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Esack's book is an excellent introduction for those who are beginners in Quranic studies as well as a great refresher for those more involved with Quranic studies. Esack is able to cover the main themes of the Quran as well as the historical and contemporary discussions relating to the Quran. It is also very well researched from an academic point of view as it uses both contemporary and traditional sources for Quranic commentary. Finally, this book is a great starting point for understanding the Quran.
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This book - as the above reviewer notes - is focused on how the Qur'an is regarded by Muslims, the important themes and teachings that they see given in it, the historical contexts of what Muslims believe to be "revelations," and its role in Muslim cultural life. The above reviewer has a right to his opinion about the neglect of the "unsavory" parts of what is thought to be known about Muhammad's life. However, there are other excellent books dealing with the precedences - or lack thereof - in Muhammad's life and the Qur'an for acts of terrorism and immoral violence. I particularly like those of John Kelsay and David Cook and Islamic views on Just Warfare. Getting into those issues is not Esack's priority here, and so he doesn't get into them. The above reviewers ideas is basically a complaint about the debate of who has the right to define what is Islamic and what is not. Muslims in the West focus on Islam as a religion of peace that interdicts against acts of terrorism. "Freedom fighters" of the Muslim culture interpret Islamic history and the Qur'an in such way that the ends (power, resistance, free speech) always justify whatever atrocious acts are the means. Who is more correct? Are they both part of the Islamic world? The Bible has often been cited by self-proclaimed Christians to justify the Crusades, racial slavery, diverse wars of Christians fighting Christians (e.g. "The Thirty Years War"), colonization and Western hegemony over non-white peoples, and even genocide. Does this also represent Christianity? This is for each person to decide.
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How is it that so many politicians, academics, and media analysts have such a poor understanding of Islam? Are they ignorant about Islam or is there a deeper problem? The objective evidence shows that there is a deeper problem that goes far beyond simple ignorance. Ignorance is a failure to learn for reasons other than lack of ability to learn. Most politicians, academics, and media analysts are highly intelligent, educated, and experienced people and their understanding and approach to all subjects involving Islam has to stem from something far beyond simple ignorance.
I believe their inaccuracies derive from the same malady that has infected a large segment of Western society. Many have been so inundated by a misleading presentation of Islam that infects most mainstream educational and media sources that despite the fact that they have surely stumbled upon the truth about Islam at some point, they have been preconditioned to ignore, disregard or rationalize the truth. Books like "The Qur'an; A User's Guide" written by Farid Esack contribute greatly to the problem.
Mr. Esack is described as a Muslim scholar and a reading of his book reveals that it is an accurate claim. The book does an excellent job of explaining how the Qur'an is believed to have come into existence and the proper way to make sense of and interpret the Qur'an as something that was released in parts over time by Muhammad and which needs to be understood in the context of what was happening in the Muslim community at the time each verse was allegedly "revealed.Read more ›