Researching Islam?

Sorry if this is the wrong section, honestly only posting here since I am too lazy to go to another forum… or actually don’t know of any other forums besides Reddit(which I do not have an account on, just find important info sometimes).

Anyways, have been thinking about researching Islam for a few weeks now, just haven’t been serious about it until now(it probably actually became an interest of mine back in 2013 though).

I just have no idea on any trustworthy places to actually find information? I guess the easiest option would be to go to a nearby mosque, but I still don’t drive and would prefer to not have my parents knowing yet.

Also kind of wondering about how different the beliefs are compared to a Lutheran stand point? I already obviously know that in Islam, Jesus seems to be a prophet and not God, which I guess is a bit weird to me(though Jesus being a God did confuse me back when I was being confirmed).

Sorry again if this is the wrong place.

Try this, and search for “Islam” in the search box. There are a lot of good resources.

You might want to find of copy of Robert Spencer’s Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics 100 Questions and Answers I know the title says it is “a guide for Catholic” but really it is a guide for all Christians. I also realize some here may think Mr. Spencer is off the deep end but having looked at Islam from many angles I have found his views on the subject eye opening. In today’s world the line from the movie “A Few Good Men” come to mind: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”. Sometime the truth hurts.

Read the Koran! If you were researching Christianity I hope you would read the bible.

Hey Avinia,

I often research religions, because I’m a religion geek;). My rule of thumb to get a full spectrum of a religion is to research what they (active practioners or the religion) say about it, what we (members of my religion, in your case Lutherans) say about it and what other outside sources say about it (nonbiased historic texts).

You must remember that when researching Islam (or even Catholicism for that matter) there are numerous sources dedicated to bashing it and spreading lies, please avoid those sources.

Reading an English translation of the Qur’an is a good start but there are also Hadiths (sayings of the prophet that certain Islamic rules are based on. Not all Muslims follow the hadiths and some only follow the ones attributed to Muhammad and not his followers).

Just like Christianity, but not as splintered, there are different branches of Islam. Shia and Sunni, as well as subdenominations within them as well as people who make no distinction between either group, similar to nondenominational Christians I guess.

I think studying religions is a great thing. It truly can help you understand other people and their culture as well as breed love and tolerance. Also I think there is nothing wrong with investigating other religions just to see if you are in the right one. I’ve done a lot of that and I’ve always found the trail of Truth lead back to the same place :slight_smile:

Excellent advice :thumbsup:

I hope you do not follow the advice of posters encouraging you to visit non-Islamic “experts”

If the Koran is difficult to understand, I would suggest you find the courage to approach your local mosque. There you will finding loving human beings. If you do not have the courage, pray for God to give you that courage. It will make you into a much more human human being…

God bless you in your search :slight_smile:


The Koran is actually pretty understandable especially if you have a Christian background. Don’t fall into the protestant heresy of interpretation however one sees fit. read it like a text book. The obvious contradictions and such are pretty visible to the astute reader. I’ve worked in areas surrounding middle eastern studies and culture for some time its really not all that hard to understand if you have the right tactic going in. There are plenty of experts who really do know much about Islam but like I said earlier go to the source first then move into those things. Just like in Christianity most don’t read the bible or understand their faith and are cultural Christians so are the Muslims in their world. Especially here in the US and democratic countries. the same can be said in the poor countries since literacy rates are low. Very few truly understand Islam in and out of the faith. It is what it is.

I know you can order a free copy of the Qur’an online. I have ordered one from the internet as well as a Muslim man gave me a copy once. When I research another religion, and I used to be a huge religion geek (until I realized I had to focus on school work instead of my personal studies), I would dive into their own religious text and then try and understand it from the perspective of the believer of that religion.

But in everything, I tried to pray that God give me the wisdom through this study to be able to better defend the Catholic faith against unbelievers in these religions, so that I may be able to evangelize to the members of these religions. Also, I would pray that I would not be led astray by the Evil One, who would want to try and convince me that this other religion is true.

As always, when studying another religion, stay grounded in your faith as a Christian. Read the Bible far more than you read the Qur’an. And bring any questions or doubts you may have to a religious advisor or pastor/priest.

God bless!


The Qur’an probably has fewer contradictions than the Bible since instead of being composed of numerous books written by different authors over a long period of time, the Qur’an all dates to the 7th century and was written down in the lifetime of Muhammad or shortly after his death :wink:

You might want to start off by reading a modern biography of the Prophet Muhammad such as the one by the British author Karen Armstrong, *Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time *(HarperOne, 2007) or the one by University of North Carolina professor Omid Safi, Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters (HarperOne, 2009). Both Muslims and non-Muslims have recommended Armstrong’s book to me. Omid Safi is himself a Muslim and a well known scholar of Islam.

Wow I’m not aware of any contradictions in the bible are you? Yes the Quran has many contradictions. These are explained away like this. its a timeline if a requirement is made early and a future requirement seems to contradict the first requirement go with the latter. But when you have a book written by a guy who claims private revelation which no one else experiences ( why does this remind me of the BoM) then that’s what you get. A non inspired invention.

The Bible is full of contradictions. On May 1, I started reading the Bible from the beginning with the aim of reading it all in one year and I come across contradictions almost every day. For example, yesterday I read:

Exodus 2:15-21: But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well. 16 The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 But some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defense and watered their flock. 18 When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?”19 They said, “An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread.” 21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage.

Exodus 4:18: Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”

So what was the name of Moses’ father-in-law? Was it Reuel or Jethro?

What would you like to know?

Here is a series of lectures by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. He is an American Muslim.

So what you are saying is based on YOURE PRIVATE INTERPRETATION which happens to be fallible you have found contradictions?

BTW a name difference isn’t a contradiction

In any research topic, as you probably know, you need “primary sources” and “secondary sources.”

For Islam, the primary sources are the Qur’an, the collections of “hadith” (Islamic traditions), other traditional Islamic texts, and modern tracts, books, and websites by Muslims.

The secondary sources are, ideally, scholarly sources by people with Ph.D’s in the study of Islam. A bibliography of these can be found here.

You need both of these. You need to read what Muslims say about themselves–as diverse a selection as possible. And you also need to read what scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim, with training in critical analysis say about Islam.

Other sources–non-scholarly sources not by Muslims–have a lesser value. In the case of Islam, many of these sources will be extremely hostile to Islam (Spencer, for instance, whom you will find highly recommended by other people on this forum, or Bostom). Karen Armstrong is a notable example the other way (rather more starry-eyed about Islam than most people with Ph.D.'s in the subject are).

A few good one-volume introductions to Islam are:

W. E. Peters, Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians
Islam: A Very Short Introduction
John Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path

Esposito is a non-Muslim (Catholic, I think, but I’m not sure) who is pretty sympathetic to Islam. Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis are good sources for a more critical view.


So you think that non-Muslims have nothing to say about Islam, even when they have Ph.D’s in the subject?

That way, you ensure that the inquirer will only ever get the Islamic perspective.

Critical, scholarly analysis is important.

If you are talking about “experts” who aren’t really experts except in polemic, then I agree with you. Or at least, I agree that such authors should be given a very low priority.

I am very slow to tell anyone not to read anything. Ideally, we should all read everything. But life is short.


Pretty sure he was addressing the recommendation of Spencer and not academics. But your elucidation is valuable.

Good advice from Contarini. For a good translation of the Qur’an, I would recommend starting with the one by Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an (Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus, 1980). It has a good commentary with it which is very useful. You can download a pdf version of it here:

A good general introduction to the Qur’an, in my opinion, is the one by the South African Muslim scholar Farid Esack, The Qur’an: A Short Introduction (Oxford, England: Oneworld, 2002).

If you want to read the earliest and most important Muslim biography of Muhammad, there is the Sirat Rasul Allah by Ibn Ishaq who died in 767 AD. His biography or sira has been translated by Alfred Guillaume, *The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah *(London: Oxford University Press, 1955). It is still in print.

For a biography of Muhammad based on many original sources, try Martin Lings, Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources (New York: Inner Traditions
International, 1983). Martin Lings, now deceased, had a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and was Keeper of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts at the British Library.

If you want to read selections from some original commentaries (i.e. tafasir) on the Qur’an, there is Mahmoud Ayoub. The Qur’an and Its Interpreters, Vols. 1-2. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1984). For the first two surahs of the Qur’an (al-Baqara & Al 'Imran), it has selections of commentary (called tafsir in Arabic) for each verse from numerous scholars all the way from Tabari (who died in 923 AD) to Sayyid Qutb (who died in 1966), as well as selections from a well known Shi’i commentator (Tabataba’i) and a Sufi commentator (Ibn 'Arabi) and many others besides.

A good general introduction to Islam is Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam (New York: Paragon House, 1994).

If you want to learn about Sufism or mystical Islam, any book by Professor William C. Chittick is a good choice. He is a very good writer and explains complicated material very well (anything about the thought of the famous Sufi Ibn 'Arabi is complicated). I would recommend Sufism: A Short Introduction (Oxford, England: Oneworld, 2000), or The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-‘Arabī’s Metaphysics of Imagination (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989) or The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983).

Another good general introduction to Sufism is Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1975). She was a professor at Harvard University.

Probably the best general introduction to Twelver Shi’ism (the largest branch of Shi’i Islam) is Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi‘i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi‘ism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985).

A good introduction to hadith which are collections of sayings by or about the Prophet Muhammad, I would recommend, Jonathan A. C. Brown, *Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World *(Oneworld, 2009). Brown is a convert to Islam by the way and an associate professor at Georgetown University.

Thanks for the help, my main reason for posting was I had no idea where to start… which I already realized I was confusing Buddha and Muhammad(which makes me realize I literally know nothing about Muhammad), for whatever reason.

Think I will probably start with an English translation of the Quran, and the Muslim perspective of things, then move onto the non-Muslim views.

Actually not even sure if there is actually a Mosque near me, I am assuming there is one near the college I plan on going to, though.

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