Islam: What Non-Muslims Should Know

Article excerpt

Islam: What Non-Muslims Should Know by John Kaltner Fortress, Minneapolis, 2003. 152 pp. $6.00. ISBN 0-8006-3583-3.

BY THE AUTHOR'S OWN admission, this is not a comprehensive introduction to Islam. Still, it covers a lot of ground and does so very ably. From the beginning, Kaltner rightly emphasizes that Islam is a complex religion, and while Muslims share certain beliefs and practices, there is a rich diversity among them. It is, therefore, important for non-Muslims to avoid making generalizations about Islam and Muslims, especially when reflecting upon violent and terrorist activities. Kaltner outlines the essential practices and beliefs of Islam and discusses the differences between Sunnis and Shi'is, Sufism, Islamic law, gender relations, the close connection between religion and politics from the Islamic perspective, and the meaning of the often-misunderstood term "jihad."

There are a few points with which one can take issue. For one, we read that the pilgrimage to Mecca ends with a sacrifice "that commemorates Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac" (p. 42). Although the Qur'an does not identify whom Abraham nearly sacrificed-a matter of debate among Muslims through the centuries-the majority of Muslims today would identify the intended victim as Ishmael. …