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Islam (Penguin religion) Paperback – 28 Jun 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140135553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140135558
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 968,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 April 2000
Format: Paperback
This book provides a useful and illuminating overview of Islam. Clear and sympathetic treatment of topics such as the Koran and the prophet offer a guided tour of the religion's principles, history and possible directions. Necessarily brief and descriptive, it covers the main branches and tributaries of the movement, while still retaining focus sufficiently to throw up many morsels of the 'did you know that?' type of information. It is always scrupulously balanced and considered in its observations. However, it lacks depth and, perhaps more seriously, with the second (and final) edition coming out in 1956 (though it was republished in 1990), is rather dated. Nevertheless, it is beautifully written, by a man who clearly felt a deep sense of empathy with Islam, and would provide the interested layman with a good grounding in this fascinating religion. A good starting point.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Good enough for the reader with a casual interest 14 Mar 2002
By Muhammad A. Syed - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Alfred Guilaume has done well to write a relatively short book on Islam which is easy to read yet covers all major areas.
However, the book would have been of greater value had it been referenced thoroughly. For example a lot of readers really would want to know the actual source of the satanic verses rather than take Guillaumes word that the people who transmitted the tradition 'were good muslims' and they had no reason to lie.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Book on Islam 5 Oct 2001
By S. Weeks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although published in the late 1950s, there probably is no more excellent book for the person who would like to know anything or everything about Islam and the Arabic world today. It covers the subject sympatheticaly and completely: it could be a one-book reference for understanding today's Islamic and Arabic peoples. Men and women in our government should read this book to understand dealing with Arabian and other Islamic peoples. Covers from A to Z and seems strangely "modern" for a book published quite a few years ago ... includes the beginnings and development of Islam, origins of the multitude of sects, the nature of the Arabic people, and other considerations. An excellent, well-written background book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A must read if you want to learn about this religon from the inside. 14 July 2013
By Vincent Lauria - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written by one of the foremost authorizes of Islam of his time. Well done and many references from Islamic writers to back up his book. This is not a one sided approach to this religion, but well balanced.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Before 9/11, religious tolerance and political correctness 17 Mar 2012
By C P Slayton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Events like Sept 11, academic influences of political correctness and movements in religious tolerance have all led to a wide range of scholarship on Islam today. I was curious to see how the literature on Islam has changed in the past decades so I picked up this book. Ideas like Guillaume's may not be as common any more as most scholars look for new angles with which to view Islam.

Alfred Guillaume takes a respectful but critical look at the formation of Islam. He credits the prophet Mohammad with a keen sense of politics and mediation, religious knowledge and noble character. Guillaume links the Arab culture in the time of Mohammad to numerous developments in Islam. The Qur'an, according to Guillaume, was doubtless an incredible work of literature if still borrowing from Jewish and Christian sources.

Not many mainstream authors come right out and claim that Islam is a product of its historical context. Guillaume goes as far as to claim that many Islamic teachings during Mohammad's time are clearly products of a human being unable to predict the limits of fabricated theology and ethical practice in the stream of history. But Guillaume expresses all these ideas without slander, which did garner him much respect in the Muslim world at the time.

According to Guillaume, Shari'a was a later product in Islam, never meant to be an unbending system of law. In some ways, Guillaume agrees with the current Salafist view of a purer Islam, in the time of Mohammad, free from the trappings of sectarianism or meddling and corrupt Imams. On further commentary to the future of Islam, Guillaume predicted that Islam would continue to modernize, loosen its Shari'a interpretation with an overemphasis on divorce laws as his example.

Guillaume's predictions were not quite right. What happened? Islam went through a period of relaxation and then entered a period, through the 1990s of entanglement and then now, post Arab Spring, rebirth in wide-spread religious zeal. Guillaume gives a hint at Islamic ethics remarking how any public opinion on the Qu'ran, no matter how liberal, will always see it as the direct Word of God. Orthodoxy, as Guillaume puts it, will be all but impossible to remove from public life.

In Islam, ethics is active, not passive. No matter what the level of liberalism within Muslim countries and communities, any perception to the effect that Islam, physically or ideologically, is under attack, will increase religious zeal and fervor all the more. Perhaps that is what the 21st century is no experiencing. The book is worth a look.
older but still useful book on Islam 16 Sep 2014
By Wayne S. Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Islam has been in the news almost daily at least since Islamic terrorists ran airplanes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, NY, and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on Sept. 11, 2001, and is still there today with the current advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or the Levant, either ISIS or ISIL). When I was at the University of Akron, even then (1970s) the politically correct powers that be determined that to graduate all students had to have three quarters of non-Western culture. If you are old enough, you may remember that Jesse Jackson was running around in those days and leading students in the chant, “Hey ho, Hey ho, Western Civ has got to go.” One of the cultures I chose was Middle Eastern, and a study of Middle Eastern civilization is almost equivalent to a study of the Islamic religion. The two books that we used for texts were Islam by Alfred Guillaume and The Arabs by Anthony Nutting. Islam, though relatively short, covers all aspects of the religion, from the past through to the present day, beginning with a historical background, then discussing the life of Muhammad, the development of the Quran, the spread of the Islamic empire, the division into sects, and the state of Islam today. It ends with a short critique of “The Relation of Islam to Christianity,” and is a popular, accessible guide for anyone wanting to know more about this spiritual and cultural tradition, which has millions of followers around the world. One reviewer said that it “seems strangely ‘modern’ for a book published quite a few years ago.”

Author Alfred Guillaume (1888–1965) was an Arabist and Islamic scholar. One source identified him as a French historian and Catholic priest. He took up Arabic after studying Theology and Oriental Languages at the University of Oxford. In the First World War he served in France and then in the Arab Bureau in Cairo. He became Professor of Arabic and the Head of the Department of the Near and Middle East in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He was later Visiting Professor of Arabic at Princeton University in New Jersey. During the Second World War the British Council invited him to accept a visiting professorship at the American University of Beirut where he greatly enlarged his circle of Muslim friends. The Arab Academy of Damascus and the Royal Academy of Baghdad honored him by electing him to their number, and the University of Istanbul chose him as their first foreign lecturer on Christian and Islamic theology. Because Guillaume, who was one of the foremost authorities of Islam in his time, identified himself as a Christian, he is not completely unbiased, but this respectful yet critical work, while a fairly scholarly monograph, is generally considered to be a useful, sympathetic introduction to the history and teachings of the world’s fastest growing religion. There are many references from Islamic writers to back up the claims so that it is not a one sided approach but well balanced.

Today, we are being told that Islam is a religion of peace. Everyone realizes that there are peaceful Muslims, but the history of Islam is not a history of peace. Islam began its history as Muhammad led his Muslim armies in 630 from Medina, Arabia, to conquer the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, giving them the choice of converting to Islam or being put to death. The Islamic Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711, conquering much of Spain with the same choice of conversion or death. From there, the Umayyad Muslims continued to push on into Europe with the intention of conquering as much territory for Islam as possible until stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. Then there were the Crusades, which have been used by atheists and Muslims alike as proof that Christianity is evil. While not condoning the Crusades and especially the abuses which characterized some of them, I feel it necessary to point out that up until around 1070, Christians, Jews, and Arabs lived pretty much peacefully together in Palestine before the Islamic Seljuq Turks conquered it 1072 and began killing Christians and Jews making pilgrimages. In 1095 Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to holy places in and near Jerusalem. So, despite what you hear about “Christian aggression,” the Crusades began as a defensive war to protect Christians and Jews from Islamic aggression. Then there was the conquest of Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire, by an invading army of Islamic Ottoman Turks. Is Islam a religion of peace? History says otherwise.
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