Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions

Cultural Studies

Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions

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Islam is one of the most widely practiced—and most widely misunderstood—religions in the world today. By focusing primarily on the cultural aspects of the religion, Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions addresses the need for more information about the faith. This guide introduces readers to Islam through an examination of its religious observances, customs, holidays, calendar system, and folk beliefs, describing how people around the world express their Muslim identity.

Written for students, teachers, and general readers, Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions explains specific religious observances and customs while introducing basic Islamic beliefs. Muslim holidays and festivals are described in considerable detail. Historical and geographical information is also presented to provide a context for further understanding. The book’s 43 chapters are organized into three main sections:

A Brief Introduction to Islam: This section includes three parts: the teachings of Islam, the history of Islam, and Muslims today. It starts by providing an introduction to the religion’s beliefs and practices, then gives a brief history of the religion, with attention to its founding. That’s followed by information on today’s Muslims, including their ethnic identities and geographic distribution.

Religious Customs and Folklore: This section provides detailed information about such subjects as: Body Language, Clothing, Food-related Customs, Greetings and Sayings, Life Cycle Customs, Mosques and Clergy, Muhammad and Other Prophets; Music, Dance, and Stories; Muslim Prayer Practices and Other Devotional Customs; the Quran; Separation of the Sexes; Symbols, and more.

Calendar System, Holidays, and Other Days of Observance: This section explains the Muslim calendar and describes principal holidays and other days of observance, with descriptions of celebrations in different parts of the world. The following holidays and days of observance are covered: Ashura; Eid al-Adha; First of Muharram; Friday; Hajj; Hidrellez; Lamp Nights; Laylat al-Bara’ah; Laylat al-Miraj; Laylat al-Qadr; Mulid al-Nabi; Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr; Saints and Their Festivals; and White Nights.

Also included are numerous photos, illustrations, and maps;  additional resources and relevant web sites; a glossary; a topical bibliography; and an index. For a more complete understanding of the coverage offered in Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions, please see the Sample Pages.

Special Features 

Glossary: The text of Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions contains a significant number of foreign words, most of them Arabic. All foreign words used in the text appear in the glossary. A few English words (such as “mosque,” “Sufi,” and “arabesque”) are also listed in the glossary.

Most of the foreign words that appear in this book have several English language spellings. The spellings chosen for Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions are among the simplest in use, and diacritical marks have been omitted. These simple spellings were chosen to help the vast majority of readers digest a text that of necessity includes many foreign words.

Additional Resources and Bibliography: A list of additional resources appears at the end of each section of the book. The list is broken down by topic, in order to help readers find books that address their particular interests. A number of children’s books have been included in these lists, as an aid to librarians and other readers who are searching for materials appropriate for that audience. These texts have been grouped together under their own subheading, “resources for children.” Web sites and videos also appear in the list of additional resources.

A general bibliography of sources has been included at the back of the book. The bibliography is also broken down by topic. Its division into three sections and various subsections mirrors that of the book itself.

Index: Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions contains an easy-to-use, comprehensive index to the personal names, place names, and subject terms that appear in the book. It covers such topics as important people, holy places, fundamental principles and practices of Islam, prayer and other devotional customs, religious sects, holiday symbols and ceremonies, and other subjects crucial to an understanding of Islam.

Reviews

"This is an excellent reference work offering a wealth of multifaceted information. ... [An] important feature is its fair and balanced presentation of Islam (a religion of over one billion believers around the globe), dispelling negative stereotypes related to that religion and circulated especially in the post-September 11 years. The book is highly recommended for public, school, special, and academic libraries."

—Multicultural Review, Winter '05

"This reference book is a terrific basic introduction to Islam. The text is attractive and clearly explains many of the complex intricacies of the Islam faith and of Muslims at a level that most students will readily understand. ... Researchers will find this book a one-stop resource on Islam."

—VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, June '05

“This book is a good introduction to a huge topic. … Though it has a wide scope, the topics are dealt with succinctly. References are given for further discovery. The author has done a fine job of being comprehensive, and easy to read. She is even-handed in her treatment of controversial topics. … There are many interesting and timely references, websites, an extensive topical bibliography, index, glossary, and additional resources on each chapter. … A very worthwhile book for those wanting a broad scope of Islam worldwide."

—Journal of Religion and Psychical Research, Oct '05

"Recommended for both high school and college-level collections. ... Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions is an excellent, basic introduction for this audience. ... A wide-ranging title important to a thorough understanding of the system."

—Internet Bookwatch, Apr '05

"Understanding Islam and Muslim Traditions provides an accessible overview of Islamic culture, history, and traditions. ... Gulevich's account is concise yet informative, rendering a picture that both students and general readers will understand. ... This work is recommended for public, school, and undergraduate libraries."

—American Reference Books Annual, 2005