Learning About Islam

Where to start?

The sheer scope and amount of material can be overwhelming and confusing.

Along the path to finding out about Islam, we can quickly become inundated with many books to read and videos to watch. New material in the English language is coming out every year, and the sheer quantity of resources now available is a reflection of the great depth of this tradition and also its growing presence in the Western world.

A general rule is to start with that which is most important to you at the moment, and what most relates to your learning needs.

The following recommended resources is not an exhaustive list, but reflects the resources that we currently refer and give to converts as references and guidance on their quest for knowledge.

What are you motivated to learn about?

Motivation and direction are important as you delve into discovering about this rich faith, as the sheer scope and amount of material can be overwhelming and confusing.

A general introduction to Islam or an overview of Islamic history can help one find their bearings; from there, you may find particular areas you want to explore further. If you are interested in conversion, you will need to strengthen your understanding in the two testimonies of faith: belief in God and belief in the Prophet Muhammad.

For many of us coming from the west, we know little to nothing about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) so reading a biography about him is a great place to start. As the biography follows a chronological order, it's usually easier to begin reading than the Qur'an.

After reading a biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him), you may then want to begin reading the Qur'an.

Recommended Resources

Finding good resources that suit you in tone, perspective and content can take time.

  • Allah has commanded us to worship and obey Him, with sincerity, out of reverence, love, and thankfulness. He says in the Qur’an, “And they are ordered only to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him, to remain upright, and to establish worship and to pay the poor-due. That is true religion” (Qur’an, 98.5).

    This worship is not possible without knowledge. This short work outlines the absolute essentials of this knowledge: in faith, prayer, and key points related to one’s life and dealings.

    It is based on the methodology of traditional Sunni Islam, according to the Hanafi school, the largest school of Islamic law, and its purpose is to make one’s worship valid, sound, and proper in a short amount of time.
    • Learn the basics & essentials of Islamic beliefs
    • Make your purification and prayer proper, sound, & valid
    • Learn key issues on the path to Paradise
  • This introduction to Islam for Western readers explores the fundamental religious beliefs held by Muslims for nearly 1400 years. It covers the four dimensions of Islam - practice, faith, spirituality and the Islamic view of history, as outlined in the Hadith of Gabriel. Interweaving teachings from the Koran, the sayings of the Prophet, and the great authorities of the tradition, the book introduces the essentials of each dimension. It then goes on to describe how each has been manifest in Islamic institutions throughout the course of history.

    Transcript of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf teaching this book.
  • An invaluable introduction for young readers to a faith that for much of the West remains shrouded in ignorance and fear. Written by Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed scholar of comparative religion, "No god but God "examines Islam: its rituals and traditions, the revelation of Muhammad as Prophet and the subsequent uprising against him, and the emergence of his successors. Engaging, accessible, and thought-provoking, "No god but God" is sure to stimulate discussion and encourage understanding of the Islamic faith and the people who follow it. "From the Hardcover edition."
  • Being Muslim: A Practical Guide is a new book written to help Muslims of all backgrounds learn and practice their faith. Being Muslim is a compilation of essential concepts and timeless wisdom compiled from over 20 reliable authorities in Islam, bringing all of these components together in one convenient, easily readable guide. This book is meant to give readers practical and useful knowledge that can help them understand what it means to be Muslim. Whether you are completely new to the religion or need to brush up on some of the basics, Being Muslim is an excellent guide to reconnect to the most essential aspects of Islam. The entire manual clearly explains the most fundamental aspects of the faith and assumes no background knowledge at all.
  • This book offers an insight about Islam, its rites of worship, the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace), the Quran, and the Muslim condition today. It seeks to show something of the true nature of the faith, thereby challenging the accepted stereotypes which so badly compromise the present dialogue of civilizations. By explaining the significance of the formal practices and doctrines of Islam, this book endeavors to build a bridge over what must be the deepest yet most irrational gulf ever to have cleaved apart two cultures.

  • This exceptionally successful survey text introduces the faith, belief, and practice of Islam from its earliest origins up to its contemporary resurgence. John L. Esposito, an internationally renowned expert on Islam, traces the development of this dynamic faith and its impact on world history and politics. Lucidly written and expansive in scope, Islam: The Straight Path, Fourth Edition, provides keen insight into one of the world's least understood religions. It is ideally suited for use in courses on Islam, comparative religions, and Middle Eastern history and culture.
  • No religion in the modern world is as feared and misunderstood as Islam. It haunts the popular imagination as an extreme faith that promotes terrorism, authoritarian government, female oppression, and civil war. In a vital revision of this narrow view of Islam and a distillation of years of thinking and writing about the subject, Karen Armstrong s short history demonstrates that the world s fastest-growing faith is a much more complex phenomenon than its modern fundamentalist strain might suggest.
  • Islam: Empire of Faith was presented as part of the Empires® series. A Gardner Films production in association with PBS and Devillier Donegan Enterprises. The film took 18 months to edit, and is supported by an original score by Leonard Lionnet.

  • The second largest religion in the world, both Islam's prophet and its values are today often misunderstood by adherents and outsiders alike. This concise, informative biography explores: Muhammad's background and boyhood, as well as the culture and society in which he lived.

    A look at Muhammad as a family man, and how his personal life was a testament to his high regard for women, Muhammad's mission as a prophet and his new religion's philosophy on topics ranging from monotheism to interfaith relations, The Qur'an and how it was revealed, how Muslims view it in their religious life, and the concept of Jihad from Muhammad's perspective.
  • In "The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad", leading Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan considers the ways in which the Prophet's actions, words and teachings can guide us in the modern world. It offers Muslims a new understanding of Muhammad's life, and introduces non-Muslims to the story of the Prophet and to the riches of Islam.

    Interspersed with spiritual and philosophical meditations, this profound and stimulating biography shows how Muhammad's message can be used to address some of today's most controversial issues - from the treatment of the poor and the role of women, to the interpretation of jihad and relations with other religions.

    Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Oriental Studies and St Antony's College (University of Oxford). He is the Director of the Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (Doha). He is the author of "The Quest for Meaning" and "The Messenger", and has been described as one of the 'most important innovators for the twenty-first century' by Time magazine.
  • Martin Ling's biography of Muhammad is an internationally acclaimed, comprehensive, and authoritative account of the life of the prophet. Based on the "sira," the eighth- and ninth-century Arabic biographies that recount numerous events in the prophet s life, it contains original English translations of many important passages that reveal the words of men and women who heard Muhammad speak and witnessed the events of his life.

    Scrupulous and exhaustive in its fidelity to its sources, "Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources" is presented in a narrative style that is easily comprehensible, yet authentic and inspiring in its use of language, reflecting both the simplicity and grandeur of the story it tells.

    This revised edition includes new sections detailing the Prophet's expanding influence and his spreading of the message of Islam into Syria and its neighboring states. It represents the final updates made to the text before the author's death in 2005. The book has been published in 12 languages and has received numerous awards, including acknowledgment as best biography of the Prophet in English at the National Seerate Conference in Islamabad.

  • Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's classes on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, produced as a 24-audio tape set, has sold well over thousands of copies world-wide.
  • The Man Who Inspired the World's Fastest-Growing Religion, Muhammad, presents a fascinating portrait of the founder of a religion that continues to change the course of world history.

    Muhammad's story is more relevant than ever because it offers crucial insight into the true origins of an increasingly radicalized Islam.

    Countering those who dismiss Islam as fanatical and violent, Armstrong offers a clear, accessible, and balanced portrait of the central figure of one of the world's great religions.
  • The first textbook of its kind in the English-speaking world, 'Revelation' draws on the most authoritative sources to present a detailed yet refreshing guide to the life of the Prophet and the story of Qur'anic revelation.

    Meraj Mohiuddin is a Harvard-trained physician with a background in neuroscience. He has spent the past 12 years writing a comprehensive textbook for motivated students and busy professionals who are looking to rekindle their relationship with the Prophet and the Qur'an. Dr. Mohiuddin is also a teacher and writer who is specifically interested in examining how modern discoveries in human cognition and behavior may deepen our understanding of classical Islamic thought.

  • A PBS documentary film about the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad based on historical records and on the stories of living American Muslims who call Muhammad the Messenger of God.

  • 'Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful one who taught by the pen, who taught man what he did not know.'

    The Qur'an, believed by Muslims to be the word of God, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago. It is the supreme authority in Islam and the living source of all Islamic teaching; it is a sacred text and a book of guidance, that sets out the creed, rituals, ethics, and laws of the Islamic religion.

    Recognized as the greatest literary masterpiece in Arabic, it has nevertheless remained difficult to understand in its English translations. This new translation is written in a contemporary idiom that remains faithful to the original, making it easy to read while retaining its powers of eloquence. Archaisms and cryptic language are avoided, and the Arabic meaning preserved by respecting the context of the discourse.

    The message of the Qur'an was directly addressed to all people regardless of class, gender, or age, and this translation is equally accessible to everyone.
  • Finally the riches of Islam are offered to the West in this accessible, annotated translation of the heart of the Koran's spiritual wisdom. Cleary's translation reveals the depths of Islamic spirituality.
  • An accessible and accurate translation of the Quran that offers a rigorous analysis of its theological, metaphysical, historical, and geographical teachings and backgrounds, and includes extensive study notes, special introductions by experts in the field, and edited by a top modern Islamic scholar, respected in both the West and the Islamic world.

    Drawn from a wide range of traditional Islamic commentaries, including Sunni and Shia sources, and from legal, theological, and mystical texts, 'The Study Quran' conveys the enduring spiritual power of the Quran and offers a thorough scholarly understanding of this holy text.

    Beautifully packaged with a rich, attractive two-color layout, this magnificent volume includes essays by 15 contributors, maps, useful notes and annotations in an easy-to-read two-column format, a timeline of historical events, and helpful indices.

    With 'The Study Quran', both scholars and lay readers can explore the deeper spiritual meaning of the Quran, examine the grammar of difficult sections, and explore legal and ritual teachings, ethics, theology, sacred history, and the importance of various passages in Muslim life. With an introduction by its general editor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, here is a nearly 2,000-page, continuous discussion of the entire Quran that provides a comprehensive picture of how this sacred work has been read by Muslims for over 1,400 years.