Although there are over one billion Muslims in the world, and over 10 million in the West, most discussion of Islam is based on cliches or outright prejudice. This lively and compelling book sets out to bridge the gulfs of misunderstanding. Islam, argues Akbar Ahmed, does not mean the subordination of women, contempt for other religions, opposition to the modern world or 'barbaric punishments' for petty crime. But outsiders can understand the realities of Islamic tradition only by explaining its sources. "Islam Today" starts with the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur'an's five pillars which govern the beliefs and behaviour of Muslims everywhere. In both historical and political terms, the great Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires have deeply marked the successor states in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. Ahmed's highly accessible text is an ideal introduction for non-Muslims and Muslims alike interested in the issues facing and raised by the Muslim world.
Akbar S. Ahmed is a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and has been a Visiting Professor at Princeton and Harvard Universities. He is the author of numerous books and articles.
Part 1 Introduction: raising questions - Islam and the west; locating the key to unlock Muslim society; misunderstanding Muslims; questions for our age. Part 2 What is Islam? the messenger - the prophet of Islam; the message - the holy Quran; Sunni and Shia divisions in Islam. Part 3 The challenge of the past - empires and dynasties: early Muslim history - the great Arab dynasties; the ideal model of European society - Muslim Spain; the Ottomans, 1300-1922; the Safavids, 1501-1857. Part 4 When worlds collide - Muslim nations and western modernity: the dilemmas of modern Turkey; Iran's Islamic quest; India and the creation of Pakistan and Bangladesh; issues in modernity -democracy, family, and identity. Part 5 Muslims as minorities: the problem of Muslim minorities; Muslims in the west; frontier Muslims -Islam in the Outer Hebrides; Islam in central Asia; the Muslims of India - a people in search of a destiny. Part 6 Islam in the age of the western media: Islam and the west - confrontation or consensus? concluding thoughts.