“The Islam Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained” by DK
This book is one of the clearest big-picture explanations about Islam. It is a perfect introduction for novices, but the sheer wealth of information can also teach so many new insights to the practitioners of the faith.
The book began with the history of the Prophet Muhammad and the birth of Islam. Then followed by the step by step guide about the 5 pillars of Islam, from the syahada, to explaining about the prayers rituals (even how to do wudhu or cleansing before starting the prayer), to everything there is about zakat (or alms), fasting and the Hajj. The book then moves to the holy Qur’an, where it slowly breaks down the explanation of chapters and verses, including the context, meaning, and usage, before continuing the journey of the history of Islam.
It covers everything imaginable about the religion, from Islam’s stance on other religion, the concept of heaven and hell, prohibition of alcohol and eating pork, the background explanation of sharia banking, the switch from community guided by the caliph into an empire expanding through war, the misconception of women’s role status and opportunities (including all the many benefits and disadvantages), to the wonderful hakawati (ancient story tellers), the amazing stories on the Silk Road, and of course the elephant in the room: on terrorism.
It also provides the clearest and most concise explanation about the schism between Sunni and Shia, how the order of Sufi was born, even the controversial sect of Ahmadiyah. And it dive deep into my favourite subjects on Islam: the Golden Age of Islam, and one special chapter on Islam in Indonesia.
Along the way, it touches upon the stories of some of the most notable Muslims in history, from the rightly guided caliphs, to the many emperors and sultans, Salah al-Din, Avicenna, Averroes, Al Bukhari, Sultan Mehmed II, Harun al-Rashid, scientists such as Al-Khwarizmi Al-Haytham and Al-Kindi, Ibn Khaldul, Kemal Ataturk, Ibn Battuta, Rumi, Jamal al-Din al-Afgani, Mansa Musa, Malala Yousafzai, , Malcolm X, to even controversial figures such as Ayatollah Khomeini, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad bin Saud, Mahdi of Sudan, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden, Bagdhadi, Boko Haram, Taliban and Al Shabab, and so much more.
All in all, the knowledge in the book is so complete that it could be the only book anyone reads about Islam and still come out very knowledgable. It can also becomes the gateway to further specific studies on the many, many topics presented in the book. Very well written, and very well edited. Well done.