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Author Topic: Top 10 books for non-Muslims introductions to and learning about Islam  (Read 5269 times)
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« on: Jun 19, 2009 09:54 PM »

Reposted from Archives by request:

Here are my recommendations on the Top 20 books (in alphabetical order) for anyone interested in Islam or new Muslims. Most of these you can buy online from or other places.

1. Daughters of Another Path: Experiences of American Women Choosing Islam by Carol L. Anway - About the path of many American women to Islam

2. Gender Equity in Islam: Basic Principles by Jamal A. Badawi - Short book that explains all the basics about women in Islam in a beautiful way!

3. Islam - Empire Of Faith (DVD - 3hrs) PBS Documentary - Great Intro video on History of Islam by PBS.

4. Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong, Karen Armstrong (Hardcover - August 2000) - Great book that goes into misconceptions. Also written by a Non-Muslim but good.

5. Islam: The Straight Path by John L. Esposito (Paperback - January 1998) - THE intro book used in every Islam 101 class at universities. Decent although written by an orientalist.

6. Message of the Quran by Muhammad Asad - The most readable translation of the Quran by a German revert for those new or interested in Islam.

7. Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings
(Paperback - September 1987) - A very good biography of prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

8. Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (DVD - 2hrs) PBS Documentary produced by Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer - Comprehensive biography of the prophet Muhammad interspersed with how his life affects contemporary Muslims.

9. Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical & Modern Stereotypes by Katherine Bullock (Paperback) - Challenges perceptions about Muslim women's dress

10. Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam by Jeffery B. Lang - Great book on how one contemporary revert came to Islam and what he encountered on the way.

11. Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith by Michael Wolfe (Editor), Beliefnet - Collection of writings of Muslims post 9/11.

12. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, et al (Paperback - December 1989) - Malcolm's search for the truth and peace, and how he finally found it.

13. The Complete Idiot's Guide(R) to Understanding Islam by Yahiya Emerick - THE #1 introduction to Islam by an Irish American revert living in the States Smiley  despite the name a good book!!

14. The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks (Author) (Paperback - February 1997) - Nice book of Islamic poetry.

15. The Life of the Last Prophet (Casette) by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) - Really nice casette with spoken biography of prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and a few songs to listen to in the car too ?

16. The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Hardcover) - This is by far the translation that most English speaking Muslims use. The one I have at home Smiley

17. The Road to Mecca by Muhammad Asad (Paperback) - Fascinating autobiography of a German revert's life and travels in the 1900s.

18. The Vision of Islam by Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick. - A university text written by professors of Islam that covers the basics comprehensively and it's spiritual dimensions.

19. Towards Understanding Islam by Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi - Carefully researched and written.

20. What Everybody needs to know about Islam and Muslims by Suzanne Haneef - An excellent work.
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« Reply #1 on: Jun 19, 2009 09:59 PM »

Here is CAIR's list of recommended books from their library project:

The Life of the Last Prophet (Audio)

Yusuf Islam (Formerly Cat Stevens), Mountain of Light Productions

This spoken-word audio biography of Muhammad has been applauded by audiences for its production style and narration. It was written and produced by the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, who has sold over 60 million albums worldwide to date. It also features Yusuf Islam's first song, a classical tribute to the Prophet, after seventeen years away from the recording studio. 70 minutes.

The Hajj: One American's Pilgrimage to Mecca (Video)

ABC News "Nightline"

Michael Wolfe, who is a Muslim convert, was born the son of a Christian mother and a Jewish father. He takes his viewers step-by-step through the spiritual side of the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, explaining the origins and meanings of the various rituals. 22 minutes.

Islam: A Closer Look (Video)

Licensed by Astrolabe Islamic Media

A wonderful and thought-provoking exploration of Islam. Well known personalities such as Imam Hamza Yusuf, Dr. John Esposito, Nancy Ali, and basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon share their understanding of the faith while tackling stereotypes. 30 minutes.

ISLAM: Empire of Faith (DVD)

Robert Gardner, PBS

Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley, this three-hour program tells the spectacular story of the great sweep of Islamic power and faith during its first 1,000 years, from the birth of the Prophet Muhammad to the peak of the Ottoman Empire. Evocative re-enactments and a remarkable exposition of Islamic art, artifacts and architecture are combined with interviews with scholars from around the world.

The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?

John L. Esposito, Oxford University Press

An objective, thorough response to those who try to oversimplify events in the Muslim world, and demonize Islam. The text examines key developments in the last century, including the rise of Islamic movements, Muslim nation-states and the implications of recent international incidents including terrorism. 292pgs.

"One of America's foremost authorities and interpreters of Islam'offers an informed and reasoned discussion of Islam in politics." The Wall Street Journal

The Essential Koran

Thomas Cleary, HarperSanFrancisco

"For Muslims, the whole of the Quran is sacred, but there are certain passages which are more accessible to those seeking from the outside to understand its meaning. The present translation has the virtue of making many such passages available in easily comprehensible language, thereby opening the doors for many readers to the inexhaustible treasure of the Sacred Text." Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University. 224pgs. 

Critical Lives: Muhammad

Yahiya Emerick, Alpha Books

This concise, informative biography explores:

   * Muhammad's background and boyhood, as well as the culture and society in which he lived.
   * A look at Muhammad as a family man, and how his personal life was a testament to his high regard for women.
   * Muhammad's mission as a prophet and his new religion's philosophy on topics ranging from monotheism to interfaith relations.
   * The Quran and how it was revealed, how Muslims view it in their religious life, and the concept of jihad from Muhammad's perspective.


Daughters of Another Path: Experiences of American Women Choosing Islam

Carol L. Anway, Yawna Publications

The rapid growth of Islam in America is a current phenomenon. Why are our American daughters leaving their Christian backgrounds and choosing Islam, a religion that requires discipline, submission, and being "different?" This book reveals some of the reasons and thought processes that led these daughters into a new journey in their spiritual life. 214 pgs.

Gender Equity in Islam

Dr. Jamal Badawi, American Trust Publications

This book presents an overview of the status and rights of Muslim women as defined by the Quran and Prophetic tradition. In this brief but important work, Dr. Jamal Badawi examines the spiritual, social, economic and political aspects of women's position in Islam. It was originally presented at the UN Conference on Women in Beijing.


Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People

Jack G. Shaheen, Olive Branch Press

This passionately written and meticulously documented book shows the persistent and prolonged vilification of Arab peoples in mainstream Western movies. Offering reviews of the 900 films he has seen or researched over 20 years, the author shows a century of offensive stereotypes the image of the 'dirty Arab' has reemerged over the last 30 years, even as other groups have more or less successfully fought to eliminate the use of racist stereotypes. 592pgs.

Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas

Sylviane A. Diouf, New York University Press

A book retracing the "influential footsteps" of African Muslims in America. It asserts that Islam was clearly the first revealed religion followed by African slaves in the Americas. It describes their struggles in upholding practice of Islam, trying to return to Africa, preserving literacy through understanding the Quran, and resisting missionary pressures. It summarizes the enduring legacy of Islamic culture in African-American names, songs, rituals and religious ceremony. 251 pgs.

"A welcome and timely work on a subject of great importance. By combining materials in African Islam with New World sources and thereby linking both sides of the Atlantic, the author provides a fresh angle on studies of the Diaspora. Readers will find in the book a great deal of information presented in a clear, lively style." Lamin Sanneh, D. William James Professor of Missions and World Christianity, and Professor of History, Yale University

The Meaning of The Holy Quran

Translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana Publications

This book is by far the best known, most studied, and most respected English translation of the Quran. It was the first monumental and authoritative work of its kind and it subsequently inspired many such similar endeavors.

Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam

Paul Findley, Amana Publications

Congressman Paul Findley chronicles his far-flung trail of discovery, the false stereotypes of Islam that linger in the minds of the American people, the corrective actions that the leaders of America's seven million Muslims are undertaking, and the community's remarkable progress in mainstream politics. 323pgs.

Eyewitness: Islam

Philip Wilkinson

A colorful book for children and young adults that explores the faith, culture, and history that has shaped the modern Islamic world. Beautiful photographs and drawings enhance this unique book.


Teaching about Islam & Muslims in the Public School Classroom: a Handbook for Educators

Council on Islamic Education

Now in its third edition, this popular publication helps American educators presented with the task of accurately and fairly teaching about Islam and Muslims in primary and secondary schools. It contains information on Muslim beliefs and practices, an Islamic terms glossary, charts and relevant graphics, a section on the needs of Muslim students in public schools, and an annotated list of recommended primary and supplementary materials (including audio/visuals) grouped by topic. This book has been reviewed for accuracy by academics and Muslim scholars.

"I would highly recommend this as a resource. It grapples with issues often raised by students and provides the teacher with background information as well as factual details." Penelope Maguire, 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Apex Middle School, Apex, NC

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam

Yahiya Emerick, Alpha Books

You're no idiot, of course. You know Islam is an ancient religion with millions of followers and has a profound impact on world affairs. But are you aware of how many facets of modern life were influenced by Islamic inventions and discoveries? Or that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States? This book takes you back to the origins of Islam and explores its beliefs and practices through the centuries and in the present. 408pgs.

Celebrating Ramadan

Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith, Holiday House

Join Ibrahim and his family from New Jersey as they take you through the month of Ramadan. Fasting, giving charity, gathering as a family, praying in the masjid and preparing for Eid are all well presented in a warm and endearing style. Photographs bring the story to life. The book is highly recommended to explain Ramadan to friends and in public schools. 32pgs.

"The book captures an aspect of the unique cultural interpretation of the Muslim community during Ramadan and Eid in the contemporary United States." Council on Islamic Education


Suhaib Hamid Ghazi, Holiday House

A clear and informative description of one boy's celebration of Ramadan is skillfully brought to life by Omar Rayyan's warm and joyful illustrations. Awarded Book of the Year by the National Council for the Social Studies, it is a perfect book to take to school and share. 30pgs.
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« Reply #2 on: Jun 19, 2009 10:00 PM »

From Mr. Bean:


I wonder whether the general non-muslim can understand the quran just by reading it like a novel.  There are too many verses which are surrounded by history and circumstance.  Maybe it is then very good to have a commentary. 

Particular good ones are

(1a) A Thematic Commentary on the Qur'an  by Mohammed al-Ghazali
He is the eminent and recently deceased scholar and  dawah worker (you can get a much cheaper copy at an islamic bookstore

(1b) The Qur'an Themes & Style by Muhammad Abdel Haleem
He is a professor of Arabic at the famous SOAS (School of Orental and Asian Studies) in London and is a hafiz

Also the biography of the Prophet  is one of the best ways to solidify belief in Islam.  A really good one is

(1)  Remembrance and Prayer by  Mohammed al-Ghazali
Nobody can but be touched by the prayers of the prophet. It is a really cool  book
(2) The Martin Lings book.
Everybody likes this book except those who don't like martin lings because he is a bit sufistic.


(1) Hadith Qudsi by Imam an-Nawawi
(my hero --- do you know he didn't lie down for ten years?! Every moment was spent working (in scholarship)  or in dhikr.  He was the ultimate islamic geek)
(2) 40 Hadith by Imam Nawawi.
Every muslim  should know this book backwards and forwards. Although a non-muslim probably needs some  help with it and extra commentary.


(1) The Koran by N.J. Dawood.
this is a bit contraversial because the translater is jewish (i think), and the original edition decades ago appeared in a non-traditional order.  But I don't know of any other translation which gets accross the message in an easier or more elegant way. (And after all that is what a translation is supposed to do).   It reads a bit  like a novel (which i really like) and is extremely nice to read. 

The Islamic attitude:

Any book by the Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge.  Particurly good ones are

(1) Al-Ghazali The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife by Imam Abu Hamid Al-ghazali and translated by T.J. Winter.
An absolutely  wonderful book.
(2) Al-Ghazali Invocations and Supplications translated by K Nakamura
(3)  Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya on the Invocation of God translated by Moulay Youssef Slitine, Michael Abdurrahman Fitzgerald

To learn Arabic (for muslims and serious people)

(1a) An Introduction to  Koranic and Classical Arabic by William Thackston. 
(1b) An Introduction to  Koranic and Classical Arabic: Key to Excercises by William Thackston.
This is a hard book if you don't understand grammar terminology.  But if you know this book you really know arabic grammar.  All you then have to do is practice reading and this book explicitly uses the quran to teach.  Most of the excercises come from the quran and the hadith. Also it is very concise (I hate fat books) and has a little companion book Called Key to Excercises, which gives answers to all the excercises.  This used to be the course text for the 1st year classical arabic course at Harvard.  Although because it is a bit hard, i think it is not followed that well anymore. (Thackston is a harvard prof and used to teach this course frequently.)

I guess this list is a bit more advanced than "An idiot's guide...." but tis the next step  i guess....

For any audio: Any lecture by T.J. Winter aka Abdul Hakim Murad -- the most amazing  and eloquent scholar  i have ever, ever, ever met.  He is a genius (I.Q wise) with a  heart of gold and very humble.  I know him well since he often used to give the friday khutbah when I was a grad student.  He is a lecturer in the School of Divinity at U of Cambridge.

A very quick google search produced :
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