Jewish Values: Religions of the Middle East

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48 p.
This volume is the best in the World Almanac Library of the Middle East series. Besides giving general overviews of the important tenets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the author examines subgroups of those faiths that are unique to the region. Thus the chapter on Christianity informs the reader about the Maronites of Lebanon and the Coptic Christians of Egypt. The chapter on Islam covers not only the more familiar Sunni/Shia divide, but also smaller sects: Alawites, Ismailis, and Druze. These are good introductions to these faiths, and the section on Judaism - its divisions, history, and culture - is notable for its fairness. The chapter on Islam explains important terms one usually doesn’t find in these sorts of texts—terms like hadith – the oral traditions about Muhammad that serve to supplement the text of the Koran-- and dhimmi--non-Muslim peoples who have a distinct status under Islamic law. Like other books in the series, there are interesting and provocative sidebar quotations, a timeline, glossary, and brief but appropriate references for further learning. There are a few shortcomings: the Islam section is weak on the concept of jihad; the illustrations for the Judaism chapter over-emphasize ultra-Orthodox Jews; Zoroastrianism is called “monotheist,” whereas it was really dualistic; and the Persian-born Bahai faith is absent.
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