Understanding Islam is a translation of Ijtihad (Striving) written in Urdu by Nazir Ahmad (1836–1912). The original work grew out of a response to the question, ‘Why am I a Muslim?’ which had obsessed the author.
Marked by clear thinking, a commonsensical approach, erudition and social awareness, Ijtihad was written in a conversational style. Nazir Ahmad also critically examined questions that he felt had perhaps been inadequately understood by his co-religionists, and suggested areas where a change in their outlook might be conducive to the true spirit of Islam.
Written in the form of a dialogue between a student and a teacher, Understanding Islam is a valuable introduction and guide to the essence of one of the world’s major religions. It will appeal to the faithful through its clear and lucid explanations, and by clearing some of their doubts. For those of other faiths wishing to learn more about Islam, it imparts information on such questions as the oneness of God, prophethood, the twelve imams, the aim of the revelation in the Qur’an, and the role and duties of maulvis.
Mohammed Zakir’s translation is true to the original, and retains its flavour. This work, a succinct introduction to Islam, will find a place in courses of theology and philosophy, as well as Islamic history. If we agree with Eliot that religion is a cornerstone of culture, this book should also find its way into cultural discourses, especially on Islam and Islamic cultures.
Nazir Ahmad, Translated from the Urdu by Mohammed Zakir