PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND SCIENCE: Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices

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PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND SCIENCE Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices, by S.A. Nigosian. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004. xix + 129 pages. Appends to p. 139. Gloss, to p. 143. Notes to p. 154. Bibl. to p. 168. Index to p. 178. $49.95 cloth; $19.95 paper.

Because of the recent proliferation of introductory texts on Islam, it has become all the more necessary for instructors to separate the wheat from the chaff in choosing course materials. Clearly, S. A. Nigosian's work is to be placed in the former category. As I read the text, I knew that it had been written by an experienced teacher. I was not at all surprised, therefore, to discover that Nigosian, Research Associate at Victoria College of the University of Toronto, is a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the University's School of Continuing Studies. The clarity, logical progression of thought, and directness of language characterizing the entire text make it an instructional boon.

A refinement of Nigosian's former work, Islam: The Way of Submission (1987), this book includes exactly what one would expect from an introduction: an account of the career of Muhammad (ch.l); a concise rehearsal of Islamic history from the time of the Rashidun caliphs until the contemporary period (ch. 2); an overview of the function and content of the Qur' an in Islamic life, as well as its relation to the Bible (touching on such controverted doctrines as the fatherhood of God, the divinity of Christ, and original sin) (ch. 4); a general presentation of the major themes and practical applications of the sunnah, the hadith literature, and shari'a (ch. 5); an examination of the Islamic "articles of faith" (God, angels, books, prophets, and the Last Day) as well as the principles of Islamic action (focusing on the pillars, social morality, and women's religious duties) (ch. 6); and the highlighting of aspects of personal and communal Islamic observances (ch. 7). In addition to these topics, common to virtually all books of this sort, Nigosian provides in his third chapter something of an unexpected bonus to the reader: a description of both the various sectarian subdivisions within the umma as well as the array of groups closely related to Islam. …