The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

November 23, 2007

Book review: Book offers interesting overview of Islam


By Matthew S. Gordon

Part of the “World Religions” series, “Islam” presents the second largest religion for those familiar with it and those just learning.

The book opens with a world map that highlights the areas of the world in which Muslims live and goes on to give a brief overview of Islam. The book addresses the common misconceptions of Islam, such as all Muslims are Arabs and that Islam teaches its followers to be violent. In fact, the majority of Muslims are not Arab and do not speak Arabic, and Islam teaches Muslims to be peaceful. Only Islamic extremists tend to be violent and hateful toward Westerners.

“Islam” looks at the history of Islam from before its foundation to the stories of Muhammad’s revelations from God and on to its presence in the 21st century. Gordon is careful to point out that Islam holds many prominent Christian and Jewish figures like Moses, Abraham, and Jesus “in high esteem.” He also points out that like Christianity and Judaism, Islam teaches that there is only one God, Allah. “Allah,” according to Gordon, is the Arabic word for God and refers to the world’s creator.

Muhammad’s revelations came when he was about 40 from the angel Gabriel. At first, Muhammad questioned these revelations and, subsequently, his sanity. Gabriel was persistent, though, and soon Muhammad came to realize that he was chosen by Allah to be His messenger. Muhammad’s teachings were well-received by some, but others, particularly the wealthy and powerful merchants in Mecca (one of Islam’s holy cities), did not think his teachings were good for business since his teachings challenged the polytheistic belief system on which their wealth relied.

The negative reception by the powerful leaders in Mecca made it necessary for Muhammad and his followers to leave Mecca and find a more friendly home. Gordon goes on to report on Muhammad’s and his followers’ travels and their struggle to find acceptance and recruit new members until they were finally able to settle once again in Mecca.

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