- Paperback: 250 pages
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub; Revised edition (Jan. 28 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1450552013
- ISBN-13: 978-1450552011
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 354 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #695,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Towards Understanding Islam: Updated for a Modern World Paperback – Jan 28 2010
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About the Author
Abul A'la Maududi was one of the primary forces behind the awakening of Muslim identity in India prior to the partition of the subcontinent. His voluminous writing career spanned much of the mid-twentieth century, and his works still enjoy wide circulation today even decades after his passing.
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The structure of book is clear, concise and logical outline of basic Muslim belief. Starting with a definition of Islam that is simple and unimpeachable it moves quickly to establish the epistemological foundations for belief in the knowledge of faith. With faith established, the office of the prophet is considered with a direct movement toward Muhammad, who is both the pinnacle and the consummation of the office. Five dogmatic elements are outlined under the rubric Articles of Faith which are followed by discussions on praxis under the heading Prayer and Worship. A brief introduction of two streams within Islamic practice, jurisprudence and mysticisim, is followed by a more detailed discussion of jurisprudence.
Interspersed throughout the book are allusions to Christianity and Judaism. In general a respectful tone is maintained, however, on a number of instances the presentation of these other faiths is made in a way that is deceitfully simplistic. Few followers of either of these two faiths, if any at all, would recognize Mawdudi's description. It is hard to imagine that his presentation is anything less than a deliberate misconception.
This work suffers from three major flaws. (1) It is obviously a piece of in-house propaganda. It appears to have as its primary intention the refocusing of the faithful by emphasizing the beautiful elements of Islam and alluding to the blemishes of any other system of belief, whether religious or otherwise. Consequently is suffers from a naiveness both about the internal debates within Islam and especially of the complexity of those other belief systems that it seeks to undermine. (2) it fails to provide a substantial basis for its most important tennant - the absolute unimpeachable character of Muhammad and his message. The failure is in the ability to establish that what Muhammad has in fact heard and passed on was a message from God. While a broad acceptance of all prophets is given as a means to distracting from this problem, the matter still stands: Why should the words of Muhammed be taken to be divinely appointed on any other grounds than that he and now his followers have claimed them to be so. I can attest that as the follower of the Christian faith, this is a serious matter that is constantly undertaken in our beliefs. The Authority of our sacred books is not merely accepted on a "because God said it" basis. True, some stop at this level even in Christianity, but this is not the grounds. What Mawdudi reveals in this kind of talk is the immaturity of his position in that he does not entertain a more comprehensive discussion on the nature of Prophetic authority and how it is recongized by Muslims and above all, how it could or should be recognized by all people, since Muhammad is proported to have a message for the world. (3) Finally, and this follows on from (2), there is a naive acceptance of questionable historical events surrounding the finalization of the Quran. If may beg pardon of my reader as I again defer to my own faith, as I am familiar with some of the struggles that arise within it on these issues, it would seem to me that the presentation of the Quran's purity is a mythic construct. It parallels the naive fundamentalism in my own religion of those who either because they are unschooled in the complexities of textual origins or because of a deliberate fear of these issues have neglected to enter constructively into the critical questions about the Biblical texts. Mawdudi is quick to suggest his own familiarity with Christian discussions and then attempts to discredit Christianity on an erronous and simplistic assumption that it is based upon translated and inaccessible texts. His own position towards the Quran is ridiculously naive. As Islam in general is merely entering the gestational period of textual studies this is not completely surprising. I look forward with great anticipation to seeing what the work of their scholars will conclude once they start to face up to the complexity of their own sacred texts and begin to answer the fundamental questions of how human agency has been employed not only in the prophetic reception of the message, but in the very penmanship and redaction of these texts.
I conclude by encouraging a close reading of this book. It has a great deal of value, even if it reflects its 1930s origins. It is a concise and logical presentation of Islam from one who was a keen follower of it. I would not, however, expect an unbeliever to be convinced by its arguments, which are often weak and non sequitous.
Andrew R. McGinn
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