We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam - Preface - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
:
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result

What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam What is This? A guide to a wide variety of general questions asked by those looking to learn more about Muslim culture and the Islamic world.

Preface

What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam grew out of my experiences after the tragedy of 9/11. Like many of my colleagues, I was bombarded with questions about Islam and Muslims. While some questions centered on the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many were the same queries that have arisen time and again over the years in media interviews, government and corporate briefings, and presentations at universities and civic organizations: Why is Islam so violent? Does the Quran approve terrorism and suicide bombing? Is Islam compatible with modernity? Why do Muslims persecute Jews and Christians?

Reflecting on 9/11 and these persistent questions, I realized how much has changed and how much remains the same. Islam is the second-largest of the world's religions globally as well as in Europe, and it is the third-largest religion in America. Yet many in the West continued and still today continue to function within an enormous information vacuum, the same one I myself suffered from over thirty years ago. When I first encountered Islam in graduate school, I was astonished to discover that there was another Abrahamic faith. We had always talked about the Judeo-Christian connection, but never the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Why? If Muslims recognize and revere many of the major patriarchs and prophets of Judaism and Christianity (including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus) and God's revealed books, the Torah and the Message (Gospels) of Jesus, why had I not been aware of this after all my years of liberal arts and theological training?

Learning about Islam gave me a new perspective, a new way of understanding history, from the Crusades and European colonialism to American and Soviet neocolonialism. Thus not only religion but also history, politics, and civilization, classical and modern, came alive for me. Today, however, many are still relying on media stereotypes, seeing Islam through distorted lenses that focus on terrorists, religious extremists, and oppressed women. The actions of a radicalized minority become equated with the faith of the mainstream majority. And yet Muslims are now an integral part of the religious landscape of America and Europe; they are increasingly our fellow citizens, neighbors, and colleagues.

Of course, many more introductions to Islam exist today than thirty years ago. I myself wrote Islam: The Straight Path and other books and articles that I have drawn upon in compiling this book. But many people today have specific questions and are looking for quick, brief, and direct answers, ones not easily found in historical and religious histories. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam is meant to meet that need. Its primary purpose is to communicate what Muslims believe and why they do what they do. The book is not designed to be read from cover to cover; readers can look for answers to specific questions of interest to them. Because each question and answer is self-contained (it does not presume previous knowledge or that one has read previous answers), some material will appear in more than one answer.

Many of the questions, which have come from people in very diverse audiences, reflect a predisposition to believe that there is something profoundly wrong with Islam and Muslims. This underlying belief can result in the unconscious application of a double standard, approaching Islam differently than we would Judaism or Christianity when discussing how religion relates to extremism, militancy, violence, and terrorism. While we accept historical development in our own faiths with respect to pluralism, human rights, the status of women, and democratization, there is often a presumption that change is impossible in Islam.

I have had the good fortune to study, observe, and teach several religions, in particular Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. All these faiths have given meaning to and transformed the lives of millions of people throughout history. Regrettably, all also have had their dark side; religions that preach compassion, justice, and peace have been used—or abused—by extremists and militants. All are challenged in our modern and postmodern world to embrace a pluralism that balances affirmation of the truth of their faith with a respect for the truth to be found in others. For religion should be about righteousness, not self-righteousness.

Regrettably, the legacy of 9/11, continued terrorist attacks, and fears of growing radicalization have resulted in a sharp increase in Islamophobia (discrimination against Muslims because of their faith or race), hate speech, and violence. Politicians, far-right political commentators, hard-line Christian Zionist ministers, and a proliferation of anti-Muslim hate blogs have exploited the situation. They blur the distinction made by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and many other Americans between, on the one hand, Islam and the vast majority of Muslims and, on the other, a dangerous fraction of the world's Muslims. This latter group, like Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and other religious extremists, hijack religion to legitimate their acts of terror.

The encounter between the West and the Muslim world, between American and European Muslims and the Judeo-Christian and secular traditions of America and Europe, is not a clash of two separate and antithetical worlds. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are children of Abraham, part of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. The world of Islam is global; its capitals and communities are not only Cairo, Damascus, Mecca, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Islamabad, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta but also London, Paris, Marseilles, Bonn, New York, Detroit, and Washington. Our common future demands a new, more inclusive sense of pluralism and tolerance built upon mutual understanding and respect. If we are ever to achieve such mutual understanding, an essential part of the package must be knowledge of what Islam teaches and what Muslims believe about Islam as well as what we believe about them.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2018. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice