Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam


Islam can be one of the most misunderstood religions. For some people it is a religion of war, while for the others it is a religion of peace. So there is a great need for an academic and sympathetic understanding of Islam. The author introduces Islam in its many dimensions covering the main historical, theological, practical, ethical, spiritual, social, and global themes. The bed-rock of Islam is the unity of God based on the Qur'anic revelation. But on this foundation a wide diversity of approaches and understandings have been built, ranging from the theological, philosophical, and Sufistic to the fundamentalist, traditionalist, modernist, and post-modernist of recent times. The book presents Islam from a mainstream and moderate perspective.


Islam is the world's second largest religion and the Islamic civilisation is one of the great civilisations in history. Islamic faith, ethics and spirituality guide about 1.3 billion Muslims, 25 million of whom live in the West, helping them to live a life of virtue and happiness both in this world and in the hereafter. In Western Europe, the number of immigrant Muslims lies somewhere between six and eight million. In countries like France and England, Islam has become the second most important religion. Islamic mystics or Sufis, like Ibn al-'Arabi and Rumi, have become a best-selling publishing phenomenon and they have provided valuable insights and inspiration, even to many contemporary non-Muslims, concerning divine love, religious tolerance and spiritual development.

However, Islam is also one of the most misunderstood religions, especially, indeed increasingly, today. A strange idea has become firmly lodged in the imagination of people across the world, namely that there is a clash between Islam and Western civilisation. For some people Islam is a religion of war and violence, while for others it is a religion of peace and harmony as the literal translation of Islam into English indicates. Similar alternative, monolithic and reductionist views or images have been put forward about Muslims, too. For some people all Muslims are terrorists and intolerant people, while for others it is impossible for a Muslim to be a terrorist nor can a terrorist be a Muslim. There are many other controversial issues about Islam and Muslims in our contemporary world. This highlights the urgent need for an academic and sympathetic understanding of Islam.

In its theological dimension the bedrock of Islam is the 'unity of God' or ethical monotheism based on the Qur'anic revelation. The motto of Muslims, as enunciated in the Qur'an, is 'the best in this world as well as the best in the Hereafter'. But numerous different approaches, understandings and forms of applications have been built on these foundations, ranging from the theological, philosophical and Sufic to the fundamentalist, traditionalist, modernist and postmodernist of recent times.

In this book, however, I will try to present Islam from a mainstream and moderate perspective rather than from a specific point of view. I use the concept of moderate here not only in its contemporary and controversial meaning restricted to political and social issues but rather in its perennial and more comprehensive meaning. For moderation is one of the most significant and respected values and virtues of Islamic religion, both in religious . . .

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