Ahmed, Shahab. What Is Islam: The Importance of Being Islamic. Princeton University Press, New York, 2016.
Shahab Ahmed died in September, 2015 and this weighty text was published posthumously and is a text definitely worth diving into by those who study Islam and those who want to know something about it. The fact that he was a polyglot (15 languages) is evident in this work as he roves Islamic scholarship from sources around the world to find answers to his fundamental questions –should we speak of Islam or islams? Should we distinguish the Islamic (the religious) from the Islamicate (the cultural)? Or should we abandon “Islamic” altogether as an analytical term> Through three parts and six chapters, he presents evidence and his conclusions about the questions he raises. He says, “This book has sought to conceptualize Islam in terms by which differences including outright contradictions may be seen as arising directly and structurally from and thereby as cohering meaningfully with the object Islam with which those differences are identified by their authors and protagonists.” This is a text that surveys much of the writings on Islam from eastern and western scholars; from Muslim historical figures and jurists and contemporary thought through cultures. This is a must read.