It is really hard to find a good inspriring intro to Islam for non practitioners. I was raised Christian and am not a Muslim, in fact a near utter neophyte in all things Muslim. However I have an interest and respect for all the paths humans have taken to God. Islam is currently being vilified but was not say 40 years ago when my parents were my age. I have been seeking an understanding of Islam as a spiritual path, of how Muslims seek God and accompanying ethical principles.
This book, which I ordered on a whim based on the Amazon " customers who bought this also bought" tab, is published by an Institute that promotes comparative religious studies of Islam and this author has also written a book about Meister Eckhart. So I gave it a shot.
It is a great book. Clear, well organized, illuminating and very spiritual. It is organized by the main Koranic chapters used in prayer with translations of these short chapters and a quite profound commentary after each one. It begins with the Opening verses of the Koran which are apparently Islam's equivalent to the Lord's prayer in Christianity. "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful" The author explains how the term compassionate (rahma) was in fact explicated by the Prophet ( I use this term out of respect to Muslims, not out of personal conviction) as being similar to the love a mother has for her child.
In fact, from the author's in depth explication of the opening chapter, I was able to infer profound parallels between this opening and the Lord's Prayer, although these similarities were not discussed at all in this book. "Hallowed be thy name" cf "Praise be to God"; "Thy will be done" cf "Guide us upon the straight path"; "And forgive us our trespasses" cf " the Compassionate, the Merciful" repeated twice!; "For thine is the Kingdom" cf "Lord of all the worlds"; "Lead us not into temptation" cf" Not..the path of those who go astray."
This example gives a flavor of the insight and linguistic exegesis going on in this book, all really well footnoted by this scholar, who is Managing Editor of the Encyclopedia Islamica in London.
Other chapters cover how generosity is equated with piety in Islam, how the constant daily remembrance of God is fundamental to the faith, how the oneness of God extends to the oneness of mankind as "a single soul".
This book has provided me what I was looking for, a blasting away of all the vilification and perversion of true Islam by both Christians and certain Muslims, a door to a religion that can indeed be a noble ethical code of living. A great bibliography, including a book on Meister Eckhart, completes this bedside companion for all seekers of truth.