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Living in the Shade of Islam
Jul 1, 2003

Ismail Buyukcelebi
The Fountain, 2003, Paper Back, 422 pages, ISBN 1-932099-21-2

At a time when there is a vast interest in acquiring an accurate knowledge of Islam, this book is a welcome addition. What better way to learn of a religious tradition than having one who knows it intimately write about it? For decades, non-Muslims have been "informed" about Islam by non-Muslim Orientalists, ideologues who opposed it for various reasons, atheists, sociologists, Christian and other missionaries, and many similar people. All of them had just one overall view of Islam in common: It was outdated and therefore either in need of being reformed -- and of course only they could do the job properly -- or it should be thrown into the dustbin of history and replaced with modernity, science, secularism, or just about anything else.

This book refutes all such claims by revealing the underlying essence of Islam's beliefs and rituals. The author's obvious piety and profound knowledge immediately sets this book apart from similar works. After reading and pondering upon its five chapters: "The Meaning of Religion and a General Outline of Islam," Essentials of the Islamic Faith," "The Pillars of Islam and a Muslim's Daily Life," "Islamic Morality," and "Other Aspects of Islam"-no one can say that Islam is no more than a religion of outdated beliefs and empty ritual formalism that keeps its practitioners backward, passive, superstitious, and ignorant.

Non-Muslims, as well as "cultural" Muslims, will find chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 especially useful, for in them the author expounds upon the foundations of Islam and how they are similar to and differ from their Jewish and Christian counterparts. We learn how Muslims perceive God, spiritual beings, Divine Destiny (often misunderstood as predestination and the consequent lack of choice and free will), the Resurrection and the Afterlife, eschatology, the role of Jesus in the final days, death and the spirit after death, and other related topics. Also examined in detail is the Prophet's life and why Muslims consider him the best of humanity and their guide on the path of perfection in all spheres, as well as various social aspects: social life, administration, human rights, why Islam is spreading, and what we may expect in the future.

For Muslims, chapter 3 is the most beneficial, for it deals with the underlying and subtle meanings behind such well-known ritual practices as personal purity, performing the prescribed prayers (salat), fasting during the month of Ramadan, giving the prescribed alms (zakat), and making the pilgrimage to Makka. Issues related to the Muslim's personal life also are analyzed, among them marriage and family life, lawful (halal) and forbidden (haram) activities in one's social as well as professional life, and prayers. Especially helpful are the various prayers to be made on certain occasions.

Chapter 3 follows the traditional manuals long known to observant Muslims. But this one is different, for instead of just explaining what to do, the author explains why our Creator places such importance upon such attitudes and rituals, as well as what attitude that we should adopt toward Him as a result.

This book should be in the personal library of everyone who is looking for a comprehensive account of what Islam offers to humanity. It will be of great help to practising Muslims, for it provides a much deeper understanding of Islamic rituals and terminology, why humanity was created, and the exact nature of each person's relationship with his or her Creator. After reading it, no longer will Muslims be content with their usual rote recitation of the Qur'an and participation in Islam's sacred rituals. May this book find a wide audience, and may its readers seek to re-establish contact with their Creator.