Written by well-known Western scholars from Cambridge University and the College of William and Mary, this book presents the basic elements of the faith such as the Five Pillars and the Muslim view of Jesus and Mohammad. The book also goes into some detail about gender issues, marriage and family, and the laws of warfare in Islam and directly addresses controversial issues such as women's rights, polygyny, and the validity of terrorist acts according to Islamic law. Furthermore, it presents the orthodox view of Islamic law as it has been maintained for centuries by the vast majority of classical Islamic scholars, not a watered-down liberalized version that has no relation to the past nor that of the small extremist, non-law-abiding minority which usually makes the headlines.
The book also offers the reader a peek into the incredibly diverse cultures of Muslims -- from Taiwan and China, to Central Asia, to Africa, to Bosnia and Denmark, and to the US (among many others) -- through stunning National Geographic-calibre photographs which by themselves are worth the price of admission. The book also goes beyond the usually boring list of basic by relating colourful anecdotes about Muslim warrior-queens and other leaders, particular mosques, and gorgeous arts & crafts from around the Muslim world.
This book will not be useful to people like the previous reviewer, Mr. Seth Frantzman from Israel, who seek to confirm their stereotypes and demonize an entire faith for their own political purposes. Judging from his review, it is not even clear that he read the book, as it answers virtually all of points he raises even in its slim form. Yes, there are modesty laws for men, and in traditional Muslim societies men cover their heads as well. No, the burka (covering one's face) is not required by law -- it is a cultural phenomenon, and it is not worn by the overwhelmingly vast majority of Muslim women. Covering the face is actually prohibited in Mecca. The Dar al-Islam/Dar Al-Harb distinction is a medieval distinction, and it refers to the places where Muslims may freely practice their faith and where they may not-- meaning that virtually the whole world today is considered Dar al-Islam. I could go on, but you'd be much better off having Cambridge scholars explain it to you... buy this book!