Introductory courses on Islam in universities and colleges often concentrate on the development of Islamic institutions in the classical period. Before embarking on such a course, would-be students would benefit from (1) a discussion of the problems raised by western perceptions of Islam; (2) a brief panoramic account of Islamic history down to the present; (3) a sympathetic description of Islam as a living faith. All three are provided in this work. General readers, and those who have already embarked on the study of Islam, require a user-friendly reference work which furnishes them with key dates and simple definitions, and helps them with technical matters such as the structure of Arabic names and the various ways of transliterating Arabic. Their needs are also catered for here. Chapter 1 tackles the negative image of Islam, the history of misrepresentation, and continued obstacles to understanding. Chapter 2 offers an initial attempt at defining Islam. Chapters 3 and 4 give a brief history of the Muslim world and attempt to break that history into periods. Chapter 5 introduces the Quran.
Chapters 6 and 7 deal respectively with Muslim attitudes to God and Muhammad, stressing the diversity of belief. Chapters 8 to 11 discuss the principal elements in Islamic worship from the viewpoint of the history of religions as well as that of the participants. Chapter 12 is an introduction to Islamic Law. Chapter 13 discusses Shiism and sects. There are two appendices explaining the structure of Muslim names and the Islamic Calendar.