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Islam: A Concise Introduction Paperback – December 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Huston Smith is internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions. He is the focus of a five-part PBS television series with Bill Moyers and has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California at Berkeley. The recipient of twelve honorary degrees, Smith's fifteen books include his bestselling The World's Religions, Why Religion Matters, and his autobiography, Tales of Wonder.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1st edition (December 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060095571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060095574
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #891,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Huston Cummings Smith (born May 31, 1919) is among the preeminent religious studies scholars in the United States. His work, The Religions of Man (later revised and retitled The World's Religions), is a classic in the field, with over two million copies sold, and it remains a common introduction to comparative religion.

Smith was born in Soochow, China, to Methodist missionaries and spent his first 17 years there. He taught at the Universities of Colorado and Denver from 1944 to 1947, moved to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, for the next 10 years, and then served as professor of Philosophy at MIT from 1958 to 1973. While at MIT, he participated in some of the experiments with entheogens that professor Timothy Leary conducted at Harvard University. Smith then moved to Syracuse University, where he was Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy until his retirement in 1983 and current emeritus status. He now lives in the Berkeley, California, area where he is Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

During his career, Smith not only studied but also practiced Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism (under Goto Zuigan), and Sufism for over 10 years each. He is a notable autodidact.

As a young man, of his own volition after suddenly turning to mysticism, Smith set out to meet with then-famous author Gerald Heard. Heard responded to Smith's letter, invited him to Trabuco College (later donated as the Ramakrishna Monastery) in Southern California, and then sent him off to meet the legendary Aldous Huxley. So began Smith's experimentation with meditation and his association with the Vedanta Society in Saint Louis under the auspices of Swami Satprakashananda of the Ramakrishna order.

Via the connection with Heard and Huxley, Smith eventually experimented with Timothy Leary and others at the Center for Personality Research, of which Leary was research professor. The experience and history of that era are captured somewhat in Smith's book Cleansing the Doors of Perception. In this period, Smith joined in on the Harvard Project as well, in an attempt to raise spiritual awareness through entheogenic plants.

He has been a friend of the XIVth Dalai Lama for more than 40 years, and has met and talked to some of the great figures of the century, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Thomas Merton.

Smith developed an interest in the Traditionalist School formulated by Rene Guenon and Ananda Coomaraswamy. This interest has become a continuing thread in all his writings.

In 1996 Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS special to Smith's life and work: The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith. Smith has also produced three series for public television: The Religions of Man, The Search for America, and (with Arthur Compton) Science and Human Responsibility.

His films on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism have all won awards at international film festivals. His latest DVD release is The Roots of Fundamentalism--A Conversation with Huston Smith and Phil Cousineau.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
As an American Christian who diligently studied Islam, lived with Muslims abroad, and then became Muslim himself, I found this book a positive introduction to Islam for the modern, Western mind.
Huston Smith has described Islam in a respectful and fair manner in a way that is difficult to find among nonMuslim authors. In my study of Islam I found that even many life long Muslim writers from outside the Western cultures are not able to describe Islam with such effectiveness.
Islam is often viewed only in negative ways, or in detail of its physical forms alone. Huston Smith is able to see beyond the ignorant sterotypes and begin to express the emotional depth and value of Islam's spiritual wisdom.
The book is intended as an introduction, and is exactly that. It only takes about ninety minutes to read, but sheds much light on a complex subject. Hopefully it is enough to inspire readers to learn more about Islam through even more effective and thorough channels, such as speaking with Muslims at a local mosque. The best source is always the direct source.
So I thank Huston Smith, and recommend this book to all those interested in beginning to understand the true nature of Islam.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Iyad T. Alashqar on April 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book, although short in terms of number of pages, is nevertheless extremely rich and amazingly eloquent in its presentation and explanations of Islam, from the life of Muhammad, to the Quran, to Islamic teachings and philosophy, and ending with a brief introduction to Sufism (Mysticism).
This book highly builds on the chapter that was dedicated to Islam in Huston Smith's The World's Religions. But Mr. Smith, after extracting that chapter and making a separate book out of it, adds to its contents discussions that relate to current world events such as the New York and Washington events in September 2001. He also adds many useful discussions regarding misconceptions about Islamic teachings like the issue of Women, Jihad, Polygamy, and many other issues that should highly interest any reader who seeks basic - but strong - foundations in Islamic Theology and Philosophy.
The bibliography and the "suggestions for further reading" part at the end of book is extremely helpful for anyone who persues an academic background in Islamic Studies.
This book will no doubt start to appear in college courses that cover the issue of Islam as a required reading assignment.
All in all, an excellent and a highly recommended book that is considered a masterpiece in the field of Comparative Religion Scholarship.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Wendell L. Eisener on November 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Huston Smith provides exactly what the title suggests: a concise introduction to Islam. What I did not realise when ordering the book is that the text is lifted word-for-word from Smith's THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS. I have no complaints about the material or the presentation; in fact, TWR has been a standard text for years at the university where I teach part-time. I just did not need another copy of that one particular chapter. (I'll probably give it away.)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Objective Reader on May 6, 2014
Format: Paperback
The book does not present an accurate picture of Islam. The book does a disservice to the victims of Islamic Jihad and Sharia Law: this includes non-Muslims and Muslim women.

The easiest way for a non-Muslim to understand Islam is to learn the story of Mohammed, the founder of Islam. The
Koran calls on Muslims to follow the example of Mohammed.

The following books give accurate information:

[1] "The Story of Mohammed" by Harry Richardson
[2] "Understanding Muhammad and Muslims" by Ali Sina

Both books can be purchased on Amazon.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Layod Sivad on May 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got Huston Smith's "Islam" for a church study group. The book had been recommended by one of the study group pariticpants and by a professor acquaintance who uses Smith's book in a survey of world religions. Both gave it very good reviews. And so do I. The Introduction is especially key to understanding why all who are unfamiliar with Islam--or those who know only what they've gleaned from the media since 9/11 should learn about it. Smith's Prologue explains why Islam is so important an element of the Judeo-Christian traditions in the West. Smith uses cogent citations from a variety of sources to underscore his commentary and understanding of Islam. The subtitle, "A concise Introduction" is to be taken seriously; every word in this book counts. A beauty of this book is that Smith presents a faith that we in the West consider exotic and foreign, yet is born of Abraham as are Judaism and Christianity. Something I learned that made this short book so useful for me is that he explains clearly why the Koran is so often misunderstood and why translations seem to be a clutter of chopped up sentences that seem not to hold together. It almost makes one want to learn Arabic so as to fully appreciate Islam as a faith and way of life. No, no, I have no intention of converting, but Smith's book has helped me understand my own Christian faith far more clearly.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
this is a section of one of his books pulled out and slapped a cover around to make it a mini novel. I am always a little annoyed when this happens and feel a bit ripped off. It is barely a chapter and not a particularly long and detailed chapter at that. He spends a good bit of time telling the Western reader has their perspective of Islam all wrong and while I appreciate him hearing that, I would rather make up my own mind based on the material he presents. I am reading it for a book club and class as part of an array of books so perhaps I will moderate my view after I converse with others.
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