This is a nifty little book that covers Islam from its inception right up to its troubled times today. Akbar Ahmed has a pleasant, civilised style. Indeed, much of his project is to preach tolerance and understanding.
Interesting chapters highlight Western attitudes to the East, or what you would call in academic circles ‘Orientalism’.
The only down side is that the last few chapters come across as a little dated (the book was written in the late eighties). These chapters describe more current events in the Middle East, and have not been brought up to date.
This book makes for a friendly introduction to the culture and achievements of Islam.
(PS: I know this is a really short write up for this book, which may make it sound like it's not at all that substantial. Not at all. It's just that I don't know much about Islam. Nevertheless, I found this a very enjoyable read from a very cultured and humane author. Here is how I discovered him, on the ABC's Lateline program.)