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University professor and international government and media consultant John L. Esposito guides you through the facts and myths surrounding Islam and its more than 1.2 billion adherents. How familiar are you with the world's second largest and fastest-growing religion? Many in the West know little about the faith and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radica University professor and international government and media consultant John L. Esposito guides you through the facts and myths surrounding Islam and its more than 1.2 billion adherents. How familiar are you with the world's second largest and fastest-growing religion? Many in the West know little about the faith and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radical extremists. This course will help you better understand Islam's role as both a religion and a way of life, and its deep impact on world affairs both historically and today. It is important to understand what Muslims believe, and also how their beliefs are carried out privately and publicly as individuals as well as members of a larger community. "The focus of this course will be to better understand Islam's role as a religion and as a way of life," says Professor Esposito. "In 12 lectures, moving from Muhammad to the present, from the 7th to the 21st centuries, we will explore Muslim beliefs, practices, and history in the context of its significance and impact on Muslim life and society through the ages, as well as world events today."


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University professor and international government and media consultant John L. Esposito guides you through the facts and myths surrounding Islam and its more than 1.2 billion adherents. How familiar are you with the world's second largest and fastest-growing religion? Many in the West know little about the faith and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radica University professor and international government and media consultant John L. Esposito guides you through the facts and myths surrounding Islam and its more than 1.2 billion adherents. How familiar are you with the world's second largest and fastest-growing religion? Many in the West know little about the faith and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radical extremists. This course will help you better understand Islam's role as both a religion and a way of life, and its deep impact on world affairs both historically and today. It is important to understand what Muslims believe, and also how their beliefs are carried out privately and publicly as individuals as well as members of a larger community. "The focus of this course will be to better understand Islam's role as a religion and as a way of life," says Professor Esposito. "In 12 lectures, moving from Muhammad to the present, from the 7th to the 21st centuries, we will explore Muslim beliefs, practices, and history in the context of its significance and impact on Muslim life and society through the ages, as well as world events today."

30 review for Great World Religions: Islam

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mary Anne

    Of late I've been interested in learning more about other religions, and particularly Islam, because I know so little about them. (Indeed, I could stand to learn a little more about Christianity as well.) I was pleasantly surprised to find this at my library. I knew very little about Islam before starting this series, and I found the audio files to be extremely engaging and enlightening. As I sometimes do with non-fiction audio books, I occasionally zoned out while driving, but for the most part Of late I've been interested in learning more about other religions, and particularly Islam, because I know so little about them. (Indeed, I could stand to learn a little more about Christianity as well.) I was pleasantly surprised to find this at my library. I knew very little about Islam before starting this series, and I found the audio files to be extremely engaging and enlightening. As I sometimes do with non-fiction audio books, I occasionally zoned out while driving, but for the most part this collection kept me attentive and curious. The lectures address a lot of key topics that are seemingly popular/taboo/specific to Islam, but the professor addresses them in a really interesting way. A lot of these issues are not specific just to Islam. Indeed, there are many connections to Judaism and Christianity, but people often treat Islam as the culture of difference. I remember learning about Islam at the same time as I learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., and the author calls attention to this. Indeed, we know so little of Islam, and it almost never came up until terrorist attacks and, of course, September 11th, 2001. The suspicion of Islam and Muslims because of the actions of extremist terrorists (or fundamental extremists, but the author defines and describes the difference between fundamentalists and fundamental extremist terrorists) is easy to see. We hardly ever talk about Christian extremists or Jewish extremists, but we all know they exist. The fact is that Islam is a multidimensional religion, and a Western religion at that. I'm eager to read more about Islam and Muslim culture. This lecture series is very good and ranges across the five pillars of Islam to the history and role of the prophet Mohammad, the true meaning of jihad women in changing Islam (another fascinating lecture), and the future of Islam. This is just a few of the quotations I want to keep on hand, and they occur in Lecture 11: Islam in the West: "The problems the growing Muslim community faces in the United States start with the fact that only a few decades ago, Muslims were mostly invisible in the West. Their visibility then emerged by association with the 'militant' Nation of Islam or conflicts (Iranian Revolution, hijackings, hostage taking, and acts of terror in the Middle East and South Asia). Some saw these events as signs of an Islamic threat or a clash of civilizations, Islam versus the West. America's relationship with Muslims was seen in a context of conflict and confrontation. Lime many other immigrants of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, Muslims have been challenged to define their place in American and European society. Like Jewish law for Jews, Islamic law is central to a Muslim's life, covering religious requirements, dietary regulations, and family law. Ironically, many of the minorities who preceded them and 'made it in America' do not identify with Muslims and fail to see the similarities between their own past and Muslims' current problems. Often, Muslims fall outside the circle of American pluralism. However, different previous religious and ethnic minorities, the vast majority were Judeo-Christian. Most regard Islam as foreign. Few think of it as an Abrahamic religion, part of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. In the absence of this knowledge and awareness, Islam is often seen through explosive 'headline events,' and thus, the hatred and violence of a minority of religious extremists obscure the faith of the mainstream majority." "Despite problems, however, Muslims, long regarded as 'other,' are now part of the fabric of our society, as neighbors, coworkers, citizens, and believers. Muslims have increasingly become more integrated into the American political process, both as individuals and organizationally." "Living as a minority in a dominant culture that is often ignorant about Islam, or even hostile to it, many Muslims experience a sense of marginalization, alienation, and powerlessness. Muslim experiences in Europe and America have been affected significantly by the actions of militants, especially since September 11, 2001, as well as by domestic issues. In France, Islamic terrorism has also led to doubts about Islam's compatibility with French culture and concerns that French Muslims could ever be loyal citizens. One of the most serious effects has been the increasing concern over the erosion of civil liberties for Muslim Americans." "All are challenged to move beyond stereotypes and established patterns of behavior to a more inclusive and pluralistic vision informed by a multidimensional dialogue, to build a future based on mutual understanding and respect." And from Lecture 12: The Future of Islam "At the end of the 20th century, the future of Islam in the 21st century held the hope of a new millennium of globalization and opportunity. For many Muslims, there were dreams of peace in Palestine, increased democratization and greater freedom in Muslim countries, and the growth and empowerment of Muslims in American and Europe, where Islam had emerged as a major religious presence. However, the lives, expectations, and dreams of many were shattered with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These attacks reinforced the voices of a clash of civilizations between people with diametrically opposed principles, values, and interests. Within a matter of hours, a handful of terrorists transformed the 21st century from a century of great expectations to a world dominated by an American-led war against global terrorism. It reinforced the image of Islam and Muslims as a religion and a people to be feared and fought. Historically, religion has been and continues to be used and misused. Although religion is a source of transcendence it as also had its dark side. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all of which teach peace, the value of human life, morals, and accountability, have been used to legitimate holy wars and the slaughter of innocent people, past and present."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carlyn Blount

    Very thorough, balanced, and easy to follow. Incredibly well-informed, without sounding like he's trying to prove how smart he is. Very thorough, balanced, and easy to follow. Incredibly well-informed, without sounding like he's trying to prove how smart he is.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vlad Ardelean

    I have a bias, I tend to like courses of the great courses plus series a lot, mostly because they go deeper into the topic than any video on youtube does. What I learned from this series: * Islamic countries differ a lot on policies about women * Islam is being used as a political identity in places such as Turkey, where the state is actually secular * The 5 pillars of islam, I might mess these up since it's been a year since I took the course: the declaration of faith (there is not god but Allah an I have a bias, I tend to like courses of the great courses plus series a lot, mostly because they go deeper into the topic than any video on youtube does. What I learned from this series: * Islamic countries differ a lot on policies about women * Islam is being used as a political identity in places such as Turkey, where the state is actually secular * The 5 pillars of islam, I might mess these up since it's been a year since I took the course: the declaration of faith (there is not god but Allah and Mohammed is His prophet), praying 5 times per day, going to the mosque on Friday evening, Paying the 2.5% tax to the poor and going to visit Mecca in the month of Ramadan (the haaj) * Islam is different from christianity in the sense that whereas christianity's purpose (on earth) seems to be to just spread love and kindness and mercy among people, Islam wants to build a state ruled by the laws of Allah. Moral guidance vs Building an empire -> quite a significant difference

  4. 4 out of 5

    Abdulaziz Fagih

    I picked this up to see what is the view of western scholar in Islam and so I write this review to help any body who’s interested on learning about Islam to evaluate these lecture and how accurate is it before they start lessening to it I wii write an abstract review for those who likes it to be to the point and then I will write a more detailed review . The Bottom Line (Conclusion): (3.0 Out 5) : If You Know nothing of Islam this the one to get. if you know nothing about Islam and you want an unb I picked this up to see what is the view of western scholar in Islam and so I write this review to help any body who’s interested on learning about Islam to evaluate these lecture and how accurate is it before they start lessening to it I wii write an abstract review for those who likes it to be to the point and then I will write a more detailed review . The Bottom Line (Conclusion): (3.0 Out 5) : If You Know nothing of Islam this the one to get. if you know nothing about Islam and you want an unbiased introduction this the one to get even thou it’s contain inaccuracies its still ok for an outsider or non Arabic speaker and it will not affect much a person who know nothing about Islam as it’s still an observant errors and not biased one. Also, the presentation skills of Professor John L. Esposito are excellent you will never get bored or annoyed and he will keep you interested to the very end. Detailed Reviews: Lecture 1 Islam Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow (4.5 Out of 5) An excellent and unbiased introduction and it’s had a high rate of accuracy. Lecture 2 The Five Pillars Of Islam. (4 out 5) This lecture has an excellent abstract to each pillar with few unimportant inaccuracies here and there. Lecture 3 Muhammad -- Prophet and Statesman: (2.5 out 5) It’s generally good but it’s full of inaccuracies and it affect little bit his overall conclusion of event but it obvious it’s unbiased errors due to the language barrier and that Islam is still young subject in western school and the sources in English are few and incomplete. but it still good for an abstract about the Prophet Mohammad. Lecture 4 Gods Word -- the Quranic Worldview (4 out 5) Excellent abstract about Quran and Islamic sources with few unimportant inaccuracies here and there. Lecture 5 to 9 (3.5 out 5) Lecture 5 The Muslim Community -- Faith And Politics Lecture 6 Paths To God -- Islamic Law And Mysticism Lecture 7 Islamic Revivalism - Renewal And Reform Lecture 8 The Contemporary Resurgence Of Islam Lecture 9 Islam At The Crossroads These five lecture talk about the history of political development of Islam after the death of the Prophet to the current date. He present the subject in excellent manner but in outsider view point even thou he grasped a lot of the important concept his analysis are incomplete which make this an excellent introduction only. There are good portion of unimportant inaccuracies and few important one. Lecture 10 Women and Change in Islam (2.5 out 5): Excellent introduction but full of Inaccuracies. He grasped a lot of the important items but he also failed in grasping a lot of other important points. Lecture 11 Islam In The West (4.5 out 5) Excellent introduction to subject did not notice any inaccuracies in it. Lecture 12 The Future Of Islam (4 out 5) An excellent conclusion but some of the analysis are off but that is point of views .

  5. 5 out of 5

    Drew Weatherton

    I'm glad I listened to this course as a way to begin to understand the religion of Islam. Before listening to this, I had only a cursory (and somewhat Western-biased) perspective of Islam. I was disappointed that the course spent so much time talking about recent developments in the religion and its place in the world. I was looking for more of an understanding of the Quran. I do plan to read the Quran soon so that I can get more insight on what the book is saying. I have read that it is shorter I'm glad I listened to this course as a way to begin to understand the religion of Islam. Before listening to this, I had only a cursory (and somewhat Western-biased) perspective of Islam. I was disappointed that the course spent so much time talking about recent developments in the religion and its place in the world. I was looking for more of an understanding of the Quran. I do plan to read the Quran soon so that I can get more insight on what the book is saying. I have read that it is shorter than the Christian New Testament, so it shouldn't be too hard to get through. One thing that surprised me about Islam is that it apparently builds off of Judaism in a somewhat similar way to Christianity (in that it holds at least portions of the Old Testament to be factual and holy).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    Another fine selection of lectures by the Teaching Company in their Great Courses series. This series of lectures gives a broad overview of the history of Islam from its founding to the present day. Professor Esposito covers this history in an even-handed approach that addresses both the positive aspects of a faith that he claims is the world's third largest religious movement (after Christianity and Judaism) as well as some of the difficult challenges that Muslims face at present. Recommended fo Another fine selection of lectures by the Teaching Company in their Great Courses series. This series of lectures gives a broad overview of the history of Islam from its founding to the present day. Professor Esposito covers this history in an even-handed approach that addresses both the positive aspects of a faith that he claims is the world's third largest religious movement (after Christianity and Judaism) as well as some of the difficult challenges that Muslims face at present. Recommended for those interested in a deeper understanding of this religion, its history and its adherents.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin Tapp

    A glance at the voluminous publications on Islam by the author would seem to make this an ideal person to learn from. But Googling raises some troubling questions about what he tends to leave in and out of his works. There is a reason he's been written up several times on Jihad Watch. At any rate, I thought his lecture series would be an interesting to compare to several other works on the history of Islam and the Middle East I have finished. That list is at the bottom of this post. Let's get th A glance at the voluminous publications on Islam by the author would seem to make this an ideal person to learn from. But Googling raises some troubling questions about what he tends to leave in and out of his works. There is a reason he's been written up several times on Jihad Watch. At any rate, I thought his lecture series would be an interesting to compare to several other works on the history of Islam and the Middle East I have finished. That list is at the bottom of this post. Let's get the problems out of the way first: It is a bad sign with Esposito states that 9/11 interrupted writing his book The Future of Islam, in which 9/11 did not match up with his narrative, only to return to the book later and finish predicting the future of a stronger reformist Islam...which looks nothing like the future we have now in which (according to surveys on clothing according to Mona Eltahawy) the veil is more prominent on women in the Middle East, Mecca is more gender segregated, Turkey's Islamic-leaning government has become less democratic, Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting two proxy wars against one another, ISIL has run amok among a Sunni-Shi'ia divide and inter-Sunni tribal conflicts, and the Taliban is poised to dominate Afghanistan once again. I'm writing this review a week after the shooting in Orlando, the same city to which just two months prior a conservative cleric known internationally for preaching that "death is the sentence" and that "we should get rid of" all homosexuals was invited to preach at a mosque which may have helped inspire the alleged shooter. Do a search for the source of Esposito's funding at the various conferences he speaks at-- always follow the money. While Esposito is encouraging of reforms, he does not acknowledge the imprisonment and persecution of many who are actively trying to push for them. He wants his audience to be respectful of the theocratic nature of Islam, but does not acknowledge its implications. He does not acknowledge that he has much greater freedoms in American than any academic counterpart in any country with Islamic-based governance. While he highlights increasingly educated women with stronger voices in Islamic countries, he does not state the context from which they've come from, such as cultures of polygamy, female circumcision, child brides, etc. justified by clerics citing the Quran. You'll hear no mention of Ayan Hirsi Ali or others, these are more of a problem than a solution to Esposito. Reformers that Esposito does single out tend to have been on record advocating violence against Israel. Where is the example of open debate between conservatives and reformers that we can tune in to watch? One huge contrast with other works on the history of Islam is that when Esposito gets to the 1950s and the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, he does not even mention Sayyid Qutb, and his works calling for violence that are still influential today. Esposito goes so far as to praise the Muslim Brotherhood without even a "by the way," that it's considered a terrorist organizations by many countries. He completely ignores the Qutb-inspired groups who seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 and where the terrorists who "hijack" Islam get their ideology. It's not clear what Esposito considers orthodox Islam, but whatever definition he has no paradigm for why his version is rejected by so many today. For the most part, this series is well-worded and has a coherent narrative. I did not find it boring. The author begins with explaining the root "slm" in Arabic, meaning both "submit" and "peace"-- the Islamic ideal. Esposito gives an overview of the beliefs, the Five Pillars, and the key rituals such as fasting in Ramadan. He explains things largely as they are accepted without comment-- his goal is to explain the religion and not critique or analyze it in-depth. Next is a brief overview of the life of Muhammad. He explains the tribal polytheistic context but doesn't seem to recognize how many rituals already existed around the kabaa in Mecca that still exist today under Islam. You will not find any hypotheses on the composition of the Koran from the Nestorian Christian and Jewish inhabitants of the Middle East that Tom Holland gives in his work. Esposito does not acknowledge, unlike Reza Aslan, that Zayd ibn Amr preached monotheism in Mecca about the time of Muhammad's youth. He accepts at face value that Muhammad was illiterate, despite being a man of commerce (Aslan claims Muhammad was a profit "for the illiterate" rather than "of the illiterate," for example). Contra Tamim Ansary, who chronicles the early use of the word "jihad" in offensive context, Esposito states that "jihad" was only defensive and had specific limits and specifications in the Koran. Hence, Osama bin Laden's use of "jihad" is in error because he "rejects the rules regarding jihad." (Funny that we don't see many fatwas disagreeing with bin Laden and others' interpretation?) Esposito cites Surra 2: "God loves not the aggressor." He does not bother to examine the claims of bin Laden and al Baghdadi that Islam is under attack, hence they are always on the defensive. Esposito states that Islam is the "oldest of the faiths" because the Quran is eternal. Esposito's lack of reconciling these points for the audience is troubling. During Lecture Four, while he acknowledges the different context between the "Meccan verses" and "Medina verses," he never deals with the logical contradiction of historical context and a document that he tells us is considered to be eternal and un-created according to orthodoxy. In Sura Nine, he examines the "sword verses," showing that if one reads the entire paragraph he can see death was contingent on not paying the required head tax. Memorization for the purpose of recitation is important. There is no doctrine of original sin, so no "vicarious atonement" such as is found in Christianity, in Islam each person is held accountable for his own sin. He cites surras that show "no compulsion in religion" and states that one evidence of the empowerment of women in Islam is that they are required to perform the five pillars as well as men. Muslims believe the Christian trinity is "idolotry" but Esposito does not recognize the contradiction of "idolotry" or "heresy" and the respect in the Quran for the "people of the book." How can we reconcile the need and justification to eliminate the idoloters and yet respect/tolerate them as a "protected class" provided they pay a head tax? Esposito's mind never works that hard in these lectures. Esposito's history of rapid expansion and conquest roughly matches that found in Hoyland's book on the first century after the Prophet. He chronicles the rise of the Ummayads, the appearance of the Harijites (a forerunner of Salafis and Al Qaeda today), and chronicles the greatness of the Abbasids at their peak. In 1258, the Middle East faces being overrun by Mongols, and the Abbasids break down as three sultanates emerge-- In Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. Lecture Six introduces Islamic law and mysticism (Sufism) and explains some of the pressure between reformist movements. There are the four schools of Sunni ejtihad. Muslim family is one of the central and unchanged aspects of Islamic law since the time of Muhammad. I appreciated the explanation of the origins of Sufism. Ahmad Ghazali, considered the founder or at least the first prominent author, tapped into Muslim's emotions while also passing muster with the Umma in regards to his doctrine. Sufism spread widely and had many aspects of Christianity-- monastic orders, poetry, reflection and meditation on the attributes of God, veneration of saints ("pirs"), etc. Rumi is perhaps the most well-remembered Sufi poet (died in 1273) and Sufi ideas carry on today clerics such as Fetullah Gülen, about whom Espisito has edited a book. Islamic reform movements later target Sufi practices. (I've personally witnessed a revival of this attack in the 21st century in Azerbaijan where Wahabbist groups burned down Sufi pirs.) More on "revival and reform" comes in Lecture Seven when we see various revivalists and ejtihad. Esposito moves quickly to the 19th and 20th centuries where we find ibn Wahhab and ibn Saud in an alliance against the rival Shi'ia in Iran. Esposito touches on the Mahdi movement in Sudan, Muhammad Iqbal in India/Pakistan, and al-Afghani in Persia. (Some of these strains are the same by Ansary in his book.) Unfortunately, Esposito does not provide the context from which to make sense of Muslim reformers. He does not mention the much earlier details about ibn Hanbal and others in the Abbasid period who rejected Greek ideas of logic, reason, and rhetoric and how such ideas became rejected as anti-Islamic. He notes that modernists have criticized both the mystic Sufis and conservatives who take the Quran literally. He praises the "reform vision" of the Muslim Brotherhood without once mentioning Qutb and his contributions to to the violence that Esposito later claims has "hijacked" the faith. He also praises the Jammat al Islam in Pakistan and explains that these two groups' ideas spread and propogated (without mentioning the accompanying violence such as the seizing of the Grand Mosque). In Esposito's narrative, both modernists and conservatives have become disillusioned with western institutions via colonialism. He blaims colonialism on the lack of democracy. While he acknowledges that some revolutions had their violent aspects, most of the reformers he hails are from the 1980s' "new elite"-- educated and skilled Islamists. He notes that Islamic-oriented parties in Algeria and Turkey engaged in democratic elections (how has that worked out when they eventually gained power in Turkey and Egypt?). Esposito apparently believes that "religious reform is catching up to political reform." He cites evidence of new Quranic studies and contextual analysis. He does not note, however, that many who have pioneered these efforts have had to hide or flee for their lives, or spend time in jail. Esposito purports that Islam simply hasn't had the time that Christianity had to get to the Reformation and the 30 Years War. He conveniently ignores the recent spread of Wahhabism and the most conservative strains of Islam worldwide, how thousands of educated Europeans have left Europe to join ISIL in Syria, how the 9/11 hijackers were well-educated themselves. Esposito claims that women are gaining ground in terms of scholarship and Quranic interpretation-- without naming examples and flatly contradicting those like Hirsi Ali who have been persecuted for their calls for scholastic reforms. He ignores the increasing use of the hijab and the increased segregation of Mecca, which he claims is desegregated (read The Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed). Esposito looks at the under-chronicled (IMO) history of the Nation of Islam in America from its foundation to reforms under Louis Farrakhan. It strikes me as odd that the Sunni world can be concerned about orthodoxy in the Middle East but accept the Nation of Islam, which claims the American Elijah Muhammad was the last prophet, as its own. Esposito describes "what assimilation looks like" in Europe and the US while ignoring the thornier issues like whether wearing a burka is a violation of women's rights in France or honor killings and such. Esposito states that since Islam "grew up in a merchant culture" (the Ummayad dynasty) it is therefore compatible with capitalism. The experience of the AKP and parties in Algeria show it is compatible with democracy. Esposito states this without dealing with the fact that Islam was founded as a theocracy, the only legitimate state in the Quran is an overtly religious one based on Islam. There is no obvious possibility for a firewall of church and state-- the church is the state. For more critiques of Esposito: http://www.meforum.org/3043/john-l-es... His troubling statements: http://www.campus-watch.org/article/i... "Here the Esposito method was laid bare: thanks to his sponsorship, Saudi money subsidized a U.S. academic product intended to ameliorate the image of Wahhabism, the most extreme fundamentalist interpretation of Islam in modern times, and the inspirer of so-called "Salafi" radicals, from the Muslim Brotherhood through the South Asian jihadist movement founded by Abul Ala Mawdudi to al-Qaeda. In the mind of DeLong-Bas, Wahhabism could be considered, as noted in a review of the book, "peaceful, traditional, spiritual, and even feminist." For other books I have reviewed recently on the history of Islam: Tamim Ansary - Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes (4.5 stars) Reza Aslan - No god but God - The Origins and Future of Islam (2.5 stars) Tom Holland - In the The Shadow of the Sword (4 stars) Michael Cook - A Very Short Introduction to the Koran (4.5) Malise Ruthven - A Very Short Introduction to Islam (3 stars) Robert G. Hoyland - In God's Path - The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire (4 stars) Albert Hourani - History of the Arab Peoples (4.5 stars) Peter Mansfield - Brief History of the Middle East (3.5 stars) Salim Yuqub - The United States and the Middle East 1914-2001 (The Great Courses) Islam Unveiled - Robert Spencer (1.5 stars) The Cambridge History of Turkey vols. 1 and 2.(4 stars) Also useful in critiquing the part of Esposito's course covering the 1970s and onward is The Seige of Mecca by Yaroslav Trofimov (5 stars). There are several other books (particularly those by women authors) which detail the complexities of life on the ground in Islamic countries that are worth contrasting to the picture that Esposito paints.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This course is taught by someone who is considered to be an expert on interaction between Islam and the West, although he is not a Muslim himself.  In listening to the six hours of contents that this audiobook has about Islam I was myself torn between respect for the author's wish to show the diversity of worldviews and mindsets and the nobility of certain aspects of Muslim history and culture and a sense of irritation and frustration and even anger at the way that the professor seemed like one This course is taught by someone who is considered to be an expert on interaction between Islam and the West, although he is not a Muslim himself.  In listening to the six hours of contents that this audiobook has about Islam I was myself torn between respect for the author's wish to show the diversity of worldviews and mindsets and the nobility of certain aspects of Muslim history and culture and a sense of irritation and frustration and even anger at the way that the professor seemed like one of the list of clueless Progressive apologists for Islam.  Even to a greater extent than most of the works I read or listen to, this is a course that depends greatly on what one brings to the table.  Muslims may find the instructor to be sympathetic enough to be tolerated, but non-Muslims will likely find a great deal of their view of this course and its instructor depend on their own view of Islam, and their own context of knowledge about it [1].  This is a course designed for those with a minimum of background knowledge in and prejudice against Islam.  That may be asking for a bit much from a potential audience. In terms of its contents, the 12 lectures and six hours of this lecture look at a diverse bit of information that gives the most positive impression possible of Islam, largely due to the author's own critical attitude towards American nationalism.  Beginning with a look at Islam yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the professor repeats some of the material and approach in closing with a discussion on the future of Islam.  In between these bookends the professor instructs on the five pillars of Islam (pointing out rather pointedly that jihad is not the sixth pillar), Muhammad's career as a prophet and statesman, the Quranic worldview, the faith and politics of the Muslim community, the paths to God through Islamic law and sufi mysticism, and efforts at renewal and reform in Islamic revivalism.  After this historical context, the professor then looks at the contemporary resurgence of Islam, which the instructor views as a positive development somehow, before looking at Islam at the crossroads concerning the violence of extremists and the influence of the West, along with a look at the contentious struggle over the place of women in Islam and the ambiguous place of Islam in the West.  Overall, this is a course that raises a lot more questions than it gives answers.   As someone with a great deal of knowledge in and skepticism towards Islam, I viewed a great deal of this course as whitewash.  To be sure, the professor is himself the sort of person who would likely engage in interfaith discussions with Muslims and Jews and other Christians with a high degree of respect, supporting a moderate reformist stance that includes a positive view of Islam as a faith tradition.  My own views are, perhaps unsurprisingly, far less sanguine than the professor.  It is not that I believe that all Muslims, or even most Muslims, are extremist, but rather that there is little evidence that many Muslims and especially their religious leaders consider extremist Muslims to be beyond the pale and unacceptable and harmful to the well-being of their co-religionists as a whole.  It is the fact that the professor seems unwilling to address the darker side of Muhammad (marrying young children) or the horrors of Sharia law and its dark interpretations being brought into the West that gives the whole effort a great deal of suspicion in my eyes, and likely the minds of many who would come across this course. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Willy Marz Thiessam

    John Esposito has few equals in his expertise regarding Islam or his ability to express complex and confusing ideas in a simple and direct way. You can not go wrong picking up this lecture series or any number of his books regarding Islam if you want to understand Islam. Having studied Arabic and lived and visited Islamic countries I can definitely say Esposito understands not only theoretical and theological foundations of Islam but also the immense practicalities of a lived Islam. From the ver John Esposito has few equals in his expertise regarding Islam or his ability to express complex and confusing ideas in a simple and direct way. You can not go wrong picking up this lecture series or any number of his books regarding Islam if you want to understand Islam. Having studied Arabic and lived and visited Islamic countries I can definitely say Esposito understands not only theoretical and theological foundations of Islam but also the immense practicalities of a lived Islam. From the very start of his introduction all the way to his final lecture contextualizing a modern contemporary Islam you get the sense of a serious intellect that treats his subject with professionalism and erudition. It is so nice he is American also because it lends an easy going straightforward approach. I have come to expect this consistently from American scholars from The Great Courses audiobooks company. What Esposito is incredibly myopic about is perhaps if not forgivable, at least understandable. The effect that the USA has had in its policies to change regimes and exploit resources to the detriment of peoples in Islamic countries is something that hovers over his lectures like dark family secret. Its not that surprising as he has worked closely with many American governments in an advisory capacity. Additionally he conflates human rights, democracy, foreign trade, markets and business with Capitalism. This type of thinking has been the corner stone of American foreign policy for many decades. The increase of Capital is the goal is Capitalism. Healthy markets, democracy and the vibrant rule of law to ensure human rights is often antithetical to the singular goal of amassing ever more capital. This criticism is a fundamental aspect to Abrahamic religions, where an unhealthy desire for increasing capital has been censured. Professor Esposito is a remarkable scholar and one who should be read by anyone and everyone who has any interest in either theology or global politics today. As with anything you read always maintain an open and critical mind and you can't go wrong.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Douglass

    Although claiming to be an introduction to Islam, it is more of a historico-political course on the development of Muslim practices and Islam’s relationship with the West. The course is clearly intended for an audience who thinks all Muslims are terrorists; that it is inherently violent and militant; that it oppresses women and non-Muslims; and, that it is incompatible with the modern world. Indeed there are many misconceptions about Islam, but I wish Prof. Espositio would give his audience some Although claiming to be an introduction to Islam, it is more of a historico-political course on the development of Muslim practices and Islam’s relationship with the West. The course is clearly intended for an audience who thinks all Muslims are terrorists; that it is inherently violent and militant; that it oppresses women and non-Muslims; and, that it is incompatible with the modern world. Indeed there are many misconceptions about Islam, but I wish Prof. Espositio would give his audience some credit, rather than assuming that they’re all bigots and ignoramuses. There are twelve lectures in all, but only two deal with the theology of Islam and the life of Mohammod. All the rest are focused on historical, political, or moral issues – particularly those that have happened in the last 100 years. As such, there is a lot of overlapping and repetitive material. I was especially irritated that Esposito was constantly comparing Islam to Judaism and Christianity. It is true that all three faiths have a common heritage, but they are separate religions with their own theologies and traditions. The problem with comparative religion courses is that they focus so much on what certain faiths have in common, that you get little sense of what makes them distinctive. For instance, many religions practice fasting, but the kind of fasting practiced during Ramadan is uniquely Muslim. I was disappointed with this course because I don’t feel it was the best introduction to the world’s second largest religion. And it was a wasted opportunity on Esposito’s part: why target an audience that is uninterested in changing its negative perceptions of Islam?

  11. 4 out of 5

    F.

    Not bad, but about what I'd expect after going through the Great World Religions: Hinduism and several of their other ones. If you're interested in learning more about the major religions from an academic and non-biased perspective, this is a great place to start and your local library probably has a couple of this series either on CD or for download as an audio book. Islam gets a bad rap a lot of times, and in some ways they've done that to themselves, but there are interesting facets of the rel Not bad, but about what I'd expect after going through the Great World Religions: Hinduism and several of their other ones. If you're interested in learning more about the major religions from an academic and non-biased perspective, this is a great place to start and your local library probably has a couple of this series either on CD or for download as an audio book. Islam gets a bad rap a lot of times, and in some ways they've done that to themselves, but there are interesting facets of the religion from an academic standpoint nonetheless. Religion is a means of understanding someone's culture and the lens through which they view the world. The world would be a better place if everyone understood a little about each other's religions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I can understand other reviewers who feel that this course spends more time trying to express the diversity within the Muslim world and give a socio-historic background to the views many Westerners have of Muslims than it spends actually talking about Islam itself. But honestly, given some of the ridiculous reviews of this audio series, such as claiming Esposito is an apologist and basically doesn't spend enough time portraying Muslims as violent and extremist, it's clear that he took the right I can understand other reviewers who feel that this course spends more time trying to express the diversity within the Muslim world and give a socio-historic background to the views many Westerners have of Muslims than it spends actually talking about Islam itself. But honestly, given some of the ridiculous reviews of this audio series, such as claiming Esposito is an apologist and basically doesn't spend enough time portraying Muslims as violent and extremist, it's clear that he took the right approach. Pretty disappointing how some people just can't get it through their heads that 1.8 billion Muslims in the world aren't all the same. Reviewers, you are the problem.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    I've come away from some of the Great Courses feeling like I really understood the subject. That was not the case with this course. Admittedly (from Esposito himself), the topic warrants a lifetime of research and this course can't try and do that justice, but I don't feel like the course was the best jumping point. Most courses I've taken have had twice the lectures as this one and I felt like this one could have also benefit from a longer format with deeper content. I've come away from some of the Great Courses feeling like I really understood the subject. That was not the case with this course. Admittedly (from Esposito himself), the topic warrants a lifetime of research and this course can't try and do that justice, but I don't feel like the course was the best jumping point. Most courses I've taken have had twice the lectures as this one and I felt like this one could have also benefit from a longer format with deeper content.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I enjoyed this audiobook the most out of all of the audio books in this series that I have listened to on other religions. I think the narrator / professor did a really great job, especially considering the controversy surrounding the religion within the last several decades. I did find that while this narrator brought the religion up to the most current time period and really focused on what's going on today, I was left with follow-up questions. I enjoyed this audiobook the most out of all of the audio books in this series that I have listened to on other religions. I think the narrator / professor did a really great job, especially considering the controversy surrounding the religion within the last several decades. I did find that while this narrator brought the religion up to the most current time period and really focused on what's going on today, I was left with follow-up questions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Nothing revolutionary. Provides a summary of common beliefs and a glance at some of the diversity within Islam. Could be a good introduction if you’re very unfamiliar with the religion, but it doesn’t get too in depth

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sergey Balashov

    Nice overview. More focus on social aspects, than on history. Controverscial , like any talk on any religion. Educational and broad overview.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yaaresse

    Probably the weakest lecture series in TGC intro to world religions set. A good refresher, but I didn't learn anything new and questioned the political tone of some of the material. Probably the weakest lecture series in TGC intro to world religions set. A good refresher, but I didn't learn anything new and questioned the political tone of some of the material.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Okay, but not nearly enough depth and more about societal aspects than the religious. Interesting, but I don't feel like I know much more about the Qur'an or Islam as a religion after listening. Okay, but not nearly enough depth and more about societal aspects than the religious. Interesting, but I don't feel like I know much more about the Qur'an or Islam as a religion after listening.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is a six hour course (12 lectures) on Islam, and it is part of the Great World Religions series by the Great Courses. I downloaded it as an audiobook and listened to it last week. This course is given by John L. Esposito, a Professor of Islamic studies. (Professor Esposito grew up Catholic in New York City) Like most people, I know of Islam mostly through the news, which doesn't paint a good picture of Islam to say the least. I listened to this lecture series, while hearing about ISIS (and This is a six hour course (12 lectures) on Islam, and it is part of the Great World Religions series by the Great Courses. I downloaded it as an audiobook and listened to it last week. This course is given by John L. Esposito, a Professor of Islamic studies. (Professor Esposito grew up Catholic in New York City) Like most people, I know of Islam mostly through the news, which doesn't paint a good picture of Islam to say the least. I listened to this lecture series, while hearing about ISIS (and not the Egyptian goddess) in the news. I was aware of the historical contributions of Islam and of course the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire. Professor Esposito does his best to both present the religion and culture of Islam and to separate the mainstream from fundamentalist Islam and terrorist organizations. Sometimes it seemed that he was trying too hard. These lectures were presented after the events of 9/11, so he certainly had no easy task. The historic background of Islam was interesting. It is one of the three religions that worship the God of Abraham (the other two being Christianity and Judaism) and is different in that their prophet is Mohammed. I learned about how Muslims were split into Sunnis and Shiites and the early history of Mohammed. The five pillars of Islam are covered and the importance of prayer, pilgrimage and Mecca. Pr. Esposito does his best to show that Islam is a religion of peace and goes over their many great accomplishments. I did know (from Neil DeGrasse Tyson) that back in the day, Islamic people invented algebra, the concept of zero, the Arabic numeral system, and named many of the stars in the night sky. Esposito covers the Crusades, a necessary chapter in any study of Christianity or Islam. Constantinople is now Istanbul as the song goes. He briefly discusses the spread of Islam and the Ottoman empire to the nation states of today. Whenever he discussed topics like Al Queda or Hamas he did his best to dismiss them as extremist groups and not as a portrait of the religion/culture in general. Indeed, there are many countries that he named that are Muslim that are considered peaceful. The professor even covered militant Muslim groups that rose in the US in the 1960s, like the Nation of Islam or the Muslim brotherhood. The professor tried to stress that Muslims are a tolerant people, but even in historic times, Christians and Jews paid special taxes for not being Muslim. The chapter I had the hardest time dealing with was on the Muslim religion / culture and women. Esposito tries to stress how many things women could do and achieve in Muslim countries, but was forced to admit how many things were not permitted for women in many Muslim countries, like driving, traveling unaccompanied or education. He suggests that Muslim women may feel protected or empowered by their garb. I could not reconcile that against 'honor' killings that I have heard about in the news and what I view as a misogynistic culture. I like to know what others believe and try to understand why they believe it. I thought Professor Esposito did his best to describe Islam and give a history of the people, the religion and the culture of the Muslims. He spoke well and clearly. I could tell that he wanted people to see the good side of the religion and culture of Islam but was fighting an uphill battle against the image painted by the extremists of the group.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Before listening to this course I knew very little about Islam...unfortunately, I still don't (even after listening twice). I don't think is was Professor Esposito's knowledge or delivery, though he did come off as an apologist for Islam...it is mostly likely the paucity of background, in the forms of histories, personalities and maybe even interviews of practicing imams. That's just too much to cover in six hours. The reviews presented on the Great Courses website (particularly JeffGulleson and Before listening to this course I knew very little about Islam...unfortunately, I still don't (even after listening twice). I don't think is was Professor Esposito's knowledge or delivery, though he did come off as an apologist for Islam...it is mostly likely the paucity of background, in the forms of histories, personalities and maybe even interviews of practicing imams. That's just too much to cover in six hours. The reviews presented on the Great Courses website (particularly JeffGulleson and marvmax) are revealing and definitely worth reading. These folks seem to have had real, practical experience and knowledge of Islam, including the history neglected of glossed over by the good professor. My main difficulty, however, given the recent atrocities in the name of Islam, is the practice of describing Islam as a religion of peace...Prof Esposito stressed this at every occasion, as many of our elected officials are prone to do. But the actual wording within the Quran is quite violent, especially focused on the non-believers. Those 'extremists' do not consider themselves to be extreme. Rather they consider themselves doing god's will, much the same as those god-fearing Christians, who are calling for an anti-jihad, demanding retribution. Politics and religious differences just don't seem to play well together. Good Muslims must follow the Quran and the five pillars of Islam...those beliefs relegate all non-Muslims to second-class status and hence little or no respect. Is that alright with you? It's a good beginning course with flaws. Get it on sale (and coupon) and don't listen in a vacuum. "

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jon Stout

    This was the only cover image I could find, but in fact I listened to the ten lecture 1st edition set of tapes by Professor John Swanson of the American University of Cairo (not the 2nd edition, by Prof. Esposito). Mixed reviews: the lecturer was very repetitive and endlessly apologetic for saying anything that a Muslim believer might object to. That's why, I think, The Great Courses went on to Esposito for the 2nd edition. But at the same time, I found Prof. Swanson to be very respectful and sym This was the only cover image I could find, but in fact I listened to the ten lecture 1st edition set of tapes by Professor John Swanson of the American University of Cairo (not the 2nd edition, by Prof. Esposito). Mixed reviews: the lecturer was very repetitive and endlessly apologetic for saying anything that a Muslim believer might object to. That's why, I think, The Great Courses went on to Esposito for the 2nd edition. But at the same time, I found Prof. Swanson to be very respectful and sympathetic to Islam, and to show evidence of his many years talking and interacting with Muslim colleagues in Cairo. He gave a very thorough grounding in the basic concepts and beliefs that would be conventional wisdom for a Muslim, as well as a nuanced discussion of the issues in dispute between Islam and "Western modernism." I came away feeling that I could understand a Muslim point of view.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I picked up this lecture series to learn more about Islam. I was intrigued that the lecturer is a Catholic professor, not a Muslim. So I would have liked to have heard more about Christian-Muslim issues. As the material is so foreign to me, I think more explanation and repetition would have been helpful. Also, the lectures didn't seem to be given before an audience, but reminded me of an author reading from a prepared manuscript. Overall, I think the lecturer did a good job describing the basics I picked up this lecture series to learn more about Islam. I was intrigued that the lecturer is a Catholic professor, not a Muslim. So I would have liked to have heard more about Christian-Muslim issues. As the material is so foreign to me, I think more explanation and repetition would have been helpful. Also, the lectures didn't seem to be given before an audience, but reminded me of an author reading from a prepared manuscript. Overall, I think the lecturer did a good job describing the basics of Islam and some of the contemporary issues in Islam. The material was fair and balanced, and the discussion about the defensive nature of jihad was new to me. Interestingly, Islam is going through some of the same issues as Judaism and Christianity, e.g., the role of women in the religion and in society, fundamentalist and conservative vs. more modern expressions of Islam, questions about the authority of tradition vs. Scripture, etc.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Suze

    The twelve lectures of this audio book (part of a larger set on the five great world religions) look at the variations of cultural and religious practices of Islam, that also have been shaped by politics and geography. Unlike the other two monotheistic religions (Christianity and Judaism), the religious community and government law are tied together. Esposito explains the five “Pillars of Islam” that unite all interpretations – one God, required prayer, tithing, Ramadan fasting, Mecca pilgrimage The twelve lectures of this audio book (part of a larger set on the five great world religions) look at the variations of cultural and religious practices of Islam, that also have been shaped by politics and geography. Unlike the other two monotheistic religions (Christianity and Judaism), the religious community and government law are tied together. Esposito explains the five “Pillars of Islam” that unite all interpretations – one God, required prayer, tithing, Ramadan fasting, Mecca pilgrimage – the beginnings of Islam with Muhammad, the importance of the Quran, and the attempts at renewal and reform in the contemporary world, including it’s differing attitudes toward women. It was a worthwhile venture to learn of all the variations in a contemporary world where we often like to put everything into neatly labeled boxes. I’ve knocked it down in my star rating, though, because the speaker’s delivery was stilted.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    An introduction to the study of Islam in the form of an audio lecture series with an accompanying outline book. It covers history, core tenets of belief, life, law, and current trends or challenges of Islam. Professor John L. Esposito teaches International Affairs and Religion at Georgetown. His approach is decidedly from the modern perspective of comparative religions, and he attempts to show the similarities between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, arguing that all should interact peaceably i An introduction to the study of Islam in the form of an audio lecture series with an accompanying outline book. It covers history, core tenets of belief, life, law, and current trends or challenges of Islam. Professor John L. Esposito teaches International Affairs and Religion at Georgetown. His approach is decidedly from the modern perspective of comparative religions, and he attempts to show the similarities between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, arguing that all should interact peaceably in society, but he avoids questions of ultimate truth. The value here is a more balanced, better knowledge of "the other," avoiding Islamophobia and ignorant generalizations; the danger is relativistic universalism.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gamal Hennessy

    I avoid all organized religion in my personal life, but I try to understand certain things even if I don't accept them. Explanations about Islam weren't part of my education growing up. Modern depictions are often forced through the distorted lens of sensationalist political rhetoric and dismissive mainstream media. While the lectures in this book only introduce the history, diversity and impact of Islam on world history and politics, readers will get an understanding and appreciation of the rel I avoid all organized religion in my personal life, but I try to understand certain things even if I don't accept them. Explanations about Islam weren't part of my education growing up. Modern depictions are often forced through the distorted lens of sensationalist political rhetoric and dismissive mainstream media. While the lectures in this book only introduce the history, diversity and impact of Islam on world history and politics, readers will get an understanding and appreciation of the religion they won't ever get from Fox News.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Laughlin

    Excellent, compellingly presented information about the world's second-largest religion. A bit defensive, and tends to over-emphasize Christianity's flaws and under-emphasize Islam's flaws in their interactions over the centuries... but it's still worth hearing. Excellent, compellingly presented information about the world's second-largest religion. A bit defensive, and tends to over-emphasize Christianity's flaws and under-emphasize Islam's flaws in their interactions over the centuries... but it's still worth hearing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    sch

    Poor narration and too brief.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Would love to get other opinions as seems to lean in favor of Islam but still very interesting and informative.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bill Chapman

    Good primer on Islam. Timely topic in today's world. Good primer on Islam. Timely topic in today's world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Meyers

    I enjoyed this book, however I expected this course to be more about the Quran, rather than Muslim politics and how Muslims are viewed post 9/11. I did learn a few things, but not much.

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