The author of this book is an Adventist Old Testament scholar, who grew up in an Arabic culture (in his case, the Arabic culture of Egypt). The book has 17 chapters, a glossary of almost 90 Islamic terms, an extensive bibliography, and three appendices: Scripture, Church Fathers and Apocrypha, and Qu’ranic and Hadith texts. The aim of the book is to enable missionaries, visitors, and those interested in the Middle East to understand the Arab mind, culture, and worldview.
The volume’s chapters are well organized, with objectives at the beginning, subheadings, a summary, a list of discussion questions, and endnotes. It is evidently written as a textbook for colleges and universities. The chapter headings clearly indicate the chosen topics that cover such diverse matters as childbirth, honor and shame in Muslim contexts, music, and ritual prayer. Each chapter is meant to convey a deeper understanding of the chosen theme and an appreciation of the Arab mindset.
For each topic, the book seeks to present the historical background, at times going back to pre-Islamic times. For example, when discussing the diversity of culture in Islam (chap. 2), the author points out that the pre-Islamic generosity, hospitality, and sociability of Arabs has been practiced and recommended by Islam since its beginning. On the other hand, in contrast to the pre-Islamic concept of manual labor of the Bedouins, who saw physical labor, such as farming, as dishonoring, the Qur’an extols work and elevates it to the level of worship (chap. 8).
The book contains many interesting facts of interest to Christians. For example, in the chapter “Burial Rites in the Pre-Islamic Era” (chap. 16) the time prior to the existence of the Qur’an is called “the time of ignorance” by Muslims (cf. Acts 17:30). In the chapter on ethics (chap. 7) we learn that for Muslims preserving one’s reputation is more important than honesty (cf. Prov. 19:1), and shame is an important social constraint within Islam. The prophet taught: “If you do not feel ashamed, then do whatever you like” (Hadith 4:690; cf. Ps. 19:12, 13).
In summary, Islamic Culture and Society is a veritable gold mine of useful information for the study of Islam and its culture. Because of his unique background, the author is sympathetic to Islam while at the same time rendering a powerful analysis and critique of its ethics in light of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Islamic Culture and Society deserves to become a standard work for the study of Islam in all schools where such courses are offered. Every Seventh-day Adventist interested in the teachings of Islam will benefit from a careful study of this book.