Ali-Karamali may overstate the case somewhat, but her book is significant in a time of continued misconceptions about Islam.



An examination of Shariah, a concept that has been distorted in the U.S. and elsewhere in recent years.

Ali-Karamali, author of The Muslim Next Door, attempts to explain the meaning of Shariah to non-Muslims, emphasizing it as a benign and indeed beneficial trait of Islam. After a section introducing readers to basic fundamentals of Islam—e.g., Who was Muhammad? What is the Quran?—the author begins to unwrap the meaning of Shariah itself. Refreshingly, she shies away from giving a simple definition, instead characterizing Shariah as a broad and in some ways all-encompassing system of Islamic wisdom. In fact, in the introduction, she writes, “in religious terms, shariah is the path you take to quench your spiritual thirst….It’s the path you follow to be a good and righteous person. In a nutshell: shariah is the way of God.” Throughout the book, Ali-Karamali notes that Shariah, in its truest form, was and is entirely flexible and adaptable to varying cultures and conditions. It was built on generations of scholarly analysis and interpretation of the Quran and the Hadith (the words and acts of Muhammad). The author argues that for generations, Shariah promoted a healthy, fruitful civilization marked by concern for those in need, clemency, and the rights of women, among much else. She contends that Western colonization interrupted Muslim cultures, disrupting and perverting Shariah, forcing it to conform to more rigid standards found in European law. As she explains, Muslim-majority countries continue to grapple with how to rediscover the flexible, liberalizing Shariah practices of the past. Ali-Karamali’s explanation of Shariah is a useful counter to the perceptions of many in the West. Throughout, she contends that the misuse of Shariah is limited to a miniscule fraction of Muslims and that without European interference, everything from the Ayatollah Khomeini’s abuses of power to the rise of the Islamic State group could have been avoided.

Ali-Karamali may overstate the case somewhat, but her book is significant in a time of continued misconceptions about Islam.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8070-3800-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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