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Thomas W. Lippman's Understanding Islam Essay

1257 words - 5 pages

Thomas W. Lippman's Understanding Islam

Thomas W. Lippman gives an introduction to the Muslim world in the book Understanding Islam. He has traveled throughout the Islamic world as Washington Post bureau chief for the Middle East, and as a correspondent in Indochina. This gave him, in his own words, "sharp insight into the complexities of that turbulent region." However, the purpose of the book is not to produce a critical or controversial interpretation of Islamic scripture. It is instead to give the American layman an broad understanding of a religion that is highly misunderstood by many Americans. In this way he dispels many myths about "Muslim militants," and the otherwise untrue perception of Islamic violence. In this way the American reader will become more knowledgeable about an otherwise unfamiliar topic. However, the most significant element of Lippman’s book is that it presents Islam in a simple way that makes the reader feels his awareness rise after each chapter. This encourages him to continue learning about the world’s youngest major religion. Understanding Islam dispels many misconceptions about the Muslim world, and presents the subject in a way that urges his reader to further his understanding of Islam through continued study.

The book lays the foundation of Islamic basic beliefs and practices. Muslims believe in one God, and feel their religion continues the Judaic and Christian traditions. Arab peoples "trace their origins to the patriarch Abraham, who, according to the Koran was neither Jew nor Christian, but a kind of universal ancestor of monotheists" (5). Thus, Muslims believe in the same God as Jews and Christians.

The Islamic translation for God is Allah. Many Americans think of Allah as the God of Islam, when really it is the same God other religions believe. This leads Lippman to say that many Muslims "disapprove of the use of the name Allah in English language commentary on their religion" (7). They feel that this makes English speakers distance themselves from Islam, even though it is similar to other western religions.

Islam "is an Arabic word that means submission, submission to the will God" (1). Muslims must abide by certain prayer rules to fulfill their religious duty. The Qur’an says prayer is a duty to be incumbent on the faithful, to be conducted at the appointed hours. "This ritual prayer gives oral expression to the believe’s submission to God" (17).

Another way Muslims show their submission to Faith, is in obliging their duty to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. This is "the unifying force in Islam, (bringing) together the rich and poor, herdsman and tycoon, scholar and illiterate, man and woman, Arab, Persian, and Turk, African and Asian" (22). Demonstrating their obedience to religious doctrine shows their compliance to the holy spirit of God.

Muhammad is the most important figure in Islam. Muhammad was a great man whose public life lasted only...

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