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What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam [Hardcover]

John L. Esposito
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 15 2002 What Everyone Needs to Know
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, there has been an overwhelming demand for information about Islam. As a leading expert, John Esposito has found himself called upon to speak to a wide range of audiences, including members of Congress, the Bush administration, government agencies, the military, and the media. Out of this experience, he has identified the most pressing questions people consistently ask about Islam. In What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, Esposito presents in question-and-answer format the information that most people want to know. Esposito provides succinct, accessible, sensitive, and even-handed answers to questions that range from the general--"What do Muslims believe?" and "Who was Muhammad?"--to more specific issues like Is Islam compatible with modernization, capitalism and democracy? How do Muslims view Judaism and Christianity? Are women second-class citizens in Islam? What is jihad? Does the Quran condone terrorism? What does Islam say about homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and slavery? The editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islam and The Oxford History of Islam, and author of Unholy War and many other acclaimed works, John Esposito is one of America's leading authorities on Islam. This brief and readable book is the first place to look for information on the faith, customs, and political beliefs of the more than one billion people who call themselves Muslims.

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From Publishers Weekly

Georgetown professor Esposito has written an excellent primer on all aspects of Islam. The question-and-answer format allows readers to skip ahead to areas that interest them, including hot-button issues such as "Why are Muslims so violent?" or "Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?" In his answers, which are anywhere from a paragraph to several pages long, Esposito elegantly educates the reader through what the Qur'an says, how Muslims are influenced by their local cultures, and how the unique politics of Islamic countries affects Muslims' views. All three elements contribute to a fuller understanding of Islam. For instance, in answering the question on veiling, Esposito accurately clarifies that though the Qur'an instructs believers to be modest, it does not require head coverings. He continues by describing how the custom of veiling gained popularity in and after Muhammad's time as a status symbol. He ends by pointing out how some women who veil today feel they are making a social protest against judgment based on appearance as much as they are fulfilling the modesty requirement. Occasionally Esposito excludes some key information. He says that jihad is sometimes called the "Sixth Pillar" of Islam without pointing out that Western critics propagate the centrality of jihad, not Muslims. In his discussion of Qur'an 4:34, which appears to permit domestic violence in a disciplinary capacity, he omits new translations by feminist scholars that change the meaning and mitigate the controversy. However, overall, this book honestly and clearly answers the questions most non-Muslims have about Islam.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"An excellent primer on all aspects of Islam. The question-and-answer-format allows readers to skip ahead to areas that interest them, including hot-button issues such as 'Why are Muslims so violent?' or 'Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?' In his answers, which are anywhere from a paragraph to several pages long, Esposito elegantly educates the reader through what the Quran said, how Muslims are influenced by their local cultures, and how the unique politics of Islamic countries affect Muslims' views."--Publishers Weekly

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Islam is the second largest religion in the world (after Christianity) and will soon be the second largest religion in America. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Beginner's Guide to Understanding Islam April 14 2004
Author John Esposito is a professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He has written books about the subject of Islam before, and he writes this one with a keen sense of education in mind. Most people know very little about the religion known as Islam, and Esposito seems like he is on a mission, in this book, to help enlighten the world's people about the facts and myths regarding the world's second largest religion.
I think it's safe to say that most people know very little about Islam. Until I read this book, I didn't really know much either. I knew some of the most basic things, like that the Quran was the holy book of Islam; the prayers that Muslims say each day; and a few other things. But my knowledge level ended right there. When I picked up this book, I began to learn things that I had never heard of before. Probably the greatest surprise was the fact that the Islamic religion regards Jesus Christ and Abraham as the second and third most important men to ever walk the face of the earth (after, of course, Muhammad). The next surprise was when I discovered that Islam teaches that the virgin birth of Jesus was real, and the Quran makes mention of Jesus and Mary even more frequently than the Christian Bible. Other facts were noteworthy, but not as shocking, like the fact that the Quran allows a man to have as many as four wives provided that he will treat them equally and support them.
The issue of the day with Islam is whether or not its religious creeds are conducive to violence. There is a full chapter in this book that attempts to answer this question. According to the Quran, violence is acceptable in certain situations, like when a man's family and/or faith might be threatened. Here lies the problem with interpretation.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Credibility in Question Nov. 16 2003
By A Customer
John Esposito is a life-long "scholar" of Islam and he was totally surprised by September 11, 2003. The man had no clue that militant Islamic terrorists would do exactly what the same militant Islamic terrorists had publicly announced they would do: kill. Prior to September 11, 2003 Esposito argued that those who were alarmed by acts of Islamic terror were "ill-informed" "over-reacting" and responding to a "culturally limited definition of democracy." How does this guy keep his job?
In any event, he fails to mention in this book. as he always fails to mention, a passage in the Hadith known to every Muslim on the planet which states that "women are deficient in intellect." This is supposed to be a quote from Mohammed contained in what is regarded as the most reliable compendium of sayings of Mohammed, the Bukhari Hadith. Islam "honors" women by declaring them stupid, make no mistake about it.
Esposito is at best deluded and at worst, disingenuous.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good place to start Nov. 14 2003
By A Customer
With so much misinformation about Islam coming from the likes of Ibn Warraq, Daniel Pipes and many in the rightwing media it is hard to separate fact from fiction. Many critics of Islam take the beliefs of its most extreme members and present those extreme views as mainstream Islam. For example, most Muslims do not believe that they will spend eternity with 72 virgins, yet it is presented as a mainstream belief by critics. If you are confused about what Islam really teaches I recommend that you start with this book.
It is written in a easy to read FAQ format. There are questions like Where do most Muslims live? Why are some Muslims opposed to music? What does Islam say about abortion? What is Wahhabi Islam? Who are these Islamic fundamentalists? and so on. I liked the fact that the author often presents both conservative and progressive interpretations of many teachings. Many nonMuslims are not aware of the progressive, liberal and feminist movements within Islam, or aware of progressive thinkers such as Farid Esack and Zeeshan Hasan. It is important to represent their viewpoints.
I also liked the fact that he explained the two main ways of interpreting the Koran. Conservatives are literalists who believe if the Koran says something it must be followed without questioning. Progressives believe that many verses were said in specific contexts or referred to certain circumstances of the time. As context and circumstances change so should interpretation.
This book is definitely the best place to start if you want to learn about Islam because it is objective, unlike many other books on the subject.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Compact Guide to Understanding Islam April 11 2003
This is a concise book built around answering straightforward questions most people have about the Islamic religion and culture. Like any book that is under 200 pages, you can't claim it to be an authoritative or complete source.
Esposito does do a fine job of figuring out what (I think) most people would want to know and than furnishing concise, easy to read answers. We learn what the five pillars of the Islamic faith are. We learn what the Muslim people believe about Christ, the Old Testament, the New Testament and how they believe Muhammad received God's last revelation. We learn about the Black Muslim movement in the USA fits into Islam and its interesting. We learn what Jihad, or "holy war" really is and how the concept has been interpreted and misinterepreted by different groups.
At times, I felt Esposito perhaps downplayed negative aspects in Islam. He does attempt to explain why some Muslims hate America and the West. However, this lacked the depth that one would hope for. Also, some Medieval aspects of Islam culture such as countries that practice stoning for adultery and amputation for thievery don't get the criticism they should.
The great feature of this book is that you can learn a lot in a short time because of its size and the amount of information contained within it. Those interested in this subject should get a copy.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I learned a lot
I came into this book knowing nothing about Islam other than the image potrayed on tv after reading this book I learned a lot about this interesting religion. Read more
Published on June 9 2004 by Michael Allen Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introductory Text
Esposito is one of my favourite authors of general books on Islam. This book is probably the ideal starter text for those new to learning about the religion. Read more
Published on May 4 2004 by Heather
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction
For those who's knowledge of Islam is very limited, this book can answer many basic questions for you. Very straightforward indeed. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars What everyone needs to read about Islam
Well-written and friendly format, perfect for a small-group discussion.
Published on Jan. 19 2004 by Robert L. Rose
3.0 out of 5 stars Even-handed and well-written
The author immediately states that Islam is not a religion of violence or terrorism. He covers the Five Pillars well, gives some good background, and repeatedly makes it clear that... Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2003 by SPM
4.0 out of 5 stars An essential guide to Islam in these troubled times
This is an essential guide to what Muslims REALLY believe, which we all ought to read in these troubled times. So why 4 stars? Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2003 by C. Catherwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!
Take the mask off your eyes and read freely about what really Islam is. This is a FAQ book about Islam, what it really is and what has it become in the eyes of today. Read more
Published on July 19 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars informative, balanced, fun
This is a great book! Fun to read. Informative. Balanced. It tells you not just the what but the why. It discusses the breadth of Islam not just the standard. Read more
Published on May 11 2003 by meerkat
4.0 out of 5 stars addenda to previous review
When Mr. Esposito acts like an "apologist", as he does throughout the book, he falls short of presenting a "balanced" view of the differences between the Muslim and Non-Muslim... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2003
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