Most helpful positive review
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Easy-access intro to Islam
on September 12, 2009
I bought the new second edition of this text for an introductory course on Islam and ended up reading the entire book before the class even started. It's well written and organized, a vital necessity with 1400 years of ground to cover. Of course there are the narratives and basic info that any introductory work would include, but Brown also uses good examples to bring things into perspective: for instance the "Coffee Debate" illustrates how Islamic law actually operates. The book is up-to-date not only in its discussion of issues like "Islam and Modernity" but also in bringing up recent scholarly debates about the Koran and Islamic traditions. I found myself constantly saying, "So that's why," in regard to controversial issues like gender or the sharia.
Brown is sympathetic to his topic, but avoids an apologetic stance and tends to let facts speak for themselves. It's very much to his credit that someone like myself, a devout believer in a "heretical" religion, comes away from the book with far greater respect for Islam as a whole, and a thirst to know more. For that purpose the numerous references and bibliography are solid and useful. There's also a concise 10-page glossary for us non-Arabists.