Designed for general readers with little or no knowledge of Islam, this superb Oxford Dictionary provides more than 2,000 vividly written, up-to-date, and authoritative entries organized in an easy-to-use, A-to-Z format.
The Dictionary focuses primarily on the 19th and 20th centuries, stressing topics of most interest to Westerners. What emerges is a highly informative look at the religious, political, and social spheres of the modern Islamic world. Naturally, readers will find many entries on topics of intense current interest, such as terrorism and the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, the PLO and HAMAS. But the coverage goes well beyond recent headlines. There are biographical profiles, ranging from Naguib Mahfouz (the Nobel Prize winner from Egypt) to Malcolm X, including political leaders, influential thinkers, poets, scientists, and writers. Other entries cover major political movements, militant groups, and religious sects as well as terms from Islamic law, culture, and religion, key historical events, and important landmarks (such as Mecca and Medina). A series of entries looks at Islam in individual nations, such as Afghanistan, the West Bank and Gaza, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the United States, and there are discussions of Islamic views on such issues as abortion, birth control, the Internet, the Rushdie Affair, and the theory of evolution.
Whether we are listening to the evening news, browsing through the op-ed pages, or reading a book on current events, references to Muslims and the Islamic world appear at every turn. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam offers a wealth of information for anyone curious about this burgeoning and increasingly important world religion.
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John L. Esposito is University Professor of Religion and International Affairs and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. A past president of the Middle East Studies Association, he is Editor-in-Chief of the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of Islam, and the author of numerous books, including Islam: The Straight Path, Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, and What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam. He lives in Washington, D.C.
In this volume "designed for general readers with little or no knowledge of Islam," more than 2,000 alphabetically arranged entries treat "the religion of Islam and its impact on history, politics, and society." Editor Esposito also edited the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (1995), from which the new work extracts and updates material. Recent developments are reflected in the entries Bin Laden, Osama; HAMAS; Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); Qaeda, al-; and Taliban. There are also entries that describe Islam in various countries and regions, while the religious foundation of Islam is treated in the entries Pillars of Islam and Quran. The Islamic perspective on topics such as abortion and homosexuality is also provided. Although the focus is on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the inclusion of important persons and places in the history of Islam broadens the scope of the work.
The goal of creating a compact resource for the general reader may account for the lack of features such as supplemental bibliographies and an index. Cross-referencing isi nsufficient. The entry for Pillars of Islam has no see reference from "Five Pillars," a name by which they are also commonly known. Further, this entry fails to point the reader to the entries for each of the individual pillars, something an index and see also references could easily accomplish.
The standard reference tool for Islam is the ongoing Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill, 1954-). Densely academic, it is beyond the scope of many libraries and contains little in the way of contemporary issues. Another option is the single-volume The New Encyclopedia of Islam (AltaMira, 2001), which includes suggestions for further reading, illustrations, and better cross-references, though it, too, lacks an index and bibliographies for entries.
World events have sparked a keen interest in Islam. Despite its drawbacks, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam would be a useful addition to public and academic libraries. RBB
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