What the Qur'an Meant and Why It Matters

Prominent American Catholic thinker Gary Wills turns his eye to Islam in What the Qur'an Means and Why It Matters, a thoughtful look at the Muslim holy book and the West's botched dealings with the Middle East in the early 21st century. From the start, Wills makes clear that his project is the beginning of a conversation aimed at mutual understanding, and he delivers a good, quick introduction to Islam for those completely in the dark about the second largest religion on the planet.

Wills begins with American hubris, laying out the disastrous thinking behind the invasion of Iraq and aftermath. Then, after showing how Americans ignore Islam in foreign policy, Wills expertly demonstrates how the United States' fear of ideas like "Sharia Law" is founded on such nonsensical premises it would be funny--if it didn't involve the wholesale demonization of another culture.

After laying the groundwork about how Americans (and, by extension, the West) have misunderstood Islam, Wills digs into the general premises of the Qur'an, the sections that are used to vilify Islam and the religion's relationship to both Christianity and Judaism. As a Catholic, Wills is well versed with both the Torah and Gospel, and he uses that knowledge wisely in examining how it fits among the Abrahamic monotheistic tradition. By the end of What the Qur'an Means, readers will be itching to take their own crack at the holy book to see just how few of its words are properly represented in Western discourse. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

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