This readings list will introduce you to the intellectual vitality in scholarship about Islam and Muslims. These titles are recommended for their diversity of subject matter and their accessibility of information. The views expressed by the author’s may or may not agree with my personal viewpoints. Nonetheless they arouse curiosity and propel us forward to explore more. “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous” – Confucius
- Asma Afsaruddin’s “The First Muslims: History and Memory” – A fresh look at the origins and development of Islam, this is a fascinating reconstruction of the formative era of the Muslim community. Using a wealth of classical Arabic sources, it chronicles the lives of the Prophet Muhammad, his Companions, and the subsequent two generations of Muslims, together known as the the Pious Forebears. This accessible book takes a close look at the embryonic Muslim communities and explains the impact of the earliest converts on the development of Islam and its current beliefs. (Amazon). Available on Amazon.com.
- Tariq Ramadan’s “In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad” – In deliberately brief chapters, Ramadan brings Muhammad to life. He highlights Muhammad’s resolute faith in spite of setbacks like orphanhood and poverty, and upholds the prophet as a spiritual hero—bravely compassionate and unusually tolerant of others, including non-Muslims. Ramadan notes his extraordinary kindness, even to those he battled. (Publisher’s Weekly). Available on Amazon.com.
- Karen Armstrong’s “Islam: A Short History” – Delving deep into Islamic history, Armstrong sketches the arc of a story that begins with the stirring of revelation in an Arab businessman named Muhammad. His concern with the poor who were being left behind in the blush of his society’s new prosperity sets the tone for the tale of a culture that values community as a manifestation of God. Muhammad’s ideas catch fire, quickly blossoming into a political empire. As the empire expands and the once fractured Arabs subdue and overtake the vast Persian domain, the story of a community becomes a panoramic drama. (Amazon.com). Available on Amazon.com.
- Michael H. Morgan’s “Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists”- In an era when the relationship between Islam and the West seems mainly defined by mistrust and misunderstanding, it is important to remember that for centuries Muslim civilization was the envy of the world. Lost History fills a significant void and is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the major the early Muslims played in influencing modern society. Morgan reveals how early Muslim advancements in science and culture laid the cornerstones of the European Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modern Western society. Available on Amazon.com.
- Geneive Abdo’s “Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America after 9/11” – “Geneive Abdo’s work captures in great detail the immense hardships Muslim face in the post-September-11th world and offers hope for their success and co-existence in America. Her book shatters stereotypes about Muslims and teaches us that more understanding of Islam is needed for global peace.” –Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Available on Amazon.com.
- Karen Armstrong’s “Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time” – Karen Armstrong’s immaculately researched new biography of Muhammad will enable readers to understand the true origins and spirituality of a faith that is all too often misrepresented as cruel, intolerant, and inherently violent. An acclaimed authority on religious and spiritual issues, Armstrong offers a balanced, in-depth portrait, revealing the man at the heart of Islam by dismantling centuries of misconceptions. Armstrong demonstrates that Muhammad’s life—a pivot point in history—has genuine relevance to the global crises we face today. (Amazon.com). Available on Amazon.com.
- Bruce Lawrence’s “The Quran – A Biography” – Few books in history have been as poorly understood as the Qur’an. Sent down in a series of revelations to the Prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an is the unmediated word of Allah, a ritual, political, and legal authority, an ethical and spiritual guide, and a literary masterpiece. In this book, Bruce Lawrence shows precisely how the Qur’an is Islam. He describes the origins of the faith and assesses its tremendous influence on today’s societies and politics. Above all, Lawrence emphasizes that the Qur’an is a sacred book of signs that has no single message. It is a book that demands interpretation and one that can be properly understood only through its history. (Amazon.com). Available on Amazon.com.
- Tariq Ramadan’s “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam” - Ramadan, named by Time magazine in 2000 as one of the 100 most important innovators of the coming century, argues that Islam can and should feel at home in the West. He takes stock of Islamic law and tradition to analyze whether Islam is in conflict with Western ideals; Ramadan is emphatic that there is no contradiction. He then spells out several key areas where Islam’s universal principles can be “engaged” in the West, including education, interreligious dialogue, economic resistance and spirituality. Ramadan raises interesting issues about Islam’s inherent critique of consumerism and its demanding spirituality, which “touches all the dimensions of life.” Reed Business Information. Available on Amazon.com.
- John L. Esposito’s “What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam” – “An excellent primer on all aspects of Islam. The question-and-answer-format allows readers to skip ahead to areas that interest them, including hot-button issues such as ‘Why are Muslims so violent?’ or ‘Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?’ In his answers, which are anywhere from a paragraph to several pages long, Esposito elegantly educates the reader through what the Quran said, how Muslims are influenced by their local cultures, and how the unique politics of Islamic countries affect Muslims’ views.”–Publishers Weekly. Available on Amazon.com.