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Islam: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 24 Feb 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (24 Feb. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853899
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.3 x 10.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 335,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"Malise Ruthven's book answers the urgent need for an introduction to Islam... He addresses major isssues with clarity and directness, engages dispassionately with the disparate stereotypes and polemics on the subjects, and guides the reader surely through the urgent debates about fundamentalism."--Michael Gilsenan, New York University

About the Author

Malise Ruthven is renowned as a commentator on Islam and the Arab world. A former scriptwriter with the BBC Arabic and World Services, his previous publications include Islam in the World and The Divine Supermarket: Shopping for God in America.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book because it is recommended for an OU course. I am not Moslem so I needed a fairly basic introduction. Some books I looked at are so basic that they would insult almost anyone's intelligence, while others are aimed at people who already have a sound knowledge. This book is pitched at exactly the right level for the intelligent beginner.
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Format: Paperback
This is one in a series of introductions to various world religions. It is a very useful book for either the student of religion or the interested person-in-the-street. I should declare a personal interest in that the author was one of my lecturers two years ago before he moved on to better things. The book is written in an accessible style with enough information to inform but not drown the reader. The problem with a book such as this is what to include and what to exclude and although there is nothing missing that should be there, the problem is that the appetite is whetted rather than satisfied. The book discusses a variety of current issues and treats the Islamic position with respect. Well worth buying.
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This is very good as an introduction to Islam but I did find the early chapters slightly confusing - not because it is badly written (it isn't) but simply because the early history of Islam is very confusing - the early doctrinal shifts. In other words, I suppose I would have preferred it to be even shorter and simpler. But that is a reflection of me. I certainly finished the book with a clearer understanding of what is happening in the modern world - which is what I wanted - and I finished the book with an increased admiration for Islam - a much-misunderstood religion. The maps are excellent.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This pocket-sized volume is an excellent means for the serious reader to move towards an in-depth understanding of Islam. It is well illustrated with photographs and maps, and the author introduces a wealth of Islamic quotations. The vocabulary is academic to a degree, but the sentence structure is straightforward, making it readily accessible for those with a reasonable level of English. Together with its companion volumes on the other major world religions, this is a set book for the Open University course "Introducing Religions" (A217).

Those looking for an easier read might consider "Understanding My Muslim Neighbour", which uses a dialogue form to explore the main characteristics of Islam from a Christian viewpoint.
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Format: Paperback
These Very Short Introductions can be a little deceptive- they are not elementary `idiot's guides'. Ruthven's book assumes the reader has a certain amount of background knowledge both in terms of the religion of Islam as well as current affairs. The absolute beginner might find the book a little hard going (as reflected in some of the other readers' Amazon reviews). This book offers an overview of certain critical issues such as Islamism, gender, and problems associated with Shariah Law. Ruthven is keen to draw a distinction between `Islam' the religion, and `Islamism' as political process; (he dismisses the term `Fundamentalist' borrowed, as it is, from Christianity), and anticipates its demise through the increase of pluralism. Elsewhere he notes that through the attacks on America and London, Islamism had demonstrated their nihilism and the moral cul-de-sac they have got themselves into. Ruthven also highlights the impact of the lack of any ordained central religious authority that stands between the believer and God leaving as it does, a power vacuum. All of this makes for a very interesting and informative read; the level of expression is first class. A great deal is achieved in this small book, but it is probably not aimed at the uninformed.
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I read a lot. I read a lot of history and I enjoy 'dipping in' to subjects that interest me. If I want to go deeper I can. I have read a few of these short introductions now and enjoyed them. This is the first one I felt a need to make a comment about. The author makes a common mistake made by many historical writers. Their academic qualifications have left the general reader behind. There are a lot of big fancy words in this short introduction and they don't need to be there. My humble advice to the author is simplfy everything linguistically, this would be a much better introduction following that rule.
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I've always rated this book quite highly. Students find the opening chapter hard-going, but it is easier after that. This updated edition maintains the distinction it makes in the earlier edition between Islam and Islamism, stressing that the latter is not Islam. But it doesn't come across as convincing and isn't a sufficiently self critical idea (other scholars have argued quite strongly that this is simplistic; and it isn't clear which model is being used as normative of the religion). I have sympathy with the approach, but the early chapters left me not fully convinced.

Being a little picky, I feel the very familiar passages, now quite old, swiftly brought up-to-date by recent events seems a little lazy. The book probably needs a re write (following what is happening with other VSIs on religions).
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By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
I know some people have commented that this book came across as obscure and complex, but luckily for me I didn't find that. I found it incredibly helpful and illuminating in what is a deeply complex religion. The key facts that I was able to take away with me have helped to shape my understanding of Islam and what it means to be a Muslim. I thought that it was well written and extremely interesting.
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