There are a great many books published on the subject of Islam today.  Many of them are negative portrayals produced by extremist think tanks and religious fundamentalists, often with an obsessive bias bordering on paranoia.  Some are defensive presentations that focus on the ideals of Islam, without reference to the practice of Muslim societies in history.  Below a selection is offered of academic scholarship on Islam, much of which is from university presses, but all of which is intended to be accessible to the general reader. These suggestions provide fair-minded and reputable analyses of the complex issues that characterize Islam in history and in the world today.

Introductory, and the Problem of Anti-Islamic Prejudice

Ernst, Carl W. Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

LeVine, Mark. Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil. London: OneWorld Publications, 2005.

Qureshi, Emran, and Michael Sells, ed. The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy.  New York: the Columbia University Press, 2003.


Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. E. J. Brill, 1960-2006. Online edition at UNC library.

Jones, Lindsay, ed. Encyclopedia of religion. Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. Online edition at UNC library.

Joseph, Suad, ed. Encyclopedia of women in Islamic cultures. E. J. Brill, 2003-6.

Martin, Richard C. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. MacMillan Reference Books, 2003. Online edition at UNC library.

Oxford Islamic studies online [available through UNC Library electronic resources]. A comprehensive set of searchable reference works.

Meri, Joseph W. Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia.

Newby, Gordon. A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Oxford/Oneworld Press, 2002.

Yarshater, Ehsan. Encyclopaedia Iranica. Columbia University/Eisenbrauns, 1996-2008 (available online, best viewed with Internet Explorer)

Perspectives on Islamic Religious Thought

Armstrong, Karen. Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1993.

Schimmel, Annemarie. And Muhammad is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations (with audio CD). Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 1999.

Weiss, Bernard G. The Spirit of Islamic Law. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988.


Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

cooke, miriam. Women Claim Islam: Creating Islamic Feminism through Literature. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Mernissi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam, trans. Mary Jo Lakeland. Cambridge: Perseus Books, 1987.

Middle Eastern and Islamic History

Egger, Vernon. A history of the Muslim world to 1405: the making of a civilization. Prentice Hall, 2003.

Gelvin, James L. The Modern Middle East: A History. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Hodgson, Marshall G. S. The Venture of Islam: Conscience in History in a World Civilization.  3 volumes, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972. This pathbreaking book is still a classic and is recommended for serious readers.

Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 5th edition, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.

"Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict," from the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)

Question of Palestine (United Nations site)

Prof. Juan Cole's recommended books on Middle East history

Islam in the Modern World

Bunt, Gary R. Virtually Islamic: Computer-Mediated Communication and Cyber Islamic Environments. University of Wales Press, 2000.

Eickelman, Dale F., and James Piscatori. Muslim Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Kurzman, Charles, ed. Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Kurzman, Charles, ed. Modernist Islam: A Source-Book, 1840-1940 (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Lawrence, Bruce B. Shattering the Myth: Islam Beyond Violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Safi, Omid, ed. Progressive Muslims on Gender, Justice and Pluralism. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

Spirituality and Art

Amir-Moezzi, Mohammad Ali. The Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism: The Sources of Esotericism in Islam, trans. David Streight. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Bloom, Jonathan, and Sheila Blair. Islamic Arts. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1997.

Ernst, Carl W. The Shambhala Guide to Sufism. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1997.

Ernst, Carl W., trans. Teachings of Sufism. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999.

Ernst, Carl W., and Bruce B. Lawrence, Sufi Martyrs of Love: Chishti Sufism in South Asia and Beyond. New York: Palgrave Press, 2002. 

Renard,  John, trans. Knowledge of God in Classical Sufism: Foundations of Islamic Mystical Theology (Classics of Western Spirituality). Paulist Press,  2004.

Schimmel, Annemarie.  Mystical Dimensions of Islam.  Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.

Sells, Michael, trans. Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality). Paulist Press, 1996.