Author: Akbar S. Ahmed
Publisher: I. B. Tauris
Published: March 1999
My Rating: 2/5
As I now live in an Islamic dominant area, and I don’t really know much about the religion or the culture, I wanted to learn a bit about it. Islam Today wasn’t what I expected. I was hoping to learn the religion’s rules and values, and while this book does touch on them, it was more like a (very long) history lesson. In one way this is good as it shows how different areas of the world have affected the religion, as well as explaining the differences among Muslims. However I finished this book still not sure about much of the religion.
My main issue with the book was how defensive Akbar Ahmed is about Islam. He is constantly reminding us that we shouldn’t judge a community based on the actions of a few etc. To me this seemed a little redundant to keep repeating as presumably the reader who chooses to pick up this book is aiming to learn and understand, rather than to judge. Unfortunately, Ahmed then undermines everything he says about judging by assuming that ‘the West’ have x opinion of Islam. This irritated me as, as I’ve said, the chances are the reader wants to understand, and by being hypocritical in this way the author makes it a lot more difficult to believe and trust him.
Another reason I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who knows nothing of Islam (such as myself) is that the writing is very dense. It is difficult to follow and the fact that many new terms are thrown at us at once makes it much harder to understand what the author actually means.
Personally I feel this book is aimed at someone with a clear understanding of Islam as a religion, but who wishes to learn more about it as a culture. Ahmed not only explains how Islam grew across the world, but also brings up the many issues Muslims face today (though it has to be taken into consideration that Islam Today was republished over 10 years ago), going as far as giving suggestions on the perfect way to integrate all societies (though I doubt any of his suggestions are actually feasible in reality, as they seem more like a child’s simple answer of assuming everyone can accept each other – but that’s just my opinion). Therefore I would recommend this book to those who are looking for a more in-depth look at the history of Islam; however I doubt this is the best book out there on the subject, though it is one of the more available ones.