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Islam: The Straight Path Paperback – January 15, 1998

50 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195112344 ISBN-10: 0195112342 Edition: 3rd

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Esposito, a well-respected scholar and prolific writer on things Islamic, is the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University and, most recently, general editor of the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (LJ 3/15/95). Here we have the third edition of a book first published in 1988 (LJ 9/15/88) outlining Muslim origins, history, doctrine, and culture?generally in a Middle Eastern context. This edition, which contains a useful bibliography and thorough index, incorporates recent developments in the Middle East and adds material on Pakistan and on the growth of Islam in America. Free of any evident anti-Muslim or anti-Christian bias, Esposito's scholarly prose is both straightforward and highly readable, with technical terms always clearly defined. Nevertheless, this is a work for serious students. Recommended for academic libraries and public libraries with substantial collections in religion.?James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Praise for the previous edition:

"The answer to every teacher's prayer for an informed and balanced introductory book. Elegantly written, beautifully synthesized, and helpful."--Leila Fawaz, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

"A splendid introduction to Islam. Esposito paints over a wide canvas in depicting the emergence of the Muslim community, the varieties of Muslim beliefs and practices, the tensions between tradition and modernity, and the Islamic resurgence of recent years....A timely gem." --Philip Khoury, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"The best and most obvious choice for courses on Islam, Islamic history, and Middle Eastern history. Well-written and accessible to undergraduates. The best English language text on Islam."--Robert S. Kramer, St. Norbert College


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3 edition (January 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195112342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195112344
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John L. Esposito is University Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is the editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islam and The Oxford History of Islam, and author of Unholy War, What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, and many other acclaimed works.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sadia on March 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Straight Path is a straightforward and accessible historical introduction to Islam theology, politics, and law. John Esposito, the author, begins with Muhammad and the Quran, basic Islamic dogma, and the creation of the Islamic community. He then sketches the history of the Islamic world in the medieval period, covering the Umayyads, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Crusades and the later Islamic empires, which are Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal. Some of the divisions within Islam are the Sunni/Shia spilt, the Ismailis, the Druze and the diversity of its mystical and legal traditions.
Next, Esposito explains Islamic theology and law in depth. Medieval theological conflicts centered on the relationship of faith, the status of grave sinners, and the connection between the absolute power of God and human free will. An essential figure was the tenth century synthesizer al-Ashari, whose followers became the leaders of the dominant school of Sunni theology. The five pillars of Islam are the professions of faith, prayer, almsgiving, the Ramadan fast and Hajj; the pilgrimage to Mecca. Finally, Esposito also touches on family law - divorce and inheritance, the relation between customary practice and Quranic prescription by showing the rules about veiling and seclusion, Sufism and Shia differences.
With its primarily historic approach, The Straight Path only succeeds to give a feel for the role Islam plays in the lives of particular believers. Overall, The Straight Path works well, giving a moral feel for Islam's ancient depth and geographical reach.
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61 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Tim Paris on August 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most westerners equate Islam with terrorism. The reason is simple: Muslims rarely make the evening news unless engaged in hijackings, suicide bomb attacks or bloody confrontations with Israelis or with their co-religionists. In this 3rd edition of his book on Islam, John Esposito does much to correct this and other pervasive misconceptions surrounding this great world religion.
Esposito traces the historical development of Islam from its genesis with Muhammad and the Quran, through the great ages of Islamic fluorescence and expansion-- the Umayyad (661-750) and Abbasid (750-1258) caliphates -- right up to the modern period, when "neorevivalists" struggled to reconcile the fundamental principles of Islam with secular and western-dominated contemporary life.
Along the way, Esposito elaborates the basic tenets of Islam, describes the great Muslim thinkers and their ideas and explains clearly the basic interpretations and movements (e.g., Shiism, Sufism) which have animated the development of the Muslim religion over the centuries. He also describes the different turns Islam has taken in different political contexts (contrast secular Turkey with the theocracies of Saudi Arabia and the Sudan).
The picture of Islam which emerges from Esposito's treatment is one of considerable complexity, yet always anchored in the fundamental principles adumbrated in the Quran. Islam: The Straight Path is perhaps the best introduction to Islamic belief and history in print. The 250 page text is accompanied by a bibliography and a helpful glossary. This book is highly recommended for students being introduced to Islam and its history and, indeed, for anyone interested in learning something of the world's second largest religion.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Corn Soup on March 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is by far the best introductory text on Islam that I have encountered. The important thing to keep in mind is that it is an introductory text, and its function as such should be kept in mind. The book provides an excellent overview, broken down into 6 different issues/subjects of the Islamic world, and the text is further broken down into clearly delineated and manageable chunks, just as an introductory text should be. Especially good is the elegant and concise way in which the history of the beginnings of Islam are laid out. Perhaps less strong is some of the discussion of the different ways that Muslims have approached the issue of reforming Islam, which I found to be repetitive and vague at the same time.
One person was disappointed that the author often mentions a lot of names and concepts, and then doesn't describe them much. Well, that is the PURPOSE of an introductory text, to introduce people to ideas that they can then pursue further in specialized texts if they are interested. Similary, why would one expect to find information on minority non-Islam religious groups or the African slave trade in a book about Islam? The former would be found in a comparitive religion text, the latter, perhaps in a history of Islamic people, but not an introductory text on Islam.
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27 of 38 people found the following review helpful By infinityhiker on June 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a well-written, accessible and challenging introduction to Islam. Esposito does an excellent job of showing the diversity within Islam and the political and cultural influences upon it along with thoroughly presenting Islam's development and theology. He presents the authentic Islam practiced by the majority of Muslims rather than the media hype that focuses on extremists. He is balanced, respectful, and thorough. Being western, Esposito's own worldview does come through somewhat in his conclusions about how Muslims should respond to the modern world but he does so without compromising the accuracy or academic nature of his work. Esposito has a genuine appreciation for Islam and her people and sees its rich cultural heritage as well as the current struggles facing the larger community.
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