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This concise introduction to Islam offers a sophisticated and informative exploration of the history, beliefs, tenets, and practices of the second-largest religion in the world.
There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world today, yet Islam remains a misunderstood faith. In this day and age, when issues related to Islam are dominating current affairs, The Beliefnet® Guide to Islam takes readers into the heart of this global religion, describing its origins, its links to Judaism and Christianity, and its place and practices in the modern world.
In clear, unbiased language, the authors outline the core beliefs that shape the daily lives of practicing Muslims: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and self-purification (during the period of Ramadan), and the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca). They clarify the differences between the Sunni and the Shia, the two main branches of Islam, shedding light on a topic that has garnered attention during the current crises in Iraq and other parts of the Muslim world. Hassaballa and Helminski also look at the many misinterpretations of basic terms and beliefs that have had a serious impact on the relationship between Muslims and those who practice other religions, explaining such essentials as the meaning of jihad, Islamic teachings on the role of women in society, and much more.
From the premier source of information on religion and spirituality, the Beliefnet® Guides introduce you to the major traditions, leaders, and issues of faith in the world today.
This short book, one in a series published by the spirituality Web site Beliefnet.com in collaboration with Doubleday, offers a workmanlike and incomplete introduction to Islam. Hassaballa, a practicing physician, and Helminski, a well-known American Sufi whose work includes excellent translations of poetry by Rumi, describe the major principles of Islam, including the Five Pillars and monotheism. Although they provide basic introductory information about Islam, their analysis is dull. Described in the foreword as not "a work of scholarship," the book is offered as part of the dialogue created by the September 11 attacks. But this book's contribution to that dialogue is minimal as the authors trudge through the beliefs of Muslims. For instance, the chapter on hadiths, which are sayings or statements of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims often turn to when facing dilemmas, is mostly a simple reprint of hadiths, with no accompanying explanation. Indeed, the book can be divided into two parts: lengthy quotations from sacred texts and a loose response to evangelical Christian criticism of Islam. This primer pales in comparison to the many excellent introductions to Islam now available, including Karen Armstrong's Islam: A Short History and John Esposito's What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam.