How could I go over fifty years being this unaware of something so important?
I never really thought that much about Islam the religion and never even considered how little I knew about the world’s second-most popular religion. And then I received my review copy of 40 Questions about Islam, and I must admit I’ve rarely felt this uninformed. (Note: I received my copy in exchange for an honest review.) (Also note: I really want to say “ignorant” but that word might turn off some people.)
Thankfully, this book is great for uninformed people like me. Matthew Aaron Bennett knows Islam both from living in Muslim-majority countries and from having many Muslim friends in America. This is a great advantage because the book isn’t just an abstract about the Muslim faith, or a treatise defending one of Islam’s branches. He understands the extremist groups (and I now know which branch they primarily belong to), the nominal Muslim, and most groups in between. (I recently heard a comedian say that most Muslims are about as good at practicing their faith as most Christians are practicing theirs.)
Bennett also understands Christian faith, so when he compares the world’s two largest religions, he is speaking from authentic knowledge of both, and not just the vague awareness of mainline denominations, which seems to be the information limit of many writers.
One strength of the 40-questions format is that Bennett is able to start with the most basic questions (Where did Islam come from? Who was Muhammad and what was his message?) and gradually dig deeper (What are the Five Pillars of Islam? What is the role of the Clerics?) Along the way, it’s easy to jump off the straight-through reading and move to topics of personal curiosity or interest. (What is the Islamic view of Creation? Does the Qur’an overlap with the Bible?)
If the book has a weakness, however, it may come from the format. Because each question is intended to stand on its own, at least to some extent, there is necessarily some repetition. But that’s a nit pick. This is a wonderful book and I’m glad to have it in my library.