Recommended Resources

 

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The Great Caliphs: The Golden Age of the ‘Abbasid Empire

by Amira K. Bennison

In this accessibly written history, Amira K. Bennison contradicts the common assumption that Islam somehow interrupted the smooth flow of Western civilization from its Graeco-Roman origins to its more recent European and American manifestations. Instead, she places Islamic civilization in the longer trajectory of Mediterranean civilizations and sees the ‘Abbasid Empire (750–1258 CE) as the inheritor and interpreter of Graeco-Roman traditions.

At its zenith the ‘Abbasid caliphate stretched over the entire Middle East and part of North Africa, and influenced Islamic regimes as far west as Spain. Bennison’s examination of the politics, society, and culture of the ‘Abbasid period presents a picture of a society that nurtured many of the “civilized” values that Western civilization claims to represent, albeit in different premodern forms: from urban planning and international trade networks to religious pluralism and academic research. Bennison’s argument counters the common Western view of Muslim culture as alien and offers a new perspective on the relationship between Western and Islamic cultures.


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A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism

by John Buehrens

For those contemplating religious choices, Unitarian Universalism offers an appealing alternative to religious denominations that stress theological creeds over individual conviction and belief. In this new edition of the classic introductory text on Unitarian Universalism, which includes a revealing, entertaining foreword by best-selling author Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It), a new preface by UU moderator Denise Davidoff, and two new chapters by the authors, John Buehrens and Forrest Church explore the many sources of the living tradition of their chosen faith.


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Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book 1

by Neale Donald Walsch

Conversations with God Book 1 began a series that has been changing millions of lives for more than ten years. Finally, the bestselling series is now a movie, starring Henry Czerny (The Pink Panther and Clear and Present Danger) and Ingrid Boulting (The Last Tycoon). Produced and directed by Stephen Simon (producer of Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come) and distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Fox Home Entertainment, the theatrical release is set for October 27, 2006. The movie is the true account of Walsch (played by Cierny), who went from an unemployed homeless man to an “accidental spiritual messenger” and author of the bestselling book.


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The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad

by Lesley Hazleton

Muhammad’s was a life of almost unparalleled historical importance; yet for all the iconic power of his name, the intensely dramatic story of the prophet of Islam is not well known. In The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton brings him vibrantly to life. Drawing on early eyewitness sources and on history, politics, religion, and psychology, she renders him as a man in full, in all his complexity and vitality.

Hazleton’s account follows the arc of Muhammad’s rise from powerlessness to power, from anonymity to renown, from insignificance to lasting significance. How did a child shunted to the margins end up revolutionizing his world? How did a merchant come to challenge the established order with a new vision of social justice? How did the pariah hounded out of Mecca turn exile into a new and victorious beginning? How did the outsider become the ultimate insider?

Impeccably researched and thrillingly readable, Hazleton’s narrative creates vivid insight into a man navigating between idealism and pragmatism, faith and politics, nonviolence and violence, rejection and acclaim. The First Muslim illuminates not only an immensely significant figure but his lastingly relevant legacy.


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The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (New Approaches to Asian History)

by Stephen F. Dale

Between 1453 and 1526 Muslims founded three major states in the Mediterranean, Iran and South Asia: respectively the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires. By the early seventeenth century their descendants controlled territories that encompassed much of the Muslim world, stretching from the Balkans and North Africa to the Bay of Bengal and including a combined population of between 130 and 160 million people. This book is the first comparative study of the politics, religion, and culture of these three empires between 1300 and 1923. At the heart of the analysis is Islam, and how it impacted on the political and military structures, the economy, language, literature and religious traditions of these great empires. This original and sophisticated study provides an antidote to the modern view of Muslim societies by illustrating the complexity, humanity and vitality of these empires, empires that cannot be reduced simply to religious doctrine.


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The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750

by G.R. Hawting

Gerald Hawting’s book has long been acknowledged as the standard introductory survey of this complex period in Arab and Islamic history. Now it is once more made available, with the addition of a new introduction by the author which examines recent significant contributions to scholarship in the field. It is certain to be welcomed by students and academics alike.


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Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam (Peoples of the Ancient World)

by Robert G. Hoyland

Long before Muhammed preached the religion of Islam, the inhabitants of his native Arabia had played an important role in world history as both merchants and warriors
Arabia and the Arabs provides the only up-to-date, one-volume survey of the region and its peoples, from prehistory to the coming of Islam
Using a wide range of sources – inscriptions, poetry, histories, and archaeological evidence – Robert Hoyland explores the main cultural areas of Arabia, from ancient Sheba in the south, to the deserts and oases of the north. He then examines the major themes of
*the economy
*society
*religion
*art, architecture and artefacts
*language and literature
*Arabhood and Arabisation
The volume is illustrated with more than 50 photographs, drawings and maps.


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 A Voyage to Modernism: Syed Ahmed Khan

by  Syed Ahmed Khan

The nature of Muslim knowledge concerning the West through travel accounts makes for fascinating reading. The eighteenth-century encounters of Munshi Ihtisamuddin and Mirza Abu Taleb Khan, embedded in their travelogues, however, seem very distant and less urgent. With Syed Ahmed, however, begins an entirely new phase with his interplay between Muslims and the West, on the one hand, and between Islam and Christianity, on the other. Even though his portrait of England is sometimes facile, his account of his travels opens the door to new questions, particularly because this was the period when the relations between Europeans and Indians were at the centre of many debates. Consequently, passages in the Musafiran-i Landan introducing ‘Europe’ and ‘England’ are historically important enough to merit attention, since they are not used merely as fulsome descriptions of Western society’s advances, but also contain the germ of the justification for an Anglo-Muslim rapprochement. This makes the Musafiran-i Landan an important source for the construction of the history of an era. Its English translation, the first ever to be undertaken in full, makes it accessible to those who have no knowledge of Urdu. Although several accounts of ‘India and West’ are available, A Voyage to Modernism is of special significance. Set apart from his later endeavours like the Tahzibul Akhlaq and Asar-al Sanadid, it is the Syed’s impressions caught in A Voyage to Modernism that mattered to all those who knew anything about his standing in public life and his stature as an enlightened reformer in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This eminently readable translation is enriched by editorial interventions by translators and editors of the work, and supported by rare archival photographs


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Al-Ghazali’s Path to Sufism: His Deliverance from Error (al-Munqidh min al-Dalal)

by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

This text has long been recognized as not only an Islamic classic, but also as a great spiritual autobiography of one of the world’s greatest religious thinkers. It is the narrative of how one dedicated seeker of true knowledge and salvation, having probed various systems of thought and differing paths of learning and enlightenment, discovered the peace of the inner life and discipline of mystical spirituality.


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The Lives of Muhammad 

by Kecia Ali

Recent outbursts sparked by a viral video and controversial cartoons powerfully illustrate the passions and sensitivities that continue to surround the depiction of the seventh-century founder of Islam. The Lives of Muhammad delves into the many ways the Prophet’s life story has been told from the earliest days of Islam to the present, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Emphasizing the major transformations since the nineteenth century, Kecia Ali shows that far from being mutually opposed, these various perspectives have become increasingly interdependent.

Since the nineteenth century, two separate streams of writing, one hagiographic and the other polemical, have merged into a single, contentious story about the life of Muhammad. Protestant missionaries, European Orientalists, Indian and Egyptian modernists, and American voices across the spectrum, including preachers, scholars, Islamophobes, journalists, academics, and new-age gurus, debated Muhammad’s character and the facts of his life. In the process, texts written symbolically came to be read literally. Muhammad’s accomplishments as a religious and political leader, his military encounters with Meccans and Medinan Jews, and―a subject of perennial interest―his relationships with women, including his young wife Aisha, are among the key subjects writers engaged, repurposing early materials for new circumstances.

Many of the ideas about Muhammad that Muslims embrace today―Muhammad the social reformer, Muhammad the consummate leader, Muhammad the ideal husband―arose in tandem and in tension with Western depictions. These were in turn shaped by new ideas about religion, sexuality, and human accomplishments.


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Islam and the Destiny of Man (Suny Series, Islam)

by Charles Le Gai Eaton

Islam and the Destiny of Man by Charles Le Gai Eaton is a wide-ranging study of the Muslim religion from a unique point of view. The author, a former member of the British Diplomatic Service, was brought up as an agnostic and embraced Islam at an early age after writing a book (commissioned by T.S. Eliot) on Eastern religions and their influence upon Western thinkers. As a Muslim he has retained his adherence to the perennial philosophy which, he maintains, underlies the teachings of all the great religions.

The aim of this book is to explore what it means to be a Muslim, a member of a community which embraces a quarter of the world’s population and to describe the forces which have shaped the hearts and the minds of Islamic people. After considering the historic confrontation between Islam and Christendom and analysing the difference between the three monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), the author describes the two poles of Muslim belief in terms of ‘Truth’ and ‘Mercy’–the unitarian truth which is the basis of the Muslim’s faith and the mercy inherent in this truth. In the second part of the book he explains the significance of the Qur’an and tells the dramatic story of Muhammad’s life and of the early Caliphate. Lastly, the author considers the Muslim view of man’s destiny, the social structure of Islam, the role of art and mysticism and the inner meaning of Islamic teaching concerning the hereafter.

Throughout this book the author is concerned not with the religion of Islam in isolation, but with the very nature of religious faith, its spiritual and intellectual foundations, and the light it casts upon the mysteries and paradoxes of the human condition.


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