Islam: The Essentials by Tariq Ramadan

The Blurb On The Back:

What is Islam?

What are its principles, rituals, history, evolution and challenges?

What do words such as Allah, Sharia, Jihad and Infidel really mean? 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University (among other academic posts) and in this book (translated from French by Fred A. Reed), he aims to introduce readers to the principles, rituals, history, diversity and evolution of Islam together with an examination of the challenges that it faces today.

Each chapter is divided into subsections that introduces the governing principle and then breaks down the various interpretations and contradictions as they apply to Islam today.  It’s a lot of material to cover in one book (even an introduction) and at times it’s a very dense read – I’d definitely recommend dipping into the various subjects as and when you feel like it rather than reading it cover to cover.  There were also sections that I felt were covered a little too briefly such that I didn’t really grasp the intricacies of the subject matter – particularly when it came to discussing the different types of Islamic sciences where I really didn’t get the significance of the various schools.

The other main issue that I had with the book is that Ramadan comes at the subject very much from a liberal perspective and while he puts forward interesting arguments for why these are correct and relevant I would have appreciated some discussion of the literal interpretations and why some people find them more convincing or appealing.

That said I did learn an awful lot about Islam and Islamic history that I wasn’t previously aware of – notably in relation to sharia and jihad while Ramadan’s comments on contemporary challenges faced by Muslims is thought provoking and enlightening and as such if you want to find out more about Islam then this is a perfectly good place to start.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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