ISLAM: Religion, History, and Civilization
Nasr, a professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, is probably America's leading Islamicist, and he lives up to his reputation with this short yet comprehensive primer on Islam. Nasr presents the religion of more than a billion people today without prejudice or preference. In eight short chapters, he surveys all that can be described as "Islamic"—the theology, people, history, cultures and more. His descriptions of how Islam spread through black Africa and China are concise and clear. Although certain readers may prefer a book that speaks more directly to the concerns raised by the attacks of 9/11 or that addresses hot topics like the treatment of women under Islam, Nasr unapologetically lays out a classical and timeless text. He is at his most engaging when discussing Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, a topic that is usually underrepresented in similar books. Nasr also dives headfirst into Islam's more abstract and intellectual underpinnings, much to the satisfaction of the reader who seeks spiritual guidance in addition to education. "To understand Islam today," Nasr cautions, "it is first of all important to realize that the histories of different religions do not all follow the same trajectory." Readers who desire more than a simple current events profile, and who want to understand the core of the world's second-largest religion, will appreciate this introduction that manages to be sweeping in scope yet accessible in style. (Jan.)
Forecast:The Islamic bookshelves are getting quite crowded these days, and America's rush to obtain a remedial education on Islam seems to have abated. That's a shame, because this book deserves a wider readership than it may get in today's glutted market.