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Jay Willoughby's Review on Essentials of the Islamic Faith

by Jay Willoughby on . Posted in Book Reviews

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The author, one of Turkey's most respected Islamic scholars, discusses Islam's core beliefs. After giving brief summaries of traditional arguments for God's Existence and Unity, Gülen analyzes modern theories related to nature, natural laws, and causes, as well as matter and chance. Supporting his arguments with accounts of scientific experiments, he also appeals to common sense by asking if any person or thing can be created without an author or by itself.

The second chapter analyzes angels, jinn, the spirit, death, Satan, and other spiritual topics. The third chapter, dealing with Destiny and free will, refutes the idea that Islam teaches predestination. According to Gülen, we "reap what we sow," for we have been given the Truth and told that we will be rewarded or punished according to how much we live our lives by it. Besides, fatalism is based upon a mistaken belief: that our human and therefore artificial division of time into past, present, and future somehow affects God. It does not.

The fourth chapter provides the Qur'anic and general arguments for the resurrection and the afterlife, while the fifth chapter discusses how Muslims understand Prophethood and Muhammad's Prophethood. Gülen presents both sides of the Prophet's life: spiritual and material. He also mentions the Bible's references to Muhammad, and deals with his miracles and polygamy. The final chapter presents the Qur'anic view of Prophet Muhammad and why the Qur'an and science are compatible.

The author is to be commended for relying upon Muslim sources, as well as his own practice and study. He presents Islam as devout and practicing Muslims understand it. It is a refreshing break from books by scholars who seek to explain a religion that they do not follow, and whose sacred language they often do not know, to others who want to learn about it.

This book should be read by all those who want to understand how Muslims understand Islam and view themselves.

The Fountain, January-March 2003, Issue 41