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on August 31, 2015
Very brief and general overview of Islamic beliefs - very easy and quick read, recommended for people who might be interested in primer text on the subject. My only complaint is that this book is very Sunni-centric and it's treatment of Shi'ism, while respectful, is sorely lacking and misinformed. While Sunnism makes up 80% of the Muslim world, Shi'a Muslims make up approximately 50% of the Middle East, the historical epicenter of Islam. Shi'a Muslims have had a huge impact on the development of Islam since it's inception and in turn informs us on the development of Sunnism as well. Before Islam made its way to Southeast Asia, therefore causing a huge population boom in Sunnism; Shi'a and Sunni Muslims had almost been found in equal number. I think its a disservice to the legacy of this religion to focus on one and not the other.
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on August 1, 2010
In this short and very readable introduction, Sardar covers all the well-known traditions of the Muslim faith (praying, fasting, etc) but also offers an overview of more complex issues like Islamic philosophy, Islamic attitudes to science, and the origins of fundamentalism. This book would be a great starting point to a general reader who just wants to see what islam and Muslims are all about-- and the book especially shines in its discussion of key concepts like khalifa (guardianship of the earth) and the driving force of social justice and fairness that lie behind many Muslim practices. (For example, who knew that early Muslims established zoning laws in their cities to protect the environment?)

But Muslims have often failed Muslim values, and Sardar is not afraid to admit it. It sounds ironic at best to talk of fairness and social justice when we see images of jailed dissidents in Iran, or of the Taliban's gruesome tactics in Afghanistan. But, Sardar argues, the faith itself is not at fault, nor are those images representative of Islam as a whole. He points to a liberal Muslim network in Indonesia or to the work of female Muslim theologians who are able to reread the holy texts in a different light. And really he'd only need to point to the vast Muslim majority, who might be more or less orthodox, but who only want to live in peace. Muslims now are asking critical questions, Sardar argues, and breaking with some of the fossilized traditions to create a way of living that's more in tune with how Islam was originally intended: "Liberal humanism is not a Western invention; rather it has deep roots in Islamic history."

At barely 120 pages, you can't expect this book to go too deeply into the complex issues it discusses. I understand that. Still, no matter how much I liked Sardar's message, I felt frustrated at times by the lack of source material: no footnotes, no sources cited, nothing except a very short suggested-reading list at the end of the book. This seems like a shortcoming to me, and it means that if you really want to learn about any of the topics he discusses, you'll have to do some further study. But maybe that's the point of a short introduction like this: to give just a little bit of background and then encourage the reader to look deeper.
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on October 24, 2010
Great reading for a very concise summary of Islam from a native scholar of the Middle East. Very clear and very easy light reading.
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on September 5, 2010
This has to be a book many more Americans need to read. While a faithful Muslim, Sardar gives a very enlightened view of his faith and points out that in a sense Islam is not much different from Jewish and Christian faiths. I have always been told that the Koran is violent and preaches violence. Having read The Bible and The Koran, one might make the same argument for the Old Testament.

The three faiths have the same founder, Abraham, yet went off in different directions...but at heart never leaving behind their belief in God, someone greater than themselves and that it is the duty of all followers to help their fellow man. Read this book. Hopefully he and others that believe like him will lead the faith to a Renaissance of new thought. Not one based on revenge but on one that tries to help the condition of all men (and women) and achieve what we all want in this world - peace and a modicum of prosperity.
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on May 6, 2016
Very good book
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on February 16, 2008
A very good introduction to Islam. This book, or another on Islam, should be required reading for all high school students. Clears up many misconceptions of what Muslims believe.
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