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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam [Hardcover]

John L. Esposito
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15, 2003 0195125584 978-0195125580
Designed for general readers with little or no knowledge of Islam, this superb Oxford Dictionary provides more than 2,000 vividly written, up-to-date, and authoritative entries organized in an easy-to-use, A-to-Z format.
The Dictionary focuses primarily on the 19th and 20th centuries, stressing topics of most interest to Westerners. What emerges is a highly informative look at the religious, political, and social spheres of the modern Islamic world. Naturally, readers will find many entries on topics of intense current interest, such as terrorism and the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, the PLO and HAMAS. But the coverage goes well beyond recent headlines. There are biographical profiles, ranging from Naguib Mahfouz (the Nobel Prize winner from Egypt) to Malcolm X, including political leaders, influential thinkers, poets, scientists, and writers. Other entries cover major political movements, militant groups, and religious sects as well as terms from Islamic law, culture, and religion, key historical events, and important landmarks (such as Mecca and Medina). A series of entries looks at Islam in individual nations, such as Afghanistan, the West Bank and Gaza, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the United States, and there are discussions of Islamic views on such issues as abortion, birth control, the Internet, the Rushdie Affair, and the theory of evolution.
Whether we are listening to the evening news, browsing through the op-ed pages, or reading a book on current events, references to Muslims and the Islamic world appear at every turn. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam offers a wealth of information for anyone curious about this burgeoning and increasingly important world religion.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this volume "designed for general readers with little or no knowledge of Islam," more than 2,000 alphabetically arranged entries treat "the religion of Islam and its impact on history, politics, and society." Editor Esposito also edited the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (1995), from which the new work extracts and updates material. Recent developments are reflected in the entries Bin Laden, Osama; HAMAS; Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); Qaeda, al-; and Taliban. There are also entries that describe Islam in various countries and regions, while the religious foundation of Islam is treated in the entries Pillars of Islam and Quran. The Islamic perspective on topics such as abortion and homosexuality is also provided. Although the focus is on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the inclusion of important persons and places in the history of Islam broadens the scope of the work.

The goal of creating a compact resource for the general reader may account for the lack of features such as supplemental bibliographies and an index. Cross-referencing isi nsufficient. The entry for Pillars of Islam has no see reference from "Five Pillars," a name by which they are also commonly known. Further, this entry fails to point the reader to the entries for each of the individual pillars, something an index and see also references could easily accomplish.

The standard reference tool for Islam is the ongoing Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill, 1954-). Densely academic, it is beyond the scope of many libraries and contains little in the way of contemporary issues. Another option is the single-volume The New Encyclopedia of Islam (AltaMira, 2001), which includes suggestions for further reading, illustrations, and better cross-references, though it, too, lacks an index and bibliographies for entries.

World events have sparked a keen interest in Islam. Despite its drawbacks, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam would be a useful addition to public and academic libraries. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"News coverage of the Arab world has expanded and improved in the last two years.... The Oxford Dictionary of Islam may be your best bet short of reading a pile of books, or living next door to a professor of Islamic studies. John L. Esposito, professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University, has assembled an impressive team of contributors who have produced a concise, accessible reference volume. With more than 2,000 entries, it covers almost anything you might want to look up, and some crucially important things you might not think to."--The New York Times, Education Life

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195125584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195125580
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,452,434 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

3.2 out of 5 stars
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spotty November 16, 2008
I bought this dictionary hoping that it would be a useful reference for a graduate course dealing with the relationship between Christianity and Islam during the early years of Islam. I have found it to be spotty and inconsistent.

For example, I wanted to know the dates of the Abbasid dynasty. I tried looking up "Abbasid." There is no such entry. I tried looking at the timeline at the end of the dictionary. There, the first reference to Abbasids is in the entry for 744-750 (p. 352): "Third Muslim civil war and defeat of Umayyads by Abbasids." There is no statement that this marks the beginning of the Abbasid Dynasty. However, the entry for the year 661 (p. 351) does include the information that "Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan founds Umayyad Dynasty." Why is there no comparable statement about the founding of the Abbasid Dynasty?

I decided to see if the dictionary had an entry for the Umayyads. Yes, it does (p. 326). This makes all the harder to understand why there is no entry for the Abbasids.

Returning to the timeline, the second entry that mentions the Abbasids (750-850) mentions three caliphs of this dynasty: al-Mahdi, Harun al-Rashid and al-Mamun. Does the body of the dictionary have entries for each of these men? No, yes (alphabetized under "Harun"), yes (alphabetized under "Mamun"). I tried looking for al-Mahdi under "al-" and "Mahdi." There are a few entries beginning with "al-," but not nearly as many as would be required were all of them listed consistently. I looked under "Mahdi." There I found an entry for Mahdi as an honorific applied to Muhammad and the first four caliphs; one for Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi (d. 1959); one for Sadiq al-Mahdi (b.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle Edition - Nice, but limited. April 2, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is a sense in which I agree with the reviewer who said that Wikipedia is both more complete and cheaper (it's free). Esposito is a world class expert on Islam and Oxford dictionaries are generally a good authority on their subject. And, the list of contributors is daunting. They seem to have corraled every Anglo-American expert on the subject to contribute articles. The entries are written in a non-technical way, and there is no Arabic to feel you are missing something. I would literally suggest that if you really wanted to find out something about Islam, just start reading this dictionary from front to back (all the really good stuff starts with "A" anyway, in Arabic.)

That's the good part. The drawbacks begin with the comparison with Wikipedia. No self-respecting college scholar or teacher will accept citations from Wikipedia because we have no idea who wrote them, and no guarantee of its authenticity. The day Wikipedia is accepted as a scholarly source is the day books like this will stop selling. But look, in spite of all the contributors, the contributors' names are not given at the end of the entries. I am also disappointed that when one entry refers to another, there is no active link to take you there. The weakest aspect of the dictionary is that there is no bibliography in the entries. I also tend to take issue with some articles, where there are conflicting opinions, the articles cite one and make no mention of the other, such as with the nature of Satan / Iblis.

If it were not for the air of authenticity supplied by Oxford and Esposito, I would not have gotten this. As it is, I can safely refer to this in papers, which I cannot do with Wikipedia...yet.
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1.0 out of 5 stars dictionary or ideology? June 5, 2014
By Michael
It is very one sided work that idealizes Islam and present all historical issues according Muslim narratives. One could expect much more from a serious academic scholar than such narrow-minded paradigm.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Comprehensive coverage of Muslim culture. I'm a beginner in Islamic subjects. There is no such a book in my native idiom (Portuguese).
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