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Book: Islam & Muslims

Islam & Muslims: A Guide to Diverse Experience in a Modern World (Intercultural Press: Boston, 2006).

The need to understand Islam and Muslims has never been greater, both because of conflicts that dominate the news and because of the increasing presence of Muslims in Western societies. There are hundreds of books that introduce the Western reader to Islam, and dozens of books that introduce the Western reader to various Muslim societies (usually Arab ones). Islam & Muslims is the first to bring together both, explaining Islam in theory and in practice across the diverse Muslim world. Readers learn not just what Islam says about everything from the nature of God to marriage to prayer to politics, but also how individual Muslims (traditional or modern, dev out or barely observant) apply teachings in everyday life.

Intercultural Press publish books that help professionals, businesspeople, travelers and scholars understand the meaning and diversity of culture.

ISBN: 1931930163

List price: $21.95 / £14.99

Table of contents


1. A Cave in the Desert: What is Islam?

Islam and Monotheism; The Early History of Islam; The Islamic Ideal; The Spread of Islam; Where Muslims Live Now

2. Who’s in Charge Here? The Construction of Islam

Denominations; Interpretation; The Ulema; The Sharia; The Ulema Today

3. Smiles and Frowns: Types of Muslim

Tradition; Modernity; Religiosity; Tolerance

4. God and Angels: The Muslim Worldview

God and Creation; Angels and Jinn and Unseen Forces; Saints and Miracles; Birth, Death, Destiny, and Judgment

5. How to Do Islam: Worship

Prayer; Alms; Fasting; Pilgrimage; Reading the Koran; Remembering God

6. Inside the Harem: The Family

Men and Women; Sex and Segregation; Marriage; Children; Polygamy and Divorce; Death and Inheritance; Feminism

7. Food, Frocks, and Funds: Daily Life

General Principles; Food and Drink; Dress; The Arts; Business

8. In and Out: Community Life

The Umma; Mazhabs and Muftis; Local Communities; Race; Crime; Punishment; Violence

9. Good Muslims, Bad Muslims: Ethics

Slander and Hypocrisy; Virtues and Vices

10. More Moors: Other Denominations

Shi’ism; Wahhabism; Smaller Denominations and Sects

11. Murder in the Name of God: Islam and Politics

The Medieval Muslim State; Religion and State Today; The Origins of Political Islam; Islamism Today; Support for Islamism; Alternatives to Islamism

12. The Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West

Islam and Non-Muslims; Muslims and Israel; The Muslim World and the West; Muslims in the West



Muslim Populations by Region

Suggested Further Reading



“Sedgwick’s long experience of living in the Muslim world and studying Islam gives authority to this book which successfully balances coverage of formal beliefs and actual practices. This realistic analysis is sympathetic but not apologetic. Islam & Muslims is a very helpful resource for anyone trying to understand the dynamics of Islamic history and contemporary Muslim life.”

— JOHN VOLL, Professor of Islamic History, Associate Director, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

Islam & Muslims is really very, very good. I can attest that I truly enjoyed reading it, taking great satisfaction in the way that it managed time after time to ‘get it right’.”

— L. CARL BROWN, Garrett Professor in Foreign Affairs Emeritus, Princeton University 

“Looking for a really good one-stop book on Islam and Muslims to recommend to friends and relations? Islam & Muslims is up-to-date, well-informed, insightful, and sympathetic without being evasive.”

— MICHAEL COOK, author of The Koran: A Very Short Introduction

“Mark Sedgwick’s Islam & Muslims is an accessible and informative survey of the way Islam is actually practiced today, written in a refreshingly direct style. It will appeal especially to the general reader seeking a knowledgeable but nontechnical view of Muslim societies.”

— CARL ERNST, Director, Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilization, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Islam & Muslims draws on Mark Sedgwick’s expertise and experiences as a scholar of Islam who has lived among Muslims for many years. The book stands out for its insightful focus on the everyday life of ordinary Muslims. Through comparisons between Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions, Islam & Muslims succeeds in explaining to non-Muslims in the West not only the ideals of Islam, but also the diverse ways Islam is experienced by contemporary Muslims.”

—KAMBIZ GHANEA BASSIRI, Assistant Professor of Religion and Humanities, Reed College 

“One of the best introductions to Islam...  Sedgwick provides appropriate detail on Islamic history and doctrine for a general reader while covering an enormous range of topics. The discussion on what Shariah is, and what it is not, is particularly clear and relevant. Readers will also pick up basic facts, like the difference between Arabs and Muslims, and come to appreciate the diversity of Islamic practice today."

— DAVID SIDDARTHA PATEL, Assistant Professor of Government, Cornell University, interviewed in Roll Call, The Newspaper of Capiol Hill

Islam & Muslims is a most accessible, intimately informative, and a thoroughly engaging read. Students and general readers alike will simply love this book. Whether one is wondering about how Muslims worship, what Muslims think about family and gender, why Islam has ‘clashed’ with the West, or all of these and more, this unique book is one that I would most highly recommend!”

— BRADLEY S. CLOUGH, Abdulhadi H. Taher Chair in Comparative Religion, The American University in Cairo

"It is unlikely that any one book could satisfy all readers . . . I recommend either the erudite tomes, such as Rahman 1979 and Martin 1996, or provocative critiques, such as Sardar 2004 and Sedgwick 2006, that finally make the genre appealing, its benefits enduring."

— BRUCE B. LAWRENCE, "Introducing Islam or reviling Muslims?" Contemporary Islam

"One of the very best."

— FRANCIS ROBINSON, review, Asian Affairs

"The book is subtitled, 'A Guide to Diverse Experience in a Modern World,' and the mass of examples cited of this diverse experience is truly impressive. . . Readers who know the rudiments of the religion will find Sedgwick’s book to be highly readable, instructive and entertaining."

— R. MARSTON SPEIGHT, review, The Muslim World

"One of the best books of its kind in English to date."

— MATTHEW PIERCE, review, Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies


  • Review. SIETAR Europe (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research), June 2006. By George Simons.
  • " Kjærlig og kritisk om islam." Forsikning.no. June 25, 2006. By Didrik Søderlind. In Norwegian.
  • "Klårt og opplysande om islam," Vestmannen 6/06, p. 18. By K. E. Steffens. In Norwegian.
  • Wisconsin Bookwatch vol 2, no 1, January 2007.
  • Milel ve Nihal: inanç, kültür ve mitoloji arastirmalari dergisi vol 4, no 1 (January-April 2007), pp 162-164. By Yakup Çostu. In Turkish.
  • "Review essay: introducing Islam or reviling Muslims?" Contemporary Islam 2 (2008), pp. 85–89. By Bruce B. Lawrence.
  • Review. Asian Affairs 39 (2008), pp. 109-10. By Frabcis Robinson.
  • Review. The Muslim World 99 (January 2009), pp. 227-228. By R. Marston Speight.
  • Review. Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies 2 (2009), pp. 227-229. By Matthew Pierce.