Learn about Islam

Muslims in America who reject extremist or fundamentalist expressions of Islam at home and abroad feel the urgent need for a voice that can represent them in the escalating irrationality of the current debate about Islam, America, and the West. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf—the so-called Ground Zero Imam—has become that voice.

Drawing from his personal experiences, Imam Feisal now speaks up on behalf of disenfranchised Muslims around the United States who are spiritual, moderate, and patriotic. Born to Egyptian parents in Kuwait, Imam Rauf was educated in England and Malaysia, became a U.S. citizen in 1979, and received a degree in physics from Columbia University. Here, he explores the beliefs, aspirations, and ambitions, both spiritual and political, of American Muslims in a post-9/11 world. For example, the Imam sees the 2011 Arab uprising and the death of Osama bin Laden as turning points for Muslims, strengthening moderate voices that are closer to the true nature of Islam. He argues that orthodox Islam supports equal rights for women and embraces religious tolerance and dialogue, and insists on the relevance of Shariah law for democracy in America and for the revolutions in the Middle East.

Touching on all the major issues that have been subject to misperceptions and misrepresentations—such as the role of women, fundamentalism in America and abroad, the intersection of Islam and democracy, even the “Ground Zero Mosque”—Imam Feisal pre-sents a fresh perspective that American Muslims can identify with and a book that non-Muslims can use as a go-to guide, completely changing the discourse about Islam and America today.
*A 2011 National Book Award Finalist*

A spellbinding story of renunciation, conversion, and radicalism from Pulitzer Prize-finalist biographer Deborah Baker

What drives a young woman raised in a postwar New York City suburb to convert to Islam, abandon her country and Jewish faith, and embrace a life of exile in Pakistan? The Convert tells the story of how Margaret Marcus of Larchmont became Maryam Jameelah of Lahore, one of the most trenchant and celebrated voices of Islam's argument with the West.

A cache of Maryam's letters to her parents in the archives of the New York Public Library sends the acclaimed biographer Deborah Baker on her own odyssey into the labyrinthine heart of twentieth-century Islam. Casting a shadow over these letters is the mysterious figure of Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, both Maryam's adoptive father and the man who laid the intellectual foundations for militant Islam.

As she assembles the pieces of a singularly perplexing life, Baker finds herself captive to questions raised by Maryam's journey. Is her story just another bleak chapter in a so-called clash of civilizations? Or does it signify something else entirely? And then there's this: Is the life depicted in Maryam's letters home and in her books an honest reflection of the one she lived? Like many compelling and true tales, The Convert is stranger than fiction. It is a gripping account of a life lived on the radical edge and a profound meditation on the cultural conflicts that frustrate mutual understanding.

Are jihadists dying for a fiction? Everything you thought you knew about Islam is about to change.


Did Muhammad exist?

It is a question that few have thought—or dared—to ask. Virtually everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, takes for granted that the prophet of Islam lived and led in seventh-century Arabia.

But this widely accepted story begins to crumble on close examination, as Robert Spencer shows in his eye-opening new book.

In his blockbuster bestseller The Truth about Muhammad, Spencer revealed the shocking contents of the earliest Islamic biographical material about the prophet of Islam. Now, in Did Muhammad Exist?, he uncovers that material’s surprisingly shaky historical foundations. Spencer meticulously examines historical records, archaeological findings, and pioneering new scholarship to reconstruct what we can know about Muhammad, the Qur’an, and the early days of Islam. The evidence he presents challenges the most fundamental assumptions about Islam’s origins.

Did Muhammad Exist? reveals:

•How the earliest biographical material about Muhammad dates from at least 125 years after his reported death
•How six decades passed before the Arabian conquerors—or the people they conquered—even mentioned Muhammad, the Qur’an, or Islam
•The startling evidence that the Qur’an was constructed from existing materials—including pre-Islamic Christian texts
•How even Muslim scholars acknowledge that countless reports of Muhammad’s deeds were fabricated
•Why a famous mosque inscription may refer not to Muhammad but, astonishingly, to Jesus
•How the oldest records referring to a man named Muhammad bear little resemblance to the now-standard Islamic account of the life of the prophet
•The many indications that Arabian leaders fashioned Islam for political reasons

Far from an anti-Islamic polemic, Did Muhammad Exist? is a sober but unflinching look at the origins of one of the world’s major religions. While Judaism and Christianity have been subjected to searching historical criticism for more than two centuries, Islam has never received the same treatment on any significant scale.

The real story of Muhammad and early Islam has long remained in the shadows. Robert Spencer brings it into the light at long last.
 

The oldest Islamic biography of Muhammad, written in the mid-eighth century, relates that the prophet died at Medina in 632, while earlier and more numerous Jewish, Christian, Samaritan, and even Islamic sources indicate that Muhammad survived to lead the conquest of Palestine, beginning in 634-35. Although this discrepancy has been known for several decades, Stephen J. Shoemaker here writes the first systematic study of the various traditions.

Using methods and perspectives borrowed from biblical studies, Shoemaker concludes that these reports of Muhammad's leadership during the Palestinian invasion likely preserve an early Islamic tradition that was later revised to meet the needs of a changing Islamic self-identity. Muhammad and his followers appear to have expected the world to end in the immediate future, perhaps even in their own lifetimes, Shoemaker contends. When the eschatological Hour failed to arrive on schedule and continued to be deferred to an ever more distant point, the meaning of Muhammad's message and the faith that he established needed to be fundamentally rethought by his early followers.

The larger purpose of The Death of a Prophet exceeds the mere possibility of adjusting the date of Muhammad's death by a few years; far more important to Shoemaker are questions about the manner in which Islamic origins should be studied. The difference in the early sources affords an important opening through which to explore the nature of primitive Islam more broadly. Arguing for greater methodological unity between the study of Christian and Islamic origins, Shoemaker emphasizes the potential value of non-Islamic sources for reconstructing the history of formative Islam.

PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • Hailed by The Washington Post as “mandatory reading,” and praised by Fareed Zakaria as “intelligent, compassionate, and revealing,” a powerful journey to help bridge one of the greatest divides shaping our world today.

If the Oceans Were Ink

is Carla Power's eye-opening story of how she and her longtime friend Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi found a way to confront ugly stereotypes and persistent misperceptions that were cleaving their communities. Their friendship-between a secular American and a madrasa-trained sheikh-had always seemed unlikely, but now they were frustrated and bewildered by the battles being fought in their names. Both knew that a close look at the Quran would reveal a faith that preached peace and not mass murder; respect for women and not oppression. And so they embarked on a yearlong journey through the controversial text.

A journalist who grew up in the Midwest and the Middle East, Power offers her unique vantage point on the Quran's most provocative verses as she debates with Akram at cafes, family gatherings, and packed lecture halls, conversations filled with both good humor and powerful insights. Their story takes them to madrasas in India and pilgrimage sites in Mecca, as they encounter politicians and jihadis, feminist activists and conservative scholars. Armed with a new understanding of each other's worldviews, Power and Akram offer eye-opening perspectives, destroy long-held myths, and reveal startling connections between worlds that have seemed hopelessly divided for far too long.

Praise for If the Oceans Were Ink

“A vibrant tale of a friendship.... If the Oceans Were Ink is a welcome and nuanced look at Islam [and] goes a long way toward combating the dehumanizing stereotypes of Muslims that are all too common.... If the Oceans Were Ink should be mandatory reading for the 52 percent of Americans who admit to not knowing enough about Muslims.”—The Washington Post

“For all those who wonder what Islam says about war and peace, men and women, Jews and gentiles, this is the book to read. It is a conversation among well-meaning friends—intelligent, compassionate, and revealing—the kind that needs to be taking place around the world.”—Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World

“Carla Power’s intimate portrait of the Quran, told with nuance and great elegance, captures the extraordinary, living debate over the Muslim holy book’s very essence. A spirited, compelling read.”—Azadeh Moaveni, author of Lipstick Jihad

“Unique, masterful, and deeply engaging. Carla Power takes the reader on an extraordinary journey in interfaith understanding as she debates and discovers the Quran’s message, meaning, and values on peace and violence, gender and veiling, religious pluralism and tolerance.”—John L. Esposito, University Professor and Professor of Islamic Studies, Georgetown University, and author of The Future of Islam

“A thoughtful, provocative, intelligent book.”—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds Of Paradise and The Language of Baklava

The Mosque is an extended meditation on a dimension of Islam unfamiliar to most Western readers. The mosque, Rusmir Mahmut ́cehaji ́c argues, is not an analogue of the Christian church, not least because in Islam there is no priesthood and no institutionalized hierarchy. Rather, every Muslim is his or her own priest, and
most religious obligations are performed in the home. The function of the mosque is thus dispersed throughout society and, indeed, throughout the natural world as well. The Arabic word from which English mosque derives means literally "place of prostration"--the place one performs the daily ritual prayer of submission to God, so as to become a guest at the table God has sent down to manifest himself. That table is also the world's mosque, the world as mosque.

Among the many tragic victims of the Bosnian genocide are its mosques; more than a thousand were destroyed. A part of the essential fabric of Bosnian life was changed. With this book, Rusmir Mahmut ́cehaji ́c seeks to rebuild the spirit and majesty of each mosque that was destroyed, the spiritual grace it lent the Bosnian landscape.

"Beautifully composed, elegantly written and constructed, this is a primary text of Islamic spirituality, by one of the most significant Muslim European voices of our age . . . . A book to be returned to again and again."--Adam B. Seligman, Boston University

"This work by one of the leading intellectual figures of Bosnia is one of the finest written in the English language on the spiritual significance of the mosque. It speaks the language of universal spirituality and is able to open a door for Western readers to the relationship between the mosque, as understood outwardly, and the inner mosque, which is the heart. The book also reflects in most elegant language the reality of a land where mosques, churches, and synagogues have stood side by side over the centuries, each bearing witness in its own way to the Presence of the One."--Seyyed Hossein Nasr, George Washington University

The memoir of a gay American Muslim’s pilgrimage to Mecca—“The first book about the Hajj from a gay perspective, written . . . with courage and fierce emotion” (The Guardian).
 
The Hajj is a pilgrimage all Muslims are commanded by God to go on at least once in their lives if they are able. Like millions of contemporary Muslims, Parvez Sharma believes his spiritual salvation lies in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site. Yet taking this journey puts his life at risk. In A Sinner in Mecca, author and filmmaker Parvez chronicles his pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia as an openly gay Muslim, where being true to himself is punishable by death.
 
Accepting the danger that lies ahead, Parvez embarks on a jihad of the self—filming his experience along the way. Already under fire for his documentary A Jihad for Love, which looks at the coexistence of Islam and homosexuality, he would undoubtedly face savage punishment if exposed. Meeting both extremists and spiritual explorers on his journey, Parvez discovers a world that is both frightening and breathtaking.
 
In Mecca, Parvez comes out to a pilgrim, who then asks why he would want to be part of something that wants no part of him. This book is his answer to that question—and many more. Following the New York Times Critics’ Pick documentary of the same title, A Sinner in Mecca unflinchingly showcases parts of the dangerous ideology that governs ISIS and how much it has in common with Saudi Arabia’s sacred, yet treacherous dogma, Wahhabi Islam.
Islam features widely in the news, often in its most militant versions, but few people in the non-Muslim world really understand the nature of Islam. Malise Ruthven's Very Short Introduction contains essential insights into issues such as why Islam has such major divisions between movements such as the Shi'ites, the Sunnis, and the Wahhabis, and the central importance of the Shar'ia (Islamic law) in Islamic life. It also offers fresh perspectives on contemporary questions: Why is the greatest 'Jihad' (holy war) now against the enemies of Islam, rather than the struggle against evil? Can women find fulfilment in Islamic societies? How must Islam adapt as it confronts the modern world? In this new edition, Ruthven brings the text up-to-date by reflecting upon some of the most significant changes in the Muslim world in recent years; from the emergence of al-Qaeda and the attacks on New York and Washington on 9/11 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Ruthven includes new material surrounding the concept of a globalized Islam, bringing into question the effects of economic globalization, the effect of international events in Middle Eastern countries, the issues surrounding Islam and democracy, and the reception and perception of Islam in the West. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
In an age of continued Middle East volatility, religious extremists, and terrorist threats, the mere mention of Islam and Muslims too often provokes misunderstanding and even rancor. Often overlooked are the important links between the Qur'an and the Bible. Also ignored are the significant historical overlap between Islamic interpretation of history with those of Christianity and Judaism, including the monotheistic belief in a single God. Islam is too often confusing and even opaque to those unfamiliar with it.

The Handy Islam Answer Book, is clearly and eloquently written by John Renard, Ph.D., a scholar of Islam with more than 40 years of research and teaching experience. He provides detailed descriptions of the history, beliefs, symbols, rituals, observations, customs, leaders, and organization of the world’s second largest religion. Renard explains the significance of the Five Pillars, Muhammad, various sects, the Qur'an, Islamic law, and much more. This engaging primer is a resource for reliable information about Islam and Muslims and it brings an understanding of the shared humanity that joins Muslims and non-Muslims far more deeply than cultural or religious differences separate them. Truly a must-have reference for our changing and trying times, this user-friendly guide answers nearly 800 questions and offers fun facts that cover Islamic history, religious practices, and Muslim cultural perspectives, including …

• When did Islam begin?
• Why is Mecca a holy city for Muslims?
• Do Muslims worship Muhammad?
• What was the fate of Medieval Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land?
• What do Muslims mean by the term "Allah"?
• What does the crescent moon and star symbol mean to Muslims?
• What is the Muslim “call to prayer”? Is it similar to “church bells”?
• Do Muslims believe that God “tests” people?
• Does Muhammad play a role in Islamic spirituality in a manner similar to Jesus’ role in Christianity?
• Is jihad a legal concept for Muslims?
• Is it true that Muhammad both preached and engaged in military campaigns?
• Do Muslims, Christians, and Jews worship the “same God”?
• Why do Jews, Christians, and Muslims all claim parts of Israel/Palestine as “Holy Land”?
• Why do some people, such as the Taliban, not want girls to get an education?
• Does Islam require wearing face veils?
• Does Islam have theologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the other great Christian thinkers?
• Is there any similarity between Muslim and Christian art?

Muslims are diverse, and they have a vast spectrum of views about Islam. The Handy Islam Answer Book aims for understanding, which is the first step to uniting, instead of dividing. This helpful books provides a historic timeline, a glossary of commonly used terms, a genealogy from Adam to Muhammad and beyond, a calendar of major observances, and a bibliography help further exploration of one of the world’s great religions.
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