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Here are some books which I recommend;


There are so many introductory texts available that a recommendation here is becoming difficult. However, in my own teaching I use one text by a non-Muslim scholar of Islam whose writing many Muslims find sympathetic, and fair, John L Esposito , and one text by a Muslim scholar, Akbar Ahmed. Esposito's Islam: The Straight Path has been revised and reprinted several times since it first appeared. In my estimate, it is one of the very best basic texts on Islam.

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Ahmed is an anthropologist who now teaches at the American University, Washington DC.. Akbar's Disovering Islam which he wrote before Living Islam and which contains very similar material, may be easier to obtain; GO TO AMAZON.COM


F. E Peter's Reader on Classical Islam gives you access to translations/renderings of primary texts, including the Qur'an. Peter's notes usefully guide you through the material, and introduce you to some of the most important thinkers and scholars of Islamic faith and culture.

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Islam and the West There are now quite a few excellent surveys, and discussions, of relations between Islam and the West. However, Norman Daniel'sIslam and the West: The Making of an Image which he updated and revised in 1993 shortly before he died, is probably unrivalled, and is now available in paperback.

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Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook
edited by Charles Kurzman. This anthology of the writings of progressive thinkers in Islam does much to explode the myth that '"Liberal Islam" is not a contradiction in terms". This collection will, in my view, prove to be a very valuable teaching and research resource. TO ORDER this title, click here GO TO AMAZON.COM

Qur'an, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective of Interreligious Solidarity Against Oppression
by Farid Esack. Potential readers should not be put off this book by its origin as a PhD thesis. It represents contemporary, progressive thought in Islam at its best. The Qur'an, Esack argues, supports Muslims in their common struggle with the Religious Other for social justice and equity. To order this title, click here GO TO AMAZON.COM

In Search of Muhammad
Clinton Bennett explores how Muslims and non-Muslims approach the life of Muhammad, including the sources available to us for reconstruncting that life. He explores issues which have tradititionally divided Muslim and non-Muslim opinion. TO ORDER this title, click here GO TO AMAZON.COM

Clinton Bennett's Muslims and Modernity explores a range of contemporary debates in Islam, including the nature of the Islamic state, human rights, gender, minorities and war against the background of 9/11 and the 'war on terror'. To order this book Click here

 Christian-Muslim Relations.

 My Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations explores key contributions past and present. These are classified as "confrontational" and "conciliatory" or as "diatribe" and "dialogue".

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Religious Studies: General

Ian Markham'sA World Religious Reader is set to be a standard text for some time. He begins with an excellent introduction to method and theory in religious studies, then gives us key texts and commentary for each of the major traditions, including humanism.

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Ninian Smart's The Worlds' Religions is a splendidly illustrated survey of the origin and development of the religious traditions of humankind. He introduces, and applies, his dimensional approach. This is a serious academic text but it is also fun to read. It will endure.

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Ethical Issues in Six Religious Traditions edited by Peggy Morgan and Clive Lawton explores how the major world religions deal with moral and ethical issues, and discusses a range of topics and themes. Many chapters are written by scholars who are practitioners of the faiths about which they are writing.

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Themes In Religious Studies is a series of volumes edited by Jean Holm with John Bowker. The series includes Sacred Place, Picturing God,Making Moral Decisions. Authors include Clinton Bennett, Martin Forward, Norman Solomon, etc. TO ORDER these titles, click here GO TO AMAZON.COM

IN SEARCH OF THE SACRED Clinton Bennett asks, what is religion and how can we study it and explores the relationship between anthropology and religious studies. TO ORDER this title, click here GO TO AMAZON.COM

Ending Auschwitz: The Future of Jewish and Christian Life Dr Marc Ellis explores the consequences of the Holocaust for Christians as well as Jews. To order, click GO TO AMAZON.COM

Clinton Bennett's In Search of Jesus: Insider and Outsider Images explores a wide range of approaches to the texts for reconstructing Jesus' life and views of Jesus including humanist, Christian, Muslim, Budhist, Hindu and Jewish views GO TO AMAZON.COM   

Spirituality/Religious Experience

Modern Spiritualities: An Inquiry edited by Laurence Brown, Bernard Farr, R Joseph Hoffman, and with chapters by Clinton Bennett, Margaret Chatterjee, Antony Flew, M. M Thomas amongst others, is a provocative, often sceptical but also rigorous discussion of that "mysterious something" which "transcends the ordinary, the humdrum".

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 In Search of Solutions explores three conflict contexts in which religion is generally acknowledged to be at least a factor, although some minimize religions role while others identify it as a major cause of violence. The book evaluates what role religion does play (or has played) in the Northern Ireland, Bosnian and Israel-Palestinian conflicts including the contribution of the women's movement in Ireland. I argue that scriptures can be used to justify conflict, so an alternative interpretative paradigm is needed if this tendency is to be reversed. I call this the "higher principle."  War has sometimes been necessary but  is immature. Peace is a mark of human maturity, God's ultimate ideal.

Postcolonial Theory

Edward Said is one of the most important writers in this field. I think that his intoduction to the Penguin version of Kipling's Kim is vintage Said, well worth reading to familiarise yourself with the contours of postcolonial theory. Kim, too, will prove a fascinating read! Kipling was at this point struggling with the Englishman and the Indian within himself, much as do many of Rushdie's characters.

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Said's Culture and Imperialism is simply a must. Notions of "the Western mind", the "Eastern mind" may have some use but they have become weapons of cultural war. Said develops the arguments he began in Orientalism but strays more into the realm of the colonial imagination, dealing with literature rather than scholarship. Said is interested in recovering lost voices, whose stories/histories have not yet been told, or heard

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Michael Corra's After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie might either usefully accompany a reading of novels by these authors, or it can stand as a text in its own right. It deals with identity, "postcoloniality" - world citizens who are loyal to ideas, not to nations - and his treatment is, in my view, truly excellent.

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The Location of Culture by Homi K Bhabha is probably one of the hardest books I have read for some time. However, it is very, very sobering, and powerful. Anyone interested in issues of migration, citizenship, belonging, identity, race relations, must read Bhabbha. Hybridity must become a positive, not a negative, experience.

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Theology and Missiology

Paul Knitter's No Other Name? Knitter has modifed his own position since writing this book but it remains, in my view, the best survey of Christian thought on the relationship between Christianity and other religions. It is a must-text for any course on theology of religions.

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Paul Knitter's Jesus and the Other Names is a book passionate about mission, the quest for human liberation, and the place of Jesus amidst the "Other Names" which presents Knitter's mature thoughts and also contains some autobiographical reflections. If you would like to order Knitter's book, GO TO AMAZON.COM

Lesslie Newbigin died in 1998. His book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society wrestles with openness to the Other, and with the uniqueness of Christ. It is compelling reading, and very persuasive.

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Martin Forward in Ultimate Visions has brought together the faith-stories of some of the most distinguished contributors to religious studies and to interfaith dialogue, including Ninian Smart (Britain's first Professor of Religious Studies), W. M Watt (the author of many books on Muhammad and on Islam) and Julius Lipner of Cambridge University, with some less well known stories, in a book that offers the hope of a peaceful and harmonious future for our planet.

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