Cover image for Islam : religion, history, and civilization
Islam : religion, history, and civilization
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxv, 198 pages ; 19 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BP163 .N2813 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BP163 .N2813 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BP163 .N2813 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BP163 .N2813 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The world's leading Islamicist offers a concise introduction to this rich and diverse tradition of 1.2 billion adherents.

In this informative and clear introduction to the world of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr explores the following topics in depth:

*What Is Islam?

*The Doctrines and Beliefs of Islam

*Islamic Practices and Institutions

*The History of Islam

*Schools of Islamic Thought

*Islam in the Contemporary World

*Islam and Other Religions

*The Spiritual and Religious Significance of Islam

Author Notes

Born in Tehran, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the son of an educator, received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1958, after which he returned to Iran to teach and eventually to become a university chancellor. He was compelled to leave his native country after the revolution of 1979 and since then has taught in universities in the United States.

Deeply influenced by the mystical Sufi tradition, Nasr is less concerned with reconciling the faith with modernism and is more concerned with presenting a traditionalist, though mystical, interpretation of religion that offers a way out of the contradictions of modernity. Through authentic spiritual experience, Nasr holds, one can penetrate the superficiality of modern scientific and other knowledge to find eternal truth. He is associated with the neotraditionalist school of philosophy. Undoubtedly, Nasr has had more general influence in the Western philosophical world than any other contemporary philosopher in the Islamic tradition.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Finally, a good, up-to-date introduction to Islamic faith and history. Providing compelling analysis of contemporary Islam and its conflicts without overwhelming the reader with information, Nasr, one of the most admired Islamicists, introduces all the important movements and beliefs of Islam in broad, sweeping sections on the history of Islam, the schools of Islamic thought, and other topics. Whereas most introductions breeze past the diversity within Islam to focus on the common ground, Nasr proves himself equal to the challenge of distilling 1,400 years of faith and history by discussing and lauding Islamic diversity in some detail; for instance, he treats Sufism and Shi'ism in general and also historic and contemporary sects within those traditions. Even readers of Karen Armstrong's Islam (2000), by far the most popular introduction to Islam, will learn a lot here, although Nasr lacks the compelling narrative voice that makes Armstrong so popular. His is a deep, thoughtful, sympathetic introduction to the diversity and history of Islamic faith and practice. --John Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nasr, a professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, is probably America's leading Islamicist, and he lives up to his reputation with this short yet comprehensive primer on Islam. Nasr presents the religion of more than a billion people today without prejudice or preference. In eight short chapters, he surveys all that can be described as "Islamic"-the theology, people, history, cultures and more. His descriptions of how Islam spread through black Africa and China are concise and clear. Although certain readers may prefer a book that speaks more directly to the concerns raised by the attacks of 9/11 or that addresses hot topics like the treatment of women under Islam, Nasr unapologetically lays out a classical and timeless text. He is at his most engaging when discussing Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, a topic that is usually underrepresented in similar books. Nasr also dives headfirst into Islam's more abstract and intellectual underpinnings, much to the satisfaction of the reader who seeks spiritual guidance in addition to education. "To understand Islam today," Nasr cautions, "it is first of all important to realize that the histories of different religions do not all follow the same trajectory." Readers who desire more than a simple current events profile, and who want to understand the core of the world's second-largest religion, will appreciate this introduction that manages to be sweeping in scope yet accessible in style. (Jan.) Forecast: The Islamic bookshelves are getting quite crowded these days, and America's rush to obtain a remedial education on Islam seems to have abated. That's a shame, because this book deserves a wider readership than it may get in today's glutted market. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

What an amazingly refreshing read! In the plethora of "introductory" books recently appearing on Islam, too many are hackneyed or inaccurate. This deceptively short volume, however, provides a uniquely engaging perspective, joining other outstanding works by the likes of Schimmel, Esposito, and Robinson to interpret Islam to Western readers. Nasr (George Washington Univ.), an Iranian Shiite who describes himself as a "traditionalist," writes sympathetically about mainstream Islam. In so doing, he integrates Shiism into the broader Islamic picture in a manner not found in many other works, most of which usually treat Shiism as an addendum at best, or a footnote at worst. The entire volume is excellent (although any treatment of the bewildering dynasties and sultanates of Islam in such a limited space is often less than exciting), but the chapters on Islamic practices, ethics, and institutions and on schools of Islamic thought are outstanding. In addition, the extensive section on Islam in black Africa highlights an area often ignored in books of this kind. Finally, the explanation and differentiation among traditionalism, modernism, and "fundamentalism" elucidates what many Westerners find so confusing about Islam today. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; undergraduates. S. P. Blackburn Hartford Seminary



Islam Religion, History, and Civilization The Seal of the Prophets Following Ishmael's line in Arabia, we come in the latter half of the sixth century a.d. to Muhammad, the prophet through whom Islam reached its definitive form, Muslims believe. There had been authentic prophets of God before him, but he was their culmination; hence he is called "The Seal of the Prophets." No valid prophets will follow him. The world into which Muhammad was born is described by subsequent Muslims in a single word: ignorant. Life under the conditions of the desert had never been serene. People felt almost no obligation to anyone outside their tribes. Scarcity of material goods made brigandage a regional institution and the proof of virility. In the sixth century political deadlock and the collapse of the magistrate in the leading city of Mecca aggravated this generally chaotic situation. Drunken orgies were commonplace, and the gaming impulse uncontrolled. The prevailing religion watched from the sidelines, providing no check. Best described as an animistic polytheism, it peopled the sandy wastes with beastly sprites called jinn or demons. Fantastic personifications of desert terrors, they inspired neither exalted sentiments nor moral restraint. Conditions could hardly have been better calculated to produce a smoldering undercurrent, which erupted in sudden affrays and blood feuds, some of which extended for half a century. The times called for a deliverer. He was born into the leading tribe of Mecca, the Koreish, in approximately a.d. 570, and was named Muhammad, "highly praised," which name has since been borne by more male children than any other in the world. His early life was cradled in tragedy, for his father died a few days before he was born, his mother when he was six, and his grandfather, who cared for him after his mother's death, when he was eight. Thereafter he was adopted into his uncle's home. Though the latter's declining fortunes forced the young orphan to work hard minding his uncle's flocks, he was warmly received by his new family. The angels of God, we are told, had opened Muhammad's heart and filled it with light. The description epitomizes his early character as this comes down to us by tradition. Pure-hearted and beloved in his circle, he was, it is said, of sweet and gentle disposition. His bereavements having made him sensitive to human suffering in every form, he was always ready to help others, especially the poor and the weak. His sense of honor, duty, and fidelity won him, as he grew older, the high and enviable titles of "The True," "The Upright," "The Trustworthy One." Yet despite his concern for others, he remained removed from them in outlook and ways, isolated in a corrupt and degenerate society. As he grew from childhood to youth and from youth to manhood, the lawless strife of his contemporaries, the repeated outbursts of pointless quarrels among tribes frequenting the Meccan fairs, and the general immorality and cynicism of his day combined to produce in the prophet-to-be a reaction of horror and disgust. Silently, broodingly, his thoughts were turning inward. Islam Religion, History, and Civilization . Copyright © by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization by Seyyed Hossein Nasr All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.