The House of Islam: A Global History

Ed Husain

The House of Islam: A Global History
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The House of Islam: A Global History

Ed Husain

‘Islam began as a stranger,’ said the Prophet Mohammed, ‘and one day, it will again return to being a stranger.’

The gulf between Islam and the West is widening. A faith rich with strong values and traditions, observed by nearly two billion people across the world, is seen by the West as something to be feared rather than understood. Sensational headlines and hard-line policies spark enmity, while ignoring the feelings, narratives and perceptions that preoccupy Muslims today.

Wise and authoritative, The House of Islam seeks to provide entry to the minds and hearts of Muslims the world over. It introduces us to the fairness, kindness and mercy of Mohammed; the aims of sharia law, through commentary on scripture, to provide an ethical basis to life; the beauty of Islamic art and the permeation of the divine in public spaces; and the tension between mysticism and literalism that still threatens the House of Islam.

The decline of the Muslim world and the current crises of leadership mean that a glorious past, full of intellectual nobility and purpose, is now exploited by extremists and channelled into acts of terror. How can Muslims confront the issues that are destroying Islam from within, and what can the West do to help work towards that end?

Ed Husain expertly and compassionately guides us through the nuances of Islam and its people, contending that the Muslim world need not be a stranger to the West, nor its enemy, but a peaceable ally.

Review

Ed Husain has taken on the mammoth task of writing a comprehensive history of Islam and its people for a Western audience. The House of Islam successfully achieves this, providing a necessary foundational overview of the historical, cultural and geopolitical issues of Muslim culture from its inception through to the twenty-first century across seven different cultural and geopolitical spheres. Husain situates Islam in relation to the West and Western thought. However, he does not create an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ comparison. Instead, he highlights the limitations and dangers of current Western perceptions and demonstrates how the relationship between the ‘West’ and the Muslim world can be more interconnected and peaceful.

Husain was born in London to Muslim migrants from British India. He studied Arabic and Islam in Syria, lived and worked in Saudi Arabia as a teacher with the British Council, and later completed a postgraduate degree in Islam and Middle East politics in Britain. He has worked on addressing the misconceptions of Islam and Muslim culture, and the current ‘gulf’ between Islam and the West, throughout his career – not only in his studies and writing, but also by creating the London-based counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam.

The House of Islam is divided into four main sections. The first discusses the religious underpinnings and origins of Islam and the Quran. The second section looks at the ideas, identities and consequences of what Husain refers to as ‘Arabisation’ of Islamic thought and juxtaposes this with discussions of the meaning and relevance of Sufism and Islamism. The third section discusses the long-term impact of both Westernisation and ‘Arabisation’ across various geographical areas of Muslim cultures. The final section then discusses the importance of global openness and coexistence.

As someone with very little knowledge of Islam, I found Husain’s book a fantastic introduction to Islam and Muslim culture. The House of Islam expertly addresses the current gaps in knowledge of this large, significant and diverse part of our world’s history and modern-day culture.


Rose Maurice works as a bookseller at Readings Doncaster.

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