People of Faith: Recent Beliefs Picks

This latest edition features biographies on seekers, to well seasoned spiritual believers. Some life experiences have raised deep questions whilst others have strengthened their commitment.

The spiritual Mandela : faith and religion in the life of Nelson Mandela, by Dennis Cruywagen.
“In the first book of its kind, an acclaimed South African journalist and former parliamentary spokesperson for the ANC shares how Nelson Mandela balanced his Christian faith with his political views, exploring how the beloved leader reconciled his own beliefs with the hard truth that religion had often been used as a tool to oppress his people.” (Catalogue)

Born with wings : the spiritual journey of a modern Muslim woman, by Daisy Khan.
“Khan details her faith journey, beginning with the strong guidance of her supportive family in her native Kashmir, where religious practices were deeply felt. But after she moves to the U.S., questions and doubts began to surface for Khan. Finding Sufism renewed her and served as a starting point for her activism. Khan’s extensive research on her faith led to one of her core beliefs: that, despite perceptions to the contrary, Islam elevates the status of women. Today, she is the executive director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality… A thought-provoking read.” (Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverWhy I am a Hindu, by Shashi Tharoor.
“Opening with a frank and touching reflection on his personal beliefs, he lays out Hinduism’s origins and its key philosophical concepts…. Tharoor is unsparing in his criticism of extremism and unequivocal in his belief that what makes India a distinctive nation with a unique culture will be imperilled if Hindu ‘fundamentalists’, the proponents of ‘Hindutva’, or politicised Hinduism, seize the high ground. … Written in Tharoor’s captivating prose, [this] is a revelatory and original contribution to our understanding of religion in the modern era.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Paul : a biography, by N.T. Wright.
The details of Paul’s life are scant at best, and while Wright presents plenty of historical background material, he bases much of his insights on the picture revealed by Paul’s writings. In this very readable account, Wright is careful to acknowledge that his thoughts are calculated probabilities, but speculations none the less, as he tries to understand the man most responsible for spreading Christianity across the Gentile world.

Stalking God : my unorthodox search for something to believe in, by Anjali Kumar.
“Anjali Kumar, a pragmatic lawyer for Google, was part of a rapidly growing population in America: highly spiritual but religiously uncommitted. But when her daughter was born, she became compelled to find God – or at least some kind of enlightenment. Convinced that traditional religions were not a fit for her, and knowing that she couldn’t simply Google an answer to ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Kumar set out on a spiritual pilgrimage, looking for answers… Narrated from the open-minded perspective of a spiritual seeker rather than a religious scholar, Kumar offers an honest account of some of the less than mainstream spiritual practices that are followed by millions of people in the world today. Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Shunned : how I lost my religion and found myself, by Linda A Curtis.
“Linda Curtis was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and is an unquestioning true believer who has knocked on doors from the time she was nine years old… Then one day, at age thirty-three, she knocks on a door – and a coworker she deeply respects answers the door. To their mutual consternation she launches into her usual spiel, but this time, for the first time ever, the message sounds hollow. Curtis tries hard to overcome the doubts that spring from that doorstep encounter, …but ultimately, unable to reconcile her incredulity, she leaves her religion and divorces her Witness husband – a choice for which she is shunned by the entire community, including all members of her immediate family. Shunned follows Linda as she steps into a world she was taught to fear and discovers what is possible when we stay true to our hearts, even when it means disappointing those we love.” (Catalogue)

An explorer’s guide to Julian of Norwich, by Veronica Rolf.
Medieval scholar Rolf introduces us to Christian theologian and mystic Julian of Norwich as the first woman to write a book (let alone a spiritual autobiography) in the English language. Julian was probably a member of the merchant class, rather than a nun which is commonly assumed. Rolf places Julian in her social context as she prays alongside the Hundred Years’ War, and the Great Plague’s destruction of one-third of human life.

Holy rover : journeys in search of mystery, miracles and God, by Lori Erickson.
Erickson travels the world as a writer specializing in holy sites – journeys that led her on an ever-deepening spiritual quest. Her pilgrimages have taken her to several continents : Martin Luther sites in Germany, Machu Picchu in Peru, Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, and The Temple of Artemis and House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Turkey to name a few.

Ramadan Mubarak!

In Aotearoa New Zealand, Ramadan started Friday 19 June. What does this mean for our Muslim community? Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and worship during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. The dates of Ramadan vary, moving backwards by about eleven days each year depending on the moon.

Muslims believe Ramadan to be the month in which the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Ramadan is thought to establish a link between themselves and God through prayer, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting.

At the end of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr celebrates the conclusion of the month of dawn-to-sunset fasting. Eid is an Arabic word meaning “festivity”, while Fitr means “breaking the fast”.

Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need.

Have you visited our Popular Topics pages on beliefs? On the page we have for Islam you will find a cross-section of what the library holds on this religion, some quick links into our online databases and the library’s catalogue, and links to websites on Islam selected by our subject librarians. The Dewey Decimal call number for Islam as a subject is 297.

Some books on Islam recently added to our collection are

Syndetics book coverThe handy Islam answer book / John Renard, Ph.D.
“In an age of continued Middle East volatility, religious extremists, and terrorist threats, the mere mention of Islam and Muslims too often provokes misunderstanding and even rancor. Often overlooked are the important links between the Qur’an and the Bible. Also ignored are the significant historical overlap between Islamic interpretation of history with those of Christianity and Judaism, including the monotheistic belief in a single God. Islam is too often confusing and even opaque to those unfamiliar with it. The Handy Islam Answer Book , is clearly and eloquently written by John Renard, Ph.D., a scholar of Islam with more than 40 years of research and teaching experience. He provides detailed descriptions of the history, beliefs, symbols, rituals, observations, customs, leaders, and organization of the world’s second largest religion. Renard explains the significance of the Five Pillars, Muhammad, various sects, the Qur’an, Islamic law, and much more. This engaging primer is a resource for reliable information about Islam and Muslims and it brings an understanding of the shared humanity that joins Muslims and non-Muslims far more deeply than cultural or religious differences separate them. Truly a must-have reference for our changing and trying times, this user-friendly guide answers nearly 800 questions and offers fun facts that cover Islamic history, religious practices, and Muslim cultural perspectives, including … * When did Islam begin? * Why is Mecca a holy city for Muslims? * Do Muslims worship Muhammad? * What was the fate of Medieval Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land? * What do Muslims mean by the term “Allah”? * What does the crescent moon and star symbol mean to Muslims? * What is the Muslim “call to prayer”? Is it similar to “church bells”? * Do Muslims believe that God “tests” people? * Does Muhammad play a role in Islamic spirituality in a manner similar to Jesus’ role in Christianity? * Is jihad a legal concept for Muslims? * Is it true that Muhammad both preached and engaged in military campaigns? * Do Muslims, Christians, and Jews worship the “same God”? * Why do Jews, Christians, and Muslims all claim parts of Israel/Palestine as “Holy Land”? * Why do some people, such as the Taliban, not want girls to get an education? * Does Islam require wearing face veils? * Does Islam have theologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the other great Christian thinkers? * Is there any similarity between Muslim and Christian art? Muslims are diverse, and they have a vast spectrum of views about Islam. The Handy Islam Answer Book aims for understanding, which is the first step to uniting, instead of dividing. This helpful books provides a historic timeline, a glossary of commonly used terms, a genealogy from Adam to Muhammad and beyond, a calendar of major observances, and a bibliography help further exploration of one of the world’s great religions.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy way : a Muslim woman’s journey / Mona Siddiqui.
“Polarized debates about ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ are now so ubiquitous that it is easy to forget how damaging they can be. The vast majority of Muslims do not wish to see Islam used as a divisive force within the largely secular societies in which they live. How then can Muslim stereotyping be challenged? Mona Siddiqui is one of the foremost Western authorities on the reconciliation of 21st-century life and Islamic custom. In this new and searching book, she applies a uniquely probing intelligence, as well as a female sensibility, to crucial issues of faith and identity (such as wearing the veil) within society at large. While speaking from within a particular tradition, she touches on matters of universal concern. Who are we? How do we cope with growing older? What kind of world will we leave to our children? Placing her rich personal journey in a wider context, the author is able to explore love and sex, multiculturalism and diversity, and ageing and death through the prism of her experience as both a Muslim and a modern woman. Her book shows why she is one of the most vital thinkers of our age.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIznik : the artistry of Ottoman ceramics / Walter B. Denny.
“Covering both Iznik pi├Ęces de forme and the famous Iznik tiles that decorate Ottoman imperial monuments, Iznik integrates the entire spectrum of Iznik production, both tiles and wares, and the broader artistic tradition in which it originated. Walter B. Denny begins with a description of the particular nature of Islamic art under the Ottoman empire, as well as the methods of the craftsmen who worked under the imperial auspices. He then examines the links between the court style of Istanbul and the ceramic ateliers in Iznik itself, and the crucial role of the dominant styles of the golden age of Iznik ceramics and their most famous creators, Shah Kulu and Kara Memi. The book showcases the array of motifs floral, vegetal and figurative used on Iznik wares, looks at the relationship between non-Muslim communities and the Ottoman empire, and closes with an examination of the rich stylistic heritage that Iznik ceramics have given to Western art. Lavishly illustrated in full colour throughout, this is a panoramic overview of a spectacular and refined artform.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArt of Islam [electronic resource] / Gaston Migeon.
“Islamic art is not the art of a nation or of a people, but that of a religion: Islam. Spreading from the Arabian Peninsula, the proselyte believers conquered, in a few centuries, a territory spreading from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Multicultural and multi-ethnical, this polymorphic and highly spiritual art, in which all representation of Man and God were prohibited, developed canons and various motives of great decorative value. Thorough and inventive, these artists expressed their beliefs by creating monumental masterpieces such as the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Alhambra in Granada, architectural works in which one recognises the stylisation of motives of the Muslim ceramics. Lively and coloured, Islamic art mirrors the richness of these people whose common denominator was the belief in one singular truth: the absolute necessity of creating works whose beauty equaled their respect for God.” (Syndetics summary)