An evaluation of the book by John L. Esposito: Islam The Straight Path. In this book , Esposito provides a succinct, up-to-date survey of the Islamic experience, an introduction to the faith, belief, and practice of Islam from its origins to its contemporary resurgence. He traces the emergence and development of this dynamic faith and its impact on world history and politics. He discusses the formation of Islamic belief and practice (law, theology, philosophy, and mysticism), chronicling the struggle of Muslims to define and adhere to their Islamic way of life.
Equally important is the essential information Esposito provides on the contemporary world of Islam, from Muslim responses to the challenges of colonialism and modernization to the reassertion of Islam in politics and society. This introductory book in the teaching of Islam and Islamic way of life by Esposito can be categorized in three different sections with various sub-tittles. First section concentrates on structural elements of Islam that includes Messenger and the Message; that are Muhammad and the Holy Koran.
Second section is about The emergence of Islamic identity, as the Muslim Community, which includes the belief and the practice of the religion. And finally the modern Interpretations of Islam. Esposito introduces three concepts; in the first three chapters he explains what Islam is. I believe that he did an excellent job in presenting pre-Islamic time for Arabia and its surrounding region. But I also believe that concentrating on Muhammad’s (PBUH) biography has little relevant to Islam. Because Islam is based mainly on the completion message of God to the World.
I believe if a non-Muslim reader try were to understand Islam through this book he or she would compare it to the concept of Jesus, or David the Texan cult leader, and many others. I found that Esposito guides its readers to a clear understanding of Muslims and non-Muslim prospective. Nevertheless, he is a director of center for Muslim-Christian understanding. Esposito has emphasized on the holy Quran, Gods message and the messenger. I also believe that he has introduced a clear guideline for Muslims and their practice. Laying out their laws, beliefs, attitudes, values, and other religious responsibilities.
I also found that Esposito writes with good academic intentions and writing on Islam from a western perspective. Esposito describes the realities of the Muslim world in their struggle to define their social, political, and economical identity. Although, he points that many of these ambitions are kept short due to lack of strong and faithful authorities in the Muslim world. As Esposito, introduces the faith, belief, and the practice of Islam from pre-historic times one can clearly see the religious events and the struggle of a religion through time.
As on page 31, Esposito says, “Muslims throughout the centuries, the message of the Koran and the examples of the Prophet” are the essential building blocs of Muslim life. He also emphasizes on the importance of Islam history and civilization, because he believes that they are the “record of that struggle to interpret and to follow the Straight Path. ” (Esposito 31:1998) Esposito also, introduces the idea of Modernism, that Islamic times have not just only brought religion alone but also economic and military hardships to the west, as he puts it, “challenge to western technology”.
The impact of western imperialism has also impacted the Islamic world. As the book evolves, he talks about Modern nations; secular, Muslim and Islamic. Giving examples, such as Turkey being in the secular sector, Iran as the Islamic, and finally the Muslim sector of modern nations including Jordan and Egypt. Coming to an end at the Muslims of Western Europe, the presence of Muslims in Europe is not a new force, but a generation of siege and conquer. Over the years Ottomans and other missionaries have put forward their idea of Islam in many parts of Europe, including Bosnia and Romania.
The Importance of Understanding Muslims and Islam: Muslims and Islam are two related terms, at the same time different in its application. Let us first talk about the importance of understanding the term Muslims. Muslims are people who belong to the religion Islam. Muslims could act in various ways, presenting their actions differently, a Muslim from India or South Africa. Another good example of a Muslim view would be, the performance of their political and sect actions.
For example, Saidi Qutb of Egypt believed the west is corrupt in their actions and he has different view of the West. The other example would be Saudi Arabia’s acceptance of United States Forces to land in the holy place of Islam and welcoming the west. Our second question deals with the understanding of Islam. The message that this faith brings to the world is important to understand that Islam claims the holy message of God, a force that has brought a completion to the writings of the three holy books of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Islam is a religion that has brought peace, enlightenment, and unity to the faithful. I feel that this book could guide Muslims and non-Muslims in forming clear views on specific Islamic religious issues. In conclusion, throughout the book “Islam the Straight Path”, many understandings come about by looking at the many struggles of any particular community. For the purpose of this book review, I went through the book to grasp an understanding of the title “The Straight Path”. For many centuries Muslims around the world have experienced the transformation of their society.
The important forces that build Islam and Muslims together are the religious life, faith, beliefs and practices. Today Muslims around the world face many challenges of leaders that build the community whether it is a secular or an Islamic nation. As examples given earlier about modernization which includes nations such as Turkey and on the other side of the spectrum the practice of Islamic Shariah. As a final note, my main objective from this book review is to see Islam from the eye of Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.