Book Review

40 Book Review The World’s Religions Author: Montgommery Watt Publisher: Lion Publishing, Tring, Herts. More than fifty specialist authors from many different countries have contributed to this Handbook which comprises six parts dealing with all the religious ideologies starting from “religion before history” to “the fulfilment of religion”. The book is intended to present the reader with a comprehensively clear and stimulating introduction and guide to the world’s religions. After discussing man’s earliest forms of worship the book goes on to describe the ancient religions — Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Norse Gods . . . information is provided on all major religions of the present age. On major Eastern and world religions, articles give information on the history, scriptures, worship, beliefs and practices of the various faiths. In the section on Islam, while giving the history of the Prophet of Islam and his Successors, the author (Montgommery Watt) writes”: Raiding their neighbours had been a normal occupation of the nomadic arab tribes, and Muhammad and the first caliphs realized that they could not keep peace within the federation unless they found some outlet for the energies of the tribesmen. They therefore organized raiding expeditions (razzias) in the direction of Syria and Iraq. The aim of these was to obtain booty, including domestic animals”. Nothing can be farther from the truth than to suggest that the Prophet and his successors took delight in fighting only to keep the nomadic arabs occupied. The fact is that whenever freedom of conscience is sought to be suppressed by force, Islam makes it obligatory that such force should be opposed, but only so long as the enemy continues to fight an aggressive war with the object of depriving people of freedom of belief, profession, and worship. When freedom of conscience is secured or when the enemy desists from fighting and is prepared to make a just and equitable peace, fighting should stop. These are basic and fundamental directives. They permit no refinement or deviation. There are numerous directives in the Quran with regard to fighting and warlike activities, but they are all subject to the conditions laid down and must be construed subject to it. The above Quranic injunction makes basis for Jehad, holy war, and the obtaining of booty or animals has never been the aim of Muslims. The author though an orientalist and very well versed in the history of Islam should not have made such sweeping claims. Very well illustrated and beautifully printed, the book gives further details about the religion of Islam. It deals with the life history of the Prophet, on 41 BOOK REVIEW whom be peace, the Worship of Islam, the Festivals of Islam, Law of Islam and the rich contribution Islam has made towards science, art and culture. The Chapter “Unity and Variety in Islam” described various sects of Islam. By mistake Ahmadiyya sect of Islam has been depicted a branch of the Shi’a sect. The author writes: The vigorously missionary Ahmadiyya sect, founded in India in the early part of this century, is considered heretical by other Muslims. Ahmad announced himself as the awaited saviour of Islam, Christianity and Hindusim. Ahmadiyya Community has again been mentioned in part seven of the book under “Rapid Fact-finder” caption. It reads: “Ahmadiyya sect offshoot of Islam founded in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (died 1908) who is believed to be the Messiah, Mahdi. The sect denies the authority of the ‘Ulama’, Ijma’ and Jihad. It is a missionary sect and has gained converts in Asia and Africa”. The Ahmadis certainly deny the authority of the so called ‘Ulama’ and there cannot be any Ijma’ now when there is no central authority in the Muslim world, more especially when the Imam of the age, Hakam and Adal has been sent whose decrees are the final authority. Similarly, the interpretation of Jehad and its application are the two fields where the Ahmadis present their own opinion which is based on the Quran and Hadith. But so far as its authority and obligation is concerned the Ahmadis firmly believe in it. The Handbook presents, with very few exceptions, different view points clearly and objectively and tries to describe every religion and faith ‘ ‘as it is” so that they speak for themselves. It is a treasure for anyone interested in comparative study of religion especially for teachers and researchers. With illustrations, pictures, maps and drawings the subject matter has been made interesting which absorbs the reader. The price is also reasonable. M. A. Saqi Golden deeds of Muslims by RASHID AHMAD CHAUDHRI The stories make compelling reading matter for both young and old. They give an insight to the simple lives led by the early Muslims and show how such people sacrificed their lives, property and honour for the sake of their faith and thus became popularly known as martyrs or heroes. The reader has been saved the trouble of sifting facts from myths in order to present the truth in its barest form: these are true stories. Available from the London Mosque Price 75p