This perhaps one of the most well written, insightful and captivating books that I have had the good pleasure to have read. In sum, it is an advanced...moreThis perhaps one of the most well written, insightful and captivating books that I have had the good pleasure to have read. In sum, it is an advanced introduction to Islam with a Perennialist Philosophical outlook (he probably references Schuon and Nasr more than anyone else). It is at times a novel, a metaphysical treatise and cultural critique. I was initially disturbed by the philosophical underpinnings of the author, particularly the "universal validity of religions" of which the first quarter of the book is laden, but he won me back over with an affectionate narrative of Umar ibn al-Khattab's rule and from that point on, the few perceived flaws of the book faded away into the background.
This book is not without its flaws, however. In addition to the perennial philosophy, he makes mention of the "closure of the gates of ijtihad" (which is more of an annoyance than a serious flaw - though he manages gives a decent philosophical defense of it), his characterization of "intoxicated" Sufism is problematic AND he argues for the temporality of Hell (something which in less confusing times was considered a blatant act of kufr). But all o this more or less is what Perennialism is typically known for, so there is nothing new here.
Be that as it may, I strongly feel that anyone who appreciates philosophy and a critiqued defense of traditionalism (in juxtaposition to modernism) will fall in love with this book.
I initially selected this book because my referral (King of the Castle: Choice and Responsibility in the Modern World) wasn't readily on hand and after reading this, it only makes me want to read that title that much more. All that being said, I would not necessarily feel comfortable with simply handing this book over to a new convert or non-Muslim and walk away before for the reasons stated above. It is not an easy read (though it isn't obtuse either) and someone who doesn't have a strong background in orthodox theology may be convinced by some of his more unorthodox views. But considering what else is out there, a person could do a lot worse. In spite of its flaws, the eloquence and insightfulness of this book alone makes is worth reading.(less)