A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam
by I. A. Ibrahim
This small, brightly-illustrated booklet sets forth the basic tenets of Islam, and I thought it would be worth a look in these day days of suicide bombings and general Middle Eastern unpleasantness. Presumably intended as an introduction for potential converts, this booklet argues facts that might prove the validity of Islam, the benefits of joining, and lastly provides some background information on the religion. We open with “Scientific Miracles in the Holy Qur’an”. Mixing religion and science is always dangerous, and here the effect is particularity unconvincing. A number of Qur’anic passages that allude to models for various physical phenomenon are discussed, and for each a Reputable Scientist (with half a page of credentials) concludes something to the effect of: “Mohammed COULDN’T have know this is in the 7th century, therefore is MUST be revealed divine truth.” I find this dangerous ground from which to defend a faith. One might easily find equally credentialed specialists to say exactly the opposite, and who can really say what Mohamed knew or heard or just guessed? The Greeks made quite a few insightful guesses about atomic theory and the structure of the universe, and no one claims that as a revelation.
The second part of the book is just a few pages, and lists the benefits of belief — inner peace, salvation, forgiveness of sins, and a pleasant afterlife. All good points, and all offered by the major competing faiths in varying details. It’s the last section of the book that is most enlightening to the non-Muslim reader. Here the basic tenets of what Islam believes are reviewed. Islam in part sprang from the divisive heresies that split Christianity in its early years, and the one thing Islam accomplished is a complete dismissal of the Gnostic problems of the relation between Jesus, God and man. No more Trinity, no “is Jesus half-man or all man or all God?” It’s Allah or nothing, and that’s that. Of course, Islam is now divided along Sunni/Shiite lines, and just as Christianity provided an excuse to wage tribal warfare in Europe, that same sort of fight lives on in the peaceful, tolerant, and enlightened Islamic world. That sore point isn’t covered, but then this is a sort of sales brochure.
There are a few words about terrorism (Officially, Islam is against it) and the place of women (Officially, women have it pretty darned good). Obviously, not everyone who claims any faith adheres to the official party line, but here both of the issues that make many Westerners mistrust Islam are brushed aside in a trivialized manner. Clearly, random acts of civilian violence are committed by people who claim they are following this faith, but this booklet will not enlighten you as to why, nor does it really distance itself from the process.
Islam is a significant force in today’s political battles, and it’s probably worthwhile for people to learn a little background from a source that doesn’t have to make ratings numbers every week. This book or the associated web site is a reasonable start, even if they gloss over the details. Will it convert you? Well, that’s between you and Allah. I’m staying where I was before I read this book.
A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam: www.islam-guide.com