Cover image for Portrait of Islam : a journey through the Muslim world
Portrait of Islam : a journey through the Muslim world
Laurance, Robin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Thames & Hudson, [2002]

Physical Description:
168 pages : color illustrations, map ; 28 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BP161.3 .L38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



The wonderful and positive images captured by Robin Laurance on his photographic journey through the heart of Islam - from the desolate open spaces of the mid-Atlas mountains in Morocco to the lush green paddy fields of Southeast Asia - will do much to dispel such ignorance of the realities of the Muslim world, of its extraordinary achievements and of the way of life of its ordinary men and women as they pursue their everyday existence. As a foretaste to the photographs, Dr Robin Ostle provides a valuable background, explaining the historical background and principles of Islam; the tenets of the faith; its place in law, state and society; and its relation to the other two great monotheistic religions - Judaism and Christianity. This timely book shows the Islamic lands and people as they really are: richly colourful, markedly diverse and, above all, powerfully inspiring.

Author Notes

Robin Laurance began his career as a photographer with The Guardian, and has subsequently worked on assignments for many other newspapers and magazines. His book The Millennium Generation was published by Thames & Hudson in 1999.

Dr Robin Ostle is a fellow in Modern Arabic at St John's College, Oxford, and has published widely on many aspects of the Middle East.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This lavishly illustrated coffee-table book uses Laurance's compelling photographs to elucidate the tremendous diversity of the Islamic world. It is arranged geographically, with sections on North and West Africa; the Near East and Middle East; South Asia; and Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation). Photojournalist Laurance has an appreciation of apparent paradox, as displayed in one particularly memorable image: a Jordanian woman, dressed from head to toe in black with no part of her face showing, sits in an outdoor caf sipping coffee and chatting on her cell phone. Some of the photos show very clearly the variance of daily life from one Muslim nation to another; in one picture, an oil worker in Algeria stops work to observe midday prayers in the scalding desert, while in another, young men carefully drag firewood through the snowy tundra of Azerbaijan. The short captions help readers understand the photos' significance, but they never become obtrusive; one particularly useful caption explains that a pictured 800-year-old adobe granary has 114 storage rooms-one for each surah (chapter) of the Qur'an. Images of a very modern life (the Kuwaiti stock exchange, a family of five riding a single motorcycle in Lahore, Pakistan) are juxtaposed with other pictures that seem timeless. In one such photo, two young boys bend over a copy of the Qur'an, which they must learn by heart; in another, two old men slaughter a sheep for the feast of Eid al-Adha. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

These two illustrated volumes attempt to address the ongoing need for accessible books on Islam. Jordan (The Pagan Encyclopedia), a former broadcaster with a personal interest in religious anthropology, presents a readable introduction to Islamic history. Jordan divides his subject into manageable proportions, treating Islam's origins, the life of the Prophet, the Islamic empire, the Qur'an, worship, branches of Islam, holy places, and law. He renders the religion understandable by making comparisons that will speak to a Christian audience. Well-chosen illustrations complement the text. The main caveats are that Jordan is not academically trained and sometimes strays into areas with which he is unfamiliar. His statements regarding movements arising in Islam are suspect-e.g., he mischaracterizes the Babi movement as a Sufi order and incorrectly states that Baha'u'llah claimed to be the Twelfth Imam. A photojournalist whose work has appeared in publications in America and Britain, Laurance has created a coffee-table book on the Muslim world. This volume is less a review of Islam than a visual record of the lives and surroundings of Muslims. Aside from a few images of mosques and people at prayer, the photographs depict children, women, and men in various daily activities-for instance, veiled women talking, men conversing while tending camels, markets, street vendors, a family sacrificing a lamb for Eid al-Adha, and artwork painted on a truck in Karachi. The photographs are arranged by region-North and West Africa, Near and Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Jordan's volume is appropriate for public libraries, while Laurance's may be useful in public libraries with shelf space for photography books. Both books require that the purchasing library already have or be ready to acquire additional works on Islam.-William P. Collins, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.