This scholarly analysis of Islam attempts to rescue it from modern misappropriations.
While this is Zafar’s first book-length effort, his writings about Islam have appeared in numerous places—USA Today, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, etc. A national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, Zafar investigates the central tenets of Islam, the result of his 15 years of reflection. He begins by conceding that the rise of terrorism by fanatical Muslim groups has created a “difficult landscape for the study of this rapidly growing religion.” Aiming to clarify the essential doctrines of a religion clouded by war and ideological disputes, his book acts as a helpful primer on the basics; he lucidly parses terms such as “Islam” and “Muslim,” the nature of fasting and alms giving, and the distinction between various sects such as Sunni and Shia. He also provides an erudite compendium of the differences and similarities between the three Abrahamic religions, demonstrating that the contemporary tensions between them belie their historically shared ground. This section includes fascinating accounts of the standings within Islam of both the Virgin Mary and Jesus. The heart of the analysis, though, is the contention that Islam, while sadly depicted by many as the bearer of antiquated ideals, is largely consistent with liberal values. The author’s argument deftly covers misinterpretations regarding controversial topics such as suicide bombing, Jihad, women’s rights, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In each case, Zafar argues that Islam is fundamentally a religion of peace and tolerance, not war and oppression. Sometimes, his thesis seems to outstretch the evidence, at least as he presents it. At one point, for instance, he argues that the Quran “lays the foundation for a democratic society by placing the responsibility in the hands of the people to select their leaders.” Overall, however, the book is a welcome correction to the politically tortured conceptions of Islam so prevalent today, as Zafar astutely acknowledges the way even Muslims themselves have contributed to these misunderstandings.
An important, original new examination of Islam for both the novice and the theologically sophisticated.