Islam: The Straight Path
By John L. Esposito
Due to recent events (the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, September, 11), I decided that I should stop listening to what people in the media say about Islam and find out for myself what Islam stands for. In John L. Esposito's Islam: The Straight Path I found a fairly easy to read and informative guide to understanding the world's second largest religion. Mr. Esposito divides his book into three parts: The first consists of the early history of the Muslim community, the second part reports on Islamic beliefs and practices, and the third part deals with modern issues with Islam. I love history, so the first section dealing with the history of Islam was quite interesting. Esposito begins with a brief history of the Prophet Muhammad and then goes into a more lengthy discussion of the Quran. I found it interesting to actually see excerpts of the Quran that dealt with the issue of Jesus Christ and the Jews claim that they are the sons of God. Also of interest was that Muslims see the Quran as God's correction of the scriptures given to the Jews and Christians. They don't see the bible as being wrong; it is just not telling the whole story. Finally, the author gives a good review of what happened to the medieval Islamic world. Most of this history was new to me (such as the Safavid and Mughal empires), but some of it was familiar (the Crusades, and the Sunni/Shia dislike of each other). This section was, by far, my favorite section in the book. The second section of Islam: The Straight Path deals solely with Islamic beliefs and rituals. Islam is not very different from Christianity in that there were/are conflicts between groups that believed in different interpretations of the holy book. One such disagreement is the belief that man has free will. Opponents argued that giving humans free will "limited an omnipotent God" (Esposito 70). Proponents maintained that "to deny free will ran counter to the sense of...
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