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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam

  • ISBN13: 9780195125597
  • Condition: USED – VERY GOOD
  • Notes:

Product Description
Designed for general readers with little or no knowledge of Islam, this superb Oxford Dictionary provides more than 2,000 vividly written, up-to-date, and authoritative entries organized in an easy-to-use, A-to-Z format. The Dictionary focuses primarily on the 19th and 20th centuries, stressing topics of most interest to Westerners. What emerges is a highly informative look at the religious, political, and social spheres of the modern Islamic world. Naturally, readers will find many entries on topics of intense current interest, such as terrorism and the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, the PLO and HAMAS. But the coverage goes well beyond recent headlines. There are biographical profiles, ranging from Naguib Mahfouz (the Nobel Prize winner from Egypt) to Malcolm X, including political leaders, influential thinkers, poets, scientists, and writers. Other entries cover major political movements, militant groups, and religious sects as well as terms from Islamic law, culture, and religion, key historical events, and important landmarks (such as Mecca and Medina). A series of entries looks at Islam in individual nations, such as Afghanistan, the West Bank and Gaza, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the United States, and there are discussions of Islamic views on such issues as abortion, birth control, the Internet, the Rushdie Affair, and the theory of evolution. Whether we are listening to the evening news, browsing through the op-ed pages, or reading a book on current events, references to Muslims and the Islamic world appear at every turn. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam offers a wealth of information for anyone curious about this burgeoning and increasingly important world religion.

The Oxford Dictionary of Islam


  1. I bought this dictionary hoping that it would be a useful reference for a graduate course dealing with the relationship between Christianity and Islam during the early years of Islam. I have found it to be spotty and inconsistent.

    For example, I wanted to know the dates of the Abbasid dynasty. I tried looking up “Abbasid.” There is no such entry. I tried looking at the timeline at the end of the dictionary. There, the first reference to Abbasids is in the entry for 744-750 (p. 352): “Third Muslim civil war and defeat of Umayyads by Abbasids.” There is no statement that this marks the beginning of the Abbasid Dynasty. However, the entry for the year 661 (p. 351) does include the information that “Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan founds Umayyad Dynasty.” Why is there no comparable statement about the founding of the Abbasid Dynasty?

    I decided to see if the dictionary had an entry for the Umayyads. Yes, it does (p. 326). This makes all the harder to understand why there is no entry for the Abbasids.

    Returning to the timeline, the second entry that mentions the Abbasids (750-850) mentions three caliphs of this dynasty: al-Mahdi, Harun al-Rashid and al-Mamun. Does the body of the dictionary have entries for each of these men? No, yes (alphabetized under “Harun”), yes (alphabetized under “Mamun”). I tried looking for al-Mahdi under “al-” and “Mahdi.” There are a few entries beginning with “al-,” but not nearly as many as would be required were all of them listed consistently. I looked under “Mahdi.” There I found an entry for Mahdi as an honorific applied to Muhammad and the first four caliphs; one for Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi (d. 1959); one for Sadiq al-Mahdi (b. 1936); and one for Mahdists which just has a cross-reference to the following entry, Mahdiyyah, which turns out to be a messianic movement founded in Sudan in the late 19th century. Obviously none of these was relevant to my search to the al-Mahdi mentioned in the timeline. I finally resorted to Wikipedia, where I learned that the full name of this caliph was Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Mahdi. I tried looking under “Muhammad” and “ibn Mansur” in the dictionary, but with no result.

    I noticed that the name of one of the Prophet’s wives is given as “Aisha” in the timeline (p. 351, years 656-661). When I looked her name up in the body of the dictionary, I found it spelled “Aishah” (p. 12).

    Moving beyond people to things, I found an entry for “chador,” the Persian term for the full-length veil worn for modesty by conservative Muslim women, but the Arabic term “abaya” is missing. There is an entry for “hijab” and it is defined as if it were an abaya. However, hijab is actually used as a more general term referring to various kinds of clothing and behavior intended to preserve the modesty of both women and men, not just the full-length veil.

    In conclusion, this dictionary does have a large number of terms useful for understand Islamic culture and history. However, it lacks many terms that it should have and it shows editorial inconsistency. At the least, a reader will have to supplement this book with others.
    Rating: 3 / 5


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