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What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam Hardcover – November 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: What Everyone Needs to Know
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195157133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195157130
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #640,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Georgetown professor Esposito has written an excellent primer on all aspects of Islam. The question-and-answer format allows readers to skip ahead to areas that interest them, including hot-button issues such as "Why are Muslims so violent?" or "Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?" In his answers, which are anywhere from a paragraph to several pages long, Esposito elegantly educates the reader through what the Qur'an says, how Muslims are influenced by their local cultures, and how the unique politics of Islamic countries affects Muslims' views. All three elements contribute to a fuller understanding of Islam. For instance, in answering the question on veiling, Esposito accurately clarifies that though the Qur'an instructs believers to be modest, it does not require head coverings. He continues by describing how the custom of veiling gained popularity in and after Muhammad's time as a status symbol. He ends by pointing out how some women who veil today feel they are making a social protest against judgment based on appearance as much as they are fulfilling the modesty requirement. Occasionally Esposito excludes some key information. He says that jihad is sometimes called the "Sixth Pillar" of Islam without pointing out that Western critics propagate the centrality of jihad, not Muslims. In his discussion of Qur'an 4:34, which appears to permit domestic violence in a disciplinary capacity, he omits new translations by feminist scholars that change the meaning and mitigate the controversy. However, overall, this book honestly and clearly answers the questions most non-Muslims have about Islam.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review


"An excellent primer on all aspects of Islam. The question-and-answer-format allows readers to skip ahead to areas that interest them, including hot-button issues such as 'Why are Muslims so violent?' or 'Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?' In his answers, which are anywhere from a paragraph to several pages long, Esposito elegantly educates the reader through what the Quran said, how Muslims are influenced by their local cultures, and how the unique politics of Islamic countries affect Muslims' views."--Publishers Weekly



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

The author's viewpoint is on obvious display here; which, in and of itself is not a bad thing.
Mark Altizer
He is very respectful of Islam and tries to place controversial issues within their proper context.
Justin Parrott
I really enjoyed this book. it was easy reading and included all the information I wanted to know.
Rebecca Yzquierdo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Carey VINE VOICE on April 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Author John Esposito is a professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He has written books about the subject of Islam before, and he writes this one with a keen sense of education in mind. Most people know very little about the religion known as Islam, and Esposito seems like he is on a mission, in this book, to help enlighten the world's people about the facts and myths regarding the world's second largest religion.
I think it's safe to say that most people know very little about Islam. Until I read this book, I didn't really know much either. I knew some of the most basic things, like that the Quran was the holy book of Islam; the prayers that Muslims say each day; and a few other things. But my knowledge level ended right there. When I picked up this book, I began to learn things that I had never heard of before. Probably the greatest surprise was the fact that the Islamic religion regards Jesus Christ and Abraham as the second and third most important men to ever walk the face of the earth (after, of course, Muhammad). The next surprise was when I discovered that Islam teaches that the virgin birth of Jesus was real, and the Quran makes mention of Jesus and Mary even more frequently than the Christian Bible. Other facts were noteworthy, but not as shocking, like the fact that the Quran allows a man to have as many as four wives provided that he will treat them equally and support them.
The issue of the day with Islam is whether or not its religious creeds are conducive to violence. There is a full chapter in this book that attempts to answer this question. According to the Quran, violence is acceptable in certain situations, like when a man's family and/or faith might be threatened. Here lies the problem with interpretation.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Heather on May 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Esposito is one of my favourite authors of general books on Islam. This book is probably the ideal starter text for those new to learning about the religion.
"What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam" is a wonderful starter text. It is written in the format of questions-and-answers. The book is excellently organised with a complete index, as well as a simple glossary. The questions asked (and answered) are importantly and relevant. Using this method, Esposito both introduces the readers to the termonology but also the scriptures, history, culture(s) and beliefs.
The book gets four stars because -- like others have said -- Esposito tends to glaze over a lot of negative aspects that are commonly critised instead of responding to it. However, I feel this is for brevity and not as necessary in this text as it would be in another introductory book.
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50 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Crack Reviewer on April 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a concise book built around answering straightforward questions most people have about the Islamic religion and culture. Like any book that is under 200 pages, you can't claim it to be an authoritative or complete source.
Esposito does do a fine job of figuring out what (I think) most people would want to know and than furnishing concise, easy to read answers. We learn what the five pillars of the Islamic faith are. We learn what the Muslim people believe about Christ, the Old Testament, the New Testament and how they believe Muhammad received God's last revelation. We learn about the Black Muslim movement in the USA fits into Islam and its interesting. We learn what Jihad, or "holy war" really is and how the concept has been interpreted and misinterepreted by different groups.
At times, I felt Esposito perhaps downplayed negative aspects in Islam. He does attempt to explain why some Muslims hate America and the West. However, this lacked the depth that one would hope for. Also, some Medieval aspects of Islam culture such as countries that practice stoning for adultery and amputation for thievery don't get the criticism they should.
The great feature of this book is that you can learn a lot in a short time because of its size and the amount of information contained within it. Those interested in this subject should get a copy.
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59 of 78 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on May 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a worthy attempt by a scholar who has considerable knowledge of the world of Islam to explain it to the general public. The book is constructed in a series of questions, each of which has an answer that is between a paragraph and a couple of pages in length. While the author answers all of his questions, and I didn't notice any glaring errors. I did, however, notice some omissions which were glaring. Most notable was the discussion of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian extremist who is here noted for his advocacy of reform in Islam. Esposito leaves out the thing he's best known for, though: Qutb was the one who first posited the doctrine that Infidels were only due mercy if they accepted the primacy of Islam. In practice, this means that those of us who live in nations not governed by Sharia are fair game for terrorists. Only if the government is Muslim are innocent people to be left unmolested. Omissions like this are troubling in a book in which the author assumes you are ignorant on the subject, because he's deliberately *not* telling you this. Despite this, I generally enjoyed the book, and at least in conjunction with some other books I would recommend it.
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