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Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World: Third Revised Edition [Paperback]

Thomas W. Lippman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 6 1995

A little over thirteen centuries ago, the prophet Muhammad converted a few Arab desert tribes to the belief in a single god, Allah, thus founding the religion of Islam. Within a century, that belief had created one of history's mightiest empires—and today Islam continues to shape events around the globe.

This comprehensive guide offers an informative and insightful introduction to Islam both as a religion and as a political-economic force. It tells the story of Muhammad—and the rise of Islam; outlines the sacred book, the Koran; explains "the five pillars of faith"; explores the interplay between religion and government; describes the differences that divide Islam; and, above all, shows the influence of Islam on world affairs. This second revised edition provides crucial new material on the Islamic community today, including discussion of the Gulf War and the Salman Rushdie affair; the rise and ebb of fundamentalist fervor in Iran, Algeria, and elsewhere; and the relationships among different factions of the Islamic faith. There are also updated descriptions of internal politics in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, and other Islamic nations. Complete with glossary, bibliography. and index, Understanding Islam is engrossing, essential reading for both students and all who seek a clearer understanding of the world in which we live.

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Product Description


"An excellent overview of the world's youngest major religion." —Los Angeles Times

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
A MUSLIM is one who believes that "there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehending Islam May 19 2002
There have been contradictory statements about Islam, indicating a pervasive ignorance about Islam in the United States. This book is an introductory discussion of Islam that should begin to clear up this confusion.
Thomas Lippman has worked for many years throughout the Middle East so he has extensive experience with Islam. Lippman starts by pointing out that Islam has no hierarchic clergy, there is no priest between a Moslem and Allah.
Lippman describes the five duties of a Moslem: The shahada, the profession of faith. The ritual prayer, done five times a day, facing toward Mecca. Zakat, donation to charity. Fasting during Ramadan, and the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.
Then Lippman talks about Mohammed, who is not a saint, but only a man who brought the final word of God to man. Lippman continues with a description of the Koran, believed by Moslems to be the literal word of God.
Lippman explains how Islamic government is not separate from Islam or the Koran.
Even though there should be no one between the common man and Allah, members of the ulama sometimes tried to color the Sharia with their own interpretation.
Non Moslems often take offense to the Islam's apparent attitude toward women.
The Koran grants women the same rights as men, although this is not always followed in practice.
Lippman shows how, like all things Islam began with certain beliefs, but gradually time and use changed the way Islam was practiced. Superstition and cultural ideas and tradition grew. Some people developed power and influence contrary to the sharia. Attitudes and prejudices grew. Islam stagnated. Groups worshipping the same allah, following the same sharia developed into factions fighting viciously amongst each other. These later developments are faults of men, not Islam. Too often the western world sees only the faults and fails to see the original Islam.
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3.0 out of 5 stars This is Islam 101. Feb. 13 2002
I opted for the audio. If you know little or nothing about this religion of 900 million people, this is a good place to start. As a belief system, Islam & Christainity are not that different. But the differences between is illustrative & what I got out of this book.
The founder of Islam, Muhammed, is not worshipped as Jesus, the son of God is. He was a man, a warrior, a businessman, a father, husband & of course a prophet & dies as a man.
His life is to be emulated, not worshipped, for he had the faults that all men possess.
While Christainity is hierarchical, the pope & the bishops being very important, there is no similair structure in Islam. In Islam the Koran is the final arbiter. It is not as flexible as the Bible has been over the centuries, open to the interpretation as popular culture dictates.
Most important is the belief in separation of state & religion. It does not exist in Islam. The religion is part of the politics of the country. In many nations where Islam is the predominant faith, indeed it is the Koran, that becomes the final arbitor of foreign policy. Perhaps it is this last point that baffles & worries leaders of western civilization so much. I see a lot of hits on the reviews of this book before mine. There seems to be a lot of interest & thats a good thing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Who ARE these guys? Nov. 27 2001
By A Customer
After 9/11, I punted "China" as my topic and moved to Islam, the other massive threat to the U.S. of A. in the 21st century. While some may complain that the militants aren't covered in any depth (they're not), Lippman paints a digestible picture of the Islamic world that gave the militants birth. In less than 200 pages, the general reader will get a well written backgrounder on the religion, the history, the major Islamic countries and the deals the current rulers have made to keep a lid on chaos at home.
Whereas I have "hope" for China to move towards the West, I come away from Lippman's book fearful that Islam will forever be a source of pain and conflict for the West. If a person really believes the Koran is the literal word of God, and more than a billion people do, then the violently inclined can mine the Book for enough statements justifying attacks such that the West will never be able to rest. Mohammed was a great warrior, lest we forget.
Also, Lippman clearly details that in Islam, there is no separation of Church and State. So, boys and girls, don't expect too many secular societies to take root. Despotism, sometimes benevolent, sometimes wicked, will likely remain the norm. I left the book informed, but also quite depressed. The Muslims need their own Renaissance. And the West needs to find ways to help it happen.
The Washington Post may have a leftist editorial stance, but they do have some damn fine writers. Lippman is one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable overview, but dated Nov. 7 2001
By A Customer
I listened to this book in the Audible version. It was unabridged, but it appears to be based upon an earlier edition than is indicated in the Amazon link. The second edition is dated 1995, and the audible reading is dated 1991. It appears to end while Khomeini was newly in power, a leftist government ruled in Afghanistan (pre soviet invasion). Used book listings show the first printing as 1981. So be aware that the audio version is not current.
That said, it is a very enlightening, succinct view of the history of islamic people (the religion is islam, the people are muslims). It hints at the huge range of religious thought that has fallen within the description of "islamic" from mysticism to puritanism, from charismatic to impersonal, from predestination to free-will and good works, the whole gamut that one finds in religions that are as widely disseminated as Islam.
It also shows, in no uncertain terms, how the history of islam is built upon martial success. The Prophet himself was clearly a man of arms among other things, and that accounts for at least part of the unending strife that seems to characterize the history of islamic nations.
Finally, it is sobering to realize that a virulent strain of islam has become dominant on the world stage, and that this strain has tremendous appeal. It offers certainty, community, and history, all of which are threatened by modernity. And to the soldier, it offers the promise of literal salvation if he dies in arms.
I'm glad to have encountered this book now, but I recommend the printed rather than the recorded version.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the sort of book "newbies to Islam" should read
There's a lot of money to be made these days publishing spurious "information" about Islam and Muhammad. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2003 by Kevin Bold
4.0 out of 5 stars easy to read to know more about islam
This book is a little outdated but still an excellent and easy-reading book if you want to learn about Islam. Read more
Published on Dec 16 2002 by Jay Bench
1.0 out of 5 stars Same undefensible formular repeated over and over
The Koran does NOT grant men and women the same rights. It provides men with double the inheritance rights and denigrates the testimony of women. Read more
Published on Aug. 25 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars A real snoozer, apologetic, and irrelevant post-9/11
Many are snapping up whatever they can read about Islam, driven by our desire to know more about our enemies who are trying to kill us. This book won't help. Read more
Published on May 25 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps TOO Understanding
Lippman proposes to introduce the western reader to the religion of Islam. However, in attempting to be objective, he goes so far as to appear credulous in relation to Islam and... Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2001 by Judith A. Villarreal
5.0 out of 5 stars Ought to be required reading for all westerners
...I have been trying to understand the Islamic religion. I've read about half a dozen books on Islam over the last two weeks and discussed them with a friend who grew up in the... Read more
Published on Oct. 1 2001 by Jim Vanderveen
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and complete intro to Islam
I found this to be a very good and complete (not to mention enlightening) introduction to Islam, a monotheistic faith surprisingly similar to Judaism and Christianity in that the... Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2001 by James Tetazoo
5.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to the Muslim world
As an American Christian, I am perplexed by the behavior of people in other parts of the world; especially when they justify atrocities by quoting religious dogma. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2001 by Thomas OBrien
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction To Islam
"A MUSLIM is one who believes that 'there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.' A Muslim worships one all-powerful and eternal deity, called Allah in Arabic,... Read more
Published on May 31 2000 by Brian Pacific
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