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Islam: The Religion and the People

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Overview

Praise for Bernard Lewis

"For newcomers to the subject[el]Bernard Lewis is the man."

TIME Magazine

“The doyen of Middle Eastern studies."

The New York Times

“No one writes about Muslim history with greater authority, or intelligence, or literary charm.”

British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper

“Bernard Lewis has no living rival in his field.”

Al Ahram, Cairo (the most influential Arab world newspaper)

"When it comes to Islamic studies, Bernard Lewis is the father of us all. With brilliance, integrity, and extraordinary mastery of languages and sources, he has led the way for[el]investigators seeking to understand the Muslim world."

National Review

"Bernard Lewis combines profound depth of scholarship with encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle East and, above all, readability."

Daily Telegraph (London)

"Lewis speaks with authority in prose marked by lucidity, elegance, wit and force."

Newsday (New York)

"Lewis' style is lucid, his approach, objective."

Philadelphia Inquirer

"Lewis writes with unsurpassed erudition and grace."

Washington Times

An objective, easy-to-read introduction to Islam by Bernard Lewis, one of the West’s leading experts on Islam

For many people, Islam remains a mystery. Here Bernard Lewis and Buntzie Ellis Churchill examine Islam: what its adherents believe and how their religion has shaped them, their rich and diverse cultures, and their politics over more than 14 centuries. Considered one of the West’s leading experts on Islam, Lewis, with Churchill, has written an illuminating introduction for those who want to understand the faith and the global challenges it confronts and presents. Whatever your political, personal, or religious views, this book will help you understand Islam’s reality.

Lewis and Churchill answer questions such as...

• How does Islam differ from Judaism and Christianity?

• What are the pillars of the Islamic faith?

• What does Islam really say about peace and jihad?

• How does the faith regard non-Muslims?

• What are the differences between Sunni and Shi’a?

• What does Islam teach about the position of women in society?

• What does Islam say about free enterprise and profit?

• What caused the rise of radical Islam?

• What are the problems facing Muslims in the U.S. and Europe and what are the challenges posed by those minorities?

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Lewis (Near Eastern studies, emeritus, Princeton Univ.; The Crisis of Islam ) and Churchill (former president, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia) offer an accessible introduction to Muslims and their faith. In clear language, the authors cover the faith's development, its five pillars, Scripture and tradition, law, the mosque, diversity, sectarian divisions, government, economics, women, dress, language, war and peace, and radicalism. There are three particular strengths. First, Lewis and Churchill insist that Islam cannot be reduced to extremes as either a bloodthirsty creed or solely a message of peace. The Qur'an advocates a range of responses according to specific circumstances. Second, the authors humanize Islam by including insets on "Islamic humor" in every chapter. Third, the book replaces dangerous characterizations of Islam as an enemy with an understanding of Islam as a faith intimately connected to Christianity and Judaism. Through understanding Islam, readers may see that the minority who espouse a radicalized totalitarian version of Islam represent neither the faith nor most of its followers. Highly recommended for all libraries.-William P. Collins, Library of Congress

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780132230858
  • Publisher: FT Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Pages: 237
  • Sales rank: 1,266,323
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Lewis is Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He is the author of the best-sellers What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response and The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. He has performed the invaluable service of placing current events in the context of history. Lewis has advised policymakers in the U.S., UK, and the Middle East on the complex relationship between Islam and the West.

A number of his articles have been extraordinarily prescient. The Return of Islam was published 3 years before the Iranian revolution, and the award-winning The Roots of Muslim Rage anticipated 9/11 by a decade. His two dozen books have been translated into more than two dozen languages, including Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Indonesian.

His contribution to the understanding of history has been recognized by the 15 universities that have awarded him honorary doctorates.

Buntzie Ellis Churchill served for 23 years as President of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, hosting dozens of world leaders from Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher to Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she has served as a trustee of many non-profit organizations, including the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology and Drexel University. She has been awarded several honorary doctorates.

For a decade she hosted “WorldViews,” a daily radio show, interviewing experts on international issues

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Read an Excerpt

PrefacePreface

More than three hundred years ago, in 1689, the great English philosopher John Locke published A Letter Concerning Toleration, in which he argued that "neither Pagan, nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of religion." In this, he gave a classical formulation of an idea which helped to inspire both the French and American revolutions, and has become an essential guiding principle of the free world. This idea, sometimes called secularism, means that religion is a private and personal matter, outside the realm of government; that membership of the political community, and the rights that go with it, belong to all citizens, of any religion or of none.

Religion remains, however, an immensely powerful factor in human aff airs, with profound influence on almost every aspect of public and private, social and economic, cultural and even artistic life. No study of society, whether directed by historians at the past, by social scientists at the present, or by either at the future, can afford to disregard the religious factor. To neglect or even to underrate that factor can lead to serious misunderstandings and open the way to dangerous consequences. A French statesman once said that war is too important to be left to the generals. One might also argue that religion is too important to leave to the theologians.

There are many ways of studying religion, besides that of the theologians. Some study it as an art-historian studies paintings; others, as a bacteriologist studies bacteria. We are committed to no specific ideology or method, beyond that of dispassionate scholarship, which sees religionas a strand, or group of strands, among others, in the intricate pattern of human life. Such a study, in context, of the religious factor in human affairs is indispensable to understanding. In the Christian, or as some nowadays call it, the post-Christian world, religion has become, to a large extent, a personal and private matter. In the world of Islam, now in the early fifteenth century of its era, religion retains its centrality and remains a major force in public life, a basic theme of identity and therefore of loyalty.

For any sort of dealings with the Muslim world, some understanding, and therefore some knowledge, of Islam is essential. Unfortunately, this is rarely available and the more common perception is based on ignorance, sometimes varied by prejudice. This is particularly dangerous at a time when the Islamic world itself is undergoing major internal struggles, the outcome of which is still far from clear. It is our hope that the following pages may provide some knowledge, and thus some understanding, of one of the world's great religions—of its glorious past, its tumultuous present, and its bitterly contested future.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Preface xv

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Faith and the Faithful 7

Chapter 2 The Pillars of the Faith 13

Chapter 3 Scripture, Tradition and Law 25

Chapter 4 The Mosque 39

Chapter 5 Diversity and Tolerance 51

Chapter 6 Sunni, Shi‘a and Others 61

Chapter 7 Some History 71

Chapter 8 Government and Opposition 81

Chapter 9 Wider World of Islam 91

Chapter 10 Islam and the Economy 97

Chapter 11 Women in Islam 111

Chapter 12 Dress 127

Chapter 13 Language and Writing 137

Chapter 14 War and Peace 145

Chapter 15 Radical Islam 155

Conclusion 165

Appendix: Some Practical Matters 169

Terms and Topics 179

Index 225

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Preface

Preface

More than three hundred years ago, in 1689, the great English philosopher John Locke published A Letter Concerning Toleration, in which he argued that "neither Pagan, nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of religion." In this, he gave a classical formulation of an idea which helped to inspire both the French and American revolutions, and has become an essential guiding principle of the free world. This idea, sometimes called secularism, means that religion is a private and personal matter, outside the realm of government; that membership of the political community, and the rights that go with it, belong to all citizens, of any religion or of none.

Religion remains, however, an immensely powerful factor in human aff airs, with profound influence on almost every aspect of public and private, social and economic, cultural and even artistic life. No study of society, whether directed by historians at the past, by social scientists at the present, or by either at the future, can afford to disregard the religious factor. To neglect or even to underrate that factor can lead to serious misunderstandings and open the way to dangerous consequences. A French statesman once said that war is too important to be left to the generals. One might also argue that religion is too important to leave to the theologians.

There are many ways of studying religion, besides that of the theologians. Some study it as an art-historian studies paintings; others, as a bacteriologist studies bacteria. We are committed to no specific ideology or method, beyond that of dispassionate scholarship, which sees religion as a strand, or group of strands, among others, in the intricate pattern of human life. Such a study, in context, of the religious factor in human affairs is indispensable to understanding. In the Christian, or as some nowadays call it, the post-Christian world, religion has become, to a large extent, a personal and private matter. In the world of Islam, now in the early fifteenth century of its era, religion retains its centrality and remains a major force in public life, a basic theme of identity and therefore of loyalty.

For any sort of dealings with the Muslim world, some understanding, and therefore some knowledge, of Islam is essential. Unfortunately, this is rarely available and the more common perception is based on ignorance, sometimes varied by prejudice. This is particularly dangerous at a time when the Islamic world itself is undergoing major internal struggles, the outcome of which is still far from clear. It is our hope that the following pages may provide some knowledge, and thus some understanding, of one of the world's great religions—of its glorious past, its tumultuous present, and its bitterly contested future.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A great introduction to Islam

    Ever since the events of September 11th 2001 there has been an increase in the interest for Islam in the West, and particularly in the US. This increased interest has resulted in a formidable increase in the number of studies, publications and college courses, all of which try to explain and inform the public about what Islam is, what its basic teachings are, and what is the history of the Islamic world. One was faced with a veritable embarrassment of riches, and there was no easy way to decide which author was truly an expert in the field, and which ones were trying to capitalize on a new publishing fad. With that in mind, one person that clearly stands out head and shoulders above all the other polemicists and scholars is Bernard Lewis, a doyen in the field of Oriental and Middle Eastern studies. He has been actively involved in this field since at least World War II, and his knowledge of the Islamic history is second to none. His books have explored several different themes, but now in one volume comes a digest of all the basic facts about Islam. This is a very accessible and informative first introduction to Islam, and it covers all the basics really well. It avoids both of the traps that many other books fall into: either painting Islam with overly rosy spectacles, or vilifying it to the point that it becomes a distortion of what it really is. The end of the book provides reader with a list of terms and topics, which in itself is a useful guide to the main words and ideas that frequently occur in all discussions about Islam. Many of those terms have by now become familiar to the public at large, but even those benefit form having some new light shed on them. Overall, if you either don't know much about Islam, or would like to systematize and refresh what you already know, this is a great book to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

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