islam Hardcover – Feb 1 2001
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Bruce D. Wilner - Published on Amazon.com
I own every title in this glorious Editions Assouline series, to which--as you've, no doubt, noticed--nearly every reviewer has seen fit to ascribe four or five stars. The book is a delight to review, brimming from cover to cover with glorious photography that distills--as its author purports, and alone purports--the SYMBOLS of Islam. After reading the book, I found myself enthralled, fascinated, appreciative of the profound beauty of the Muslim artisan, and motivated to learn more of the faith that drove him to create. I neither found nor expected to find a deep theosophical treatise on Koranological foundations or eschatology. Explanations of various Muslim habits abound--though you must pick through mountains of detail to find them--in the appendices of Khalifa's annotated Quran. Ranging from most to least learned, Jordan's "Islam: An Illustrated History," Nomachi's "Mecca the Beautiful, Medina the Radiant," and Michaud's "The Orient in a Mirror" span the gamut of excellent Muslim-explanative (though markedly not Muslim-apologetic or Muslim-eschatologic) reading, and all offer breathtaking photographs and--at times--impart a distinct "you are there" feeling to the armchair traveler. Now, I grant William his right to stingily reserve but a single star for this book, but I must disagree as strongly as possible with him. He is clearly in the minority here. I have no handy titles on the jurisprudential aspects of fiqh to which to refer him--nor, indeed, am I oriented thither. (Of course, insofar as he dares to mention the holiness of Islam and the cancerous, muddled, rumor-mongering of Hadith in the same sentence, I could wonder about the purity of this aspiring softa in the first place, but I digress: let him devote his jihad to the appreciation of what the book has to offer, not to what it neither advertises to offer nor remotely could within such a short expanse.)
7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By William Garrison Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
When I first ordered this book, I had high hopes that it would reveal and explain many of the "symbols" of the religion of Islam and its followers, the Muslims. That is one of the problems of buying a book unseen. (Apparently the book's author had some photographs from his travel through Islamic countries and needed to provide some text, and this booklet followed in a series of similar photo booklets regarding other religions.) The author wrote: "The original Muslim mission...began circa 610 and ended in June 632"(p.2). The reader is left wondering: What happened: did some government program run out of funds? The relevant sentence should have been written: "The original Muslim mission...began circa 610 when Mohammad began to receive spiritual visits from the angle Gabriel and ended with Mohammad's death in June 632." I had hoped that this booklet would have been more informative. The author wrote: "(T)he names of the first four Caliphs, called the 'Properly Guided Caliphs'...,because they, too, are models of virture, are held in very high esteem...."(p.19). What the author apparently doesn't realize is that they are called the 'Properly Guided Caliphs' because out of all of the Muslim caliphs, they were the only four to have known Mohammad and thereby studied his teachings first hand. The author fairly well describes the prayer ritual (riqa), but omits some details (such as towards the conclusion, the prayerful look both right and left and wish the adjacent person well). The author notes that "When dressing...Muslims favour long white tunics..." but doesn't explain why: because Mohammad in the hadith had voiced his preference for white clothing, and dictated bulky or shapeless clothing for women so that they become almost unnoticeable to men -- and therefore wouldn't prompt men to lose all self-control and ravish women wearing tight-fitting dresses. The author claims that "green" was the preferred color of Mohammad, but doesn't cite a source of his claim. During a Muslim's pilgrimage (al Hajj) to Mecca, the author notes that the pilgrims wear only white sheets for clothing, but is apparently unaware that after the pilgrimage Muslim keep these sacred sheets to be buried in. The author notes that pilgrims kiss or touch the "Black Stone" that is embedded in a corner of the Kaaba building, but doesn't note they do so in their belief that the stone sucks out evil traits from the pilgrim. The author notes he had some Muslims review the book for their insights; too bad he didn't ask many more. This booklet has small print, only about 50 photographs, really is not a serious research tome regarding Muslim symbols -- some text to go along with his photos. Read it at your library (if you are already there), but I'd recommend instead: "Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions" by Tanya Gulevich.