ISLAM: An Illustrated History

Michael Jordon, Author, Carlton Books, Author, Carlton Books, Author . Carlton $29.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-84222-609-4

This lavishly illustrated history compensates in balanced content for what it lacks in felicitous prose. Jordan, a former BBC broadcaster whose previous books include Encyclopedia of the Gods and The Pagan Encyclopedia, tackles the major movements, people and places of Islam, the world's second-largest religion. The book's greatest strength is its objective tone at a time when bookstore shelves are crammed with apologist primers on the one hand and alarmist screeds on the other. Jordan charts a sensible middle course, particularly in the last chapter where he explores the future of Islam. Another strength is his focus on Islam not just as a political phenomenon or a historical tradition, but as a religion that must be lived faithfully, day in and day out. To this end, he provides a wealth of detail about the specifics of Muslim prayer, almsgiving, fasting and Qur'anic study. Jordan is sensitive to the ways that religions must change over time to accommodate evolving circumstances and cultural conditions. He is willing to set the record straight in key areas, arguing, for example, that the claim that early Muslims spread their religion only by "amicable persuasion" is "simply untrue." The book's only real problem is its gauche writing style; from the first page to the last, it is plagued with missing commas, run-on sentences and an excessive use of the passive voice. Readers who can see past such stylistic peccadilloes will appreciate the book's strong, well-researched content and its 120 color illustrations. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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