To Be a Muslim

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This book is an incisive, personal statement about the essence of Islam by one of the world’s leading advocates of inter-faith dialogue and understanding – Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. There is much ignorance about Islam in the West, and negative opinions of Islam feed on that ignorance. The views and attitudes about Islam in public dialogue since the Osama bin Laden-inspired terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 require a response that sets Islam in a light that shows its fundamental belief structures and humanity. The core of the book is a statement of belief in a question and answer format that allows Islam’s basic tenets to be quickly grasped by a wide audience. In form and content To Be A Muslim reaches both a Western audience and also Muslims (who themselves can be Westerners) who are seeking to articulate their faith and to explain it to themselves and to others. The questions put by His Royal Highness’s collaborator, Alain Elkann, are those frequently posed by people not knowledgeable about Islam. … Prince El Hassan’s answers are precise and informative. He presents a persuasive argument that the beliefs and culture of the majority of the Islamic world not only are compatible with but are contributive to a world at peace – a world of diversity in which Muslim and non-Muslim nations can and should collaborate to create a more humane and just global society. He cites the Qur’an, the Hadith (sayings), and the Sunna (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad, and describes how most of Islam during most of its history has applied the teachings of the Prophet so as to treat other ethnic groups, cultures and faiths – especially the Jewish and Christian monotheists – with respect, tolerance and fairness. … This unique book is complemented by chapters from David L. Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma and Ambassador Edward J. Perkins, who set the exposition of the Prince (who was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Oklahoma) in a wide historical and political context.


“Rightly or wrongly, in a post-9/11 world Muslims are being called on to explain Islamic traditions to skeptical audiences. Unfortunately, this is bound to place them on the defensive. To Be a Muslim cuts through that dilemma by presenting an account of Islam which is concise in expression, optimistic in outlook and accessible to the general reader. Prince El Hassan bin Talal has spent many years advocating a view of Islam that is fully compatible with openness to religious plurality and dialogue, democracy and human rights, and is humane in ethical performance. In his hands, Islam is a religion that has much both to offer a changing and often confused world, and to receive from it. For this author, all the essential building-blocks for constructing an Islam that can support the values of democratic freedom, civil society, interreligious respect and international co-operation are available through the tradition carefully interpreted.”  —Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations“In Q&A format, the Jordanian prince sets out a personal statement of belief about the essence of Islam to guide a general Western audience through the basic tenets of the faith. In this revision of a work previously published in Italian, French, and Spanish, the prince’s stated goal is to counter misconceptions about Islam based on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and other terrorist actions. ‘It is the understanding of each other’s similarities and, just as important, of each other's differences, that we need in order to move forward together,’ he writes.”  —Book News

“Prince El Hassan could be described as the de facto ambassador at large for the Islamic world. As one of a handful of intellectuals amongst the current Muslim leadership he is able to match thought for thought with western protagonists. He is also a much respected figure in the international community for his indefatigable efforts to propagate peace and pluralism in an increasingly dangerous world. This book manifests both his intentions and his actions. The core chapter, ‘To Be A Muslim’, from which the book takes its title, is written in a catechism-like format, which is not unfamiliar to Muslims. In attempting to answer forty-one questions, which are thought to be of interest to non-Muslims at large, he covers a wide range of issues from prayers to politics and veils to violence. His responses cover the middle ground of Islam and give the reader a solid start to his enquiries. His erudition extends from the Qur’an and hadith literature to the poetry of Ibn ‘Arabi and Rumi.”  —Contemporary Islamic Thought