8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
One of the Best Books on Islam,
This review is from: An Introduction to Islam (Introduction to Religion) (Paperback)(Caveat: This is a review of the 1995 publication. This 2004 one has additional notes on contemporary Islam. I think my review is still valid.) There are a lot of books out there on Islam and the number is growing. This book was published in 1995 (2004), before the great spike in Islamic and Arabic studies hit Universities all over. Having said that, there is something remarkable about how David Waines gives clearer insights on Islam than the more tailored works of the post-9/11 era.
Perhaps that is what makes this book one of the better introductions to Islam. Waines doesn't base Islam on the "five-pillars" which in reality are not theological pillars in Islam at all but just ethical pillars of obedience. Waines digs into Islamic theology, which is the best 'introduction' to Islam. Waines looks at the history of the schools of Islamic theology and explains well their origins.
If your understanding of Islam does not include what Ash'ari and Mu'tazilite doctrines are then you need to read a book on Islam that doesn't just introduce the practice but the teaching that then influences the practice. Waines is it. Even if scholars may not agree completely with Waines' take on all the elements he presents, the fact that he presented them all gives him great credit.
Waines doesn't leave Sufism and Shi'ism out to dry either like so many Islamic works focusing on what they consider the important 'orthodox' teachings. Sufism is very widespread. Shi'a Muslims make up over 10% of all Muslims. Waines allows an entire chapter to trace the beginnings of each branch touching not only on history but theology.
Lastly Waines takes the theological discourse and applies it to the 19th and 20th century in order to understand the reform movements in Islam. Even if Muslim theology was pretty well established in all schools by the 12th century A.D. there have still been movements within the streams that have influenced the modern practice of Islam.
At 280 pages this is well worth the read and takes the place of a dozen other books of fifty pages or less.