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An Introduction to Islam for Jews Paperback – May 19, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The Jewish Publication Society; First American Edition edition (May 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0827608640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0827608641
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Firestone provides a balanced introduction to Islam that will be helpful for all beginners, but particularly for the Jewish readers for whom it is intended. The first part offers a survey of Islamic history, with special emphasis on the interactions of Jews and Muslims throughout (and an entire chapter devoted to the violent relations in seventh-century Medina). Firestone extends a real effort to be fair to both sides; in his discussion of Muhammad's massacre of between 600 and 900 Jewish men, for instance, he reminds readers that the Jews had committed treason and points to examples in the Hebrew Bible where Israelites engaged in similar tactics. Part two digs into the foundations of Islamic law and belief, discussing the Qur'an, the prophetic tradition, key doctrines and sharia law. The final, and perhaps most interesting, part explores Islam in practice. Firestone undertakes an in-depth discussion of the Five Pillars of Islam, finding much common ground: like Muslims, Jews have an ancient tradition of praying at set times; early Muslims, like Jews, fasted on the 10th day of a particular month. (Aug.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."


"Reuven Firestone's eminently readable book contains a comprehensive, authoritative, and sympathetic introduction to Islam, written for Jews, but speaking to all men and women of good will. Throughout, the author offers a sober and nuanced analysis of relations between Islam and other religions, particularly Judaism, without succumbing to the temptation to say who took what from whom. The book represents a major contribution to better understanding of the "real" Islam, which differs from the extremist and militant variety that dominates the news."—Marc Cohen, professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University
(Marc Cohen)

"Firestone's book shines as a beacon of scholarship and humanity. While Muslims might challenge some of Firestone's interpretations of Islam, they will never find him mean-spirited or ill-informed . . . Firestone has demonstrated that it is possible for Jews and Muslims to engage in an honest evaluation of their shared history and still find enough common ground to work for a better shared future."—Ingrid Mattson, President, Islamic Society of North America
(Ingrid Mattson)

"Reuven Firestone has made a valuable contribution toward making Islam understood and appreciated by the Jewish people . . . . The work is balanced and careful. It will help dispel many misconceptions about Islam and hopefully promote more dialogue and better relations between our two communities of faith."—Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Chairman, Fiqh Council of North America
(Muzammil H. Siddiqi)

"This book provides the Jewish reader with a valuable tool: a readable, comprehensive, and reliable introduction to Islam with special attention to issues relevant to Jews regarding past and present events and attitudes . . . This authoritative and readable book is of value for students and general readers alike."—AJL Newsletter
(AJL Newsletter)

"An Introduction to Islam for Jews is perfect for any Jewish reader seeking an understanding of Islam . . . a scholarly yet accessible title."— Midwest Book Review
(Midwest Book Review)

"Firestone provides a balanced introduction to Islam that will be helpful for all beginners, but particularly for the Jewish readers for whom it is intended."—Publisher's Weekly
(Publisher's Weekly)

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on May 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
First, let me point out the obvious: There are countless "introductions to Islam" available from bookstores and libraries. Among the best is the Oxford University Press book by John Esposito, "What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam." In fact, Esposito has written several great books for general readers on Islam. I'm a journalist who has written about world religions for several decades and I've got a wide shelf lined with such books from pamphlets to multi-volume sets.

So, why buy this book by Firestone?
First of all, if you're Jewish, you can trust this notable Jewish scholar and the highly respected publishing house, the Jewish Publication Society. I've had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Firestone lecture and it may sound odd to use the words "pleasure" and "lecture" in the same sentence. But his expertise on Judaism and Islam allows him to sketch fascinating and surprising connections down through the centuries.

This book is not chiefly a history lesson. It's an "introduction for general readers" to the world of Islam, but it is solidly shaped by the author's many years of academic work. In short: He knows what he's writing about--and he knows how to describe it all to his intended audience.

I think the book also is a solid choice for Christian readers as well. The book doesn't address many Muslim-Christian connections that exist, but the book is engaging, solid and very well organized.

The book is about 240 pages with an index, glossary and helpful notes filling out another 60 pages.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Carol Fisher on July 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
I have always been intrigued--and mystified--by Islam. It seemed so exotic, but also strange and, as a Jew, somewhat threatening. I thank Firestone for writing about Islam in contexts that I can understand and relate to: where Judiasm and Islam intersect and depart, and how surprisingly similar the two religions are in many ways.

There's an awful lot here to take in, but it's all so fascinating! A very intelligent, clear and balanced book. I think every Jew should read this.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Bolton on October 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This volume presumes some knowledge of interfaith studies, and, in that sense, some knowledge of how Judaism differs from Christianity, but it is not just for Jews. Instead, this volume is probably the best concise overview of Islam available in English.

While one may differ with the judgments of the author here and there, he is unfailingly balanced and at least references all major contrary opinions. One cannot do everything in roughly 250 pages [plus a glossary of Arabic terms, a bibliography for further reading, a table of biblical and koranic references and a good index], but this volume covers more territory better and more clearly than any other comparable volume.

The author is a scholar of the best sort and should be congratulated on his achievement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on August 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book covers a wide variety of issues relating to Islam. Of course, Islam gets the most press when extremists are massacring people - and to his credit, Firestone does not flinch from examining the relationship between the Koran and modern extremism. He points out that like Judeo-Christian sacred texts, the Koran and other Muslim texts do not speak with one voice: they contain verses favoring tolerance, and verses that are not so tolerant. Thus, it makes no sense to generalize about the "Islamic position" on other religions: both warmongers and peacemakers can find ammunition for their positions (pun intended).

As you might guess from the title, Firestone focuses heavily on the relationship between Judaism and Islam, noting some of the similarities between the two religions as well as their differences. To name a few:

1. Both Muslims and traditional Jews believe that Moses was a prophet who received laws from God. But they differ as to the content of revelation. While Jews of course believe in the Torah, Muslims believe that the Torah does not accurately reflect Mosaic revelation, because much of it was lost or altered over time.

2. Arabic and Hebrew have quite a few similiarities. For example, the most common Arabic word for "God" (Allah) is similar to one of the Jewish names (El), and the Islamic term for charity (Sadaqa) is quite similar to the Jewish term Tzedakah. Even seemingly dissimilar terms often have similar roots: the Jewish term Halakha and the Islamic Sharia both mean something like "the way".

3. Family law is somewhat similar; for example, both traditional Jews and Muslims' tolerance for abortion depends on timing (more so within the first forty days, less so afterwards.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kitchen Magician on December 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In, perhaps, a laudable attempt to bring Jews and Muslims closer, the author fails to provide an intellectually honest view of the deep disrespect and even hostility toward Judaism that is the foundation of Islam. For example, the author writes, innocently, that the Quran borrows ideas from the Hebrew Bible, such as the Patriarch Abraham and the Prophet Moses appearing in the Quran. However, the author conveniently neglects to point out Islam teaches that Abraham and Moses, as well as Kings David and Solomon and every other Jewish figure found in the Hebrew Bible representing Judaism, were actually Muslims. This doctrine is known as tahrif, meaning corruption in Arabic. It states that Jews corrupted, fabricated and falsified their holy scripture to link these figures with Judaism and thus, are cursed by "allah" for having done so, necessitating the "true" uncorrupted and undistorted scripture in the Quran, delivered to the last and final "prophet" muhammad---The so-called "prophet" muhammad who when asked to perform a miracle by Jews and even his own Meccan people to verify his prophethood could not do so and flailingly said that the Quran was a miracle.

Thus, the very basis for Islam is that Jews are not worthy custodians of Judaism and another religion had to be revealed followed by Muslims who are worthy custodians.

That Jews have been cursed [stated in the Quran] for allegedly falsifying their scripture [though, no original "unfalsified" scripture has ever been found to verify this absurd and insulting claim] is a major factor behind Muslim intolerance and hostility toward, and persecution of, Jews throughout the world, particularly, in Israel.
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