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REL102 - Great Religions of the World: Islam

Our Words: Muslims Speak

Overview of Islam

The Qur'an

Recommended Books Related to Islam and Muslims

(Adapted from Lori Kenschaft’s list)

All of these books are well-written and insightful, and recommended depending on your interests.  Those marked with an * are especially recommended.

First and foremost …

* Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes  (this well-written book helps me understand current events more than any other; written by an Afghan-American author, it starts in the centuries before Muhammad was born and ends on the eve of 9/11) [e-book available through the Library]

Islam 101 …

* Sumbul Ali-Karamali, The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing (the best over-all introduction to Islam I know, written by a Californian Muslim woman of South Asian descent who teaches Islamic law and writes in an easy, accessible style)

Biographies of Muhammad …

* Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time (Armstrong is a former nun who found her calling in writing and teaching about the world’s religions)

* Tariq Ramadan, In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad (Ramadan is a professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University and the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) [available in Lynn campus library: BP 76.2 .R36 2007]

About the Qur’an …

* Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations  (the best place to start if you are interested in the Qur’an – a very helpful introduction to the early suras, from the first Mecca years)

The long arc of Muslim history  …

* Reza Aslan, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam  (covers the same timeframe as Destiny Disrupted, with helpful differences in emphasis and analysis – argues that the Muslim world is currently undergoing a process similar to the European Reformation) [Available via OVERDRIVE]

Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam  (a now-classic history, published in 1992)

Recent ferment …

Robin Wright, Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion in the Islamic World  (an optimistic perspective) [available in Lynn campus library: JQ 1758 .A58 W75 2011]

Isobel Coleman, Paradise Beneath Her Feet:  How Women Are Transforming the Middle East (another optimistic perspective)

Karmia Bennoune, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Extremism (2013 book profiling Muslim artists, writers, educators, etc.)

Katherine Zoepf, Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World  (a New York Times journalist explores how young women’s lives are and are not changing in pre-war Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Egypt.

Memoirs …

* Leila Ahmed, A Border Passage: From Cairo to America – A Woman’s Journey  (by a professor of gender and religion at the Harvard Divinity School, who grew up in Cairo;  beautifully written and insightful, and one of my favorite books – highly recommended)

* Shahan Mufti, The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War (very helpful for understanding Pakistan)

* Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X  (I consider this a must-read book for all Americans;  includes a famous description of the hajj;  the Nation of Islam has changed a lot since the 1960s – it’s more Sunni and more believing that the message of Islam is for everyone, though still grounded in African-American communities)

* Shirin Ebadi, Iran Awakening: One Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Life and Country  (by a judge who participated in the 1979 revolution and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work for women’s rights under the Ayatollah’s regime;  quite helpful if you want to understand modern Iran, though it was written in 2006 and Iran has continued to change in the last decade)

* Qanta Ahmed, In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom  (by a woman of Pakistani origin, trained as a doctor in Great Britain, who spent two years in Saudi Arabia as a result of visa difficulties with the United States;  includes a description of the hajj that is very different from Malcolm X’s)

Novels …

* Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (chilling and insightful)

* Ayad Akhtar, American Dervish  (a thought-provoking coming-of-age story about a Pakistani-American boy)

* Tamim Ansary, The Widow’s Husband  (set in Afghanistan in the 1840s, which was a key decade)

* Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns  (set in recent decades, illuminating the recent history of Afghanistan)


Muslims in the United States …

* Moustafa Bayoumi, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America (portraits of nine young Arab men and women living in Brooklyn, with very interesting framing comments – highly recommended)