After the publishing of Arabic Reading List for Students of Knowledge, requests were made for an English reading list for the general public. It was thus decided to produce two lists: one for Muslims of the English-speaking world, and the other for the public at large who wish to develop their general knowledge.
All books recommended for general knowledge are also recommended for the English-speaking Muslims. Therefore, they have been omitted from this list for the sake of brevity. Books have been listed in alphabetical order.
Note: This will not include textbooks that need to be studied in order to gain sufficient knowledge in the fundamental aspects of the religion. Rather, the focus of this list is primarily on what a Muslim residing in Britain and America should read after having acquired sufficient knowledge of ʿaqīda, tajwīd and fiqh.
- Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, The Beginning of Guidance (London: White Thread Press, 2010), ed. Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf.
It goes without saying that among the primary objectives of a Muslim’s life is to acquire the closeness of Allāh ﷻ and rectifying one’s character in one’s public and private life. As important as it is to be well-read on the philosophy of Islām, the spiritual aspect of the religion is equally necessary. Strong knowledge will keep one firm in his/her worldview, while a high level of spirituality will keep one firm in practice and have an effect on the hearts of others.
- Amjad M. Mohammed, Muslims in Non-Muslim Lands: A Legal Study with Applications (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2013).
A simplified edition of his submitted PhD thesis, Shaykh Amjad succinctly proposes the best approach for Muslims to adopt when living as minorities in secular states. Contrary to the constant call to ‘reform’, the Shaykh advises the British Muslims to live by the code set out in history by the bygone Muslims who also lived as minorities in non-Muslim states. That is, neither marginalising oneself from society (isolation), nor losing one’s identity in trying to fit in (assimilation). Rather, a balance is required, which he calls integration. In some respect, this is the most important book in the list – a must read for British Muslims in particular, and all Western Muslims in general.
- Jonathan A. C. Brown, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy (London: Oneworld Publications, 2015).
For an eloquent introduction to the history of Islām, the development of the four schools of law and academic responses to oriental critiques of Islām, this book by the American PhD is an invaluable contribution to the Islāmic literature in the English language. Care ought to be taken when reading this book, as the author has erred in some matters. It would be best to read it under the supervision of a qualified scholar.
- Khalid Baig, First Things First (California: Open Mind Press, 1425/2004).
A collection of bite-sized articles of approximately four pages, the author covers the A-Z of Islām and current affairs. Although aimed at the Muslims of America, it is just as relevant to the Muslims of Britain. Topics range all the way from religious tolerance and extremism to self-reform, education, women and family and Muslim unity.
- Khalid Baig, Listening to the Qurʾān (California: Open Mind Press, 1435/2014).
The Qurʾān, being an everlasting scripture, is applicable to every era and geographical location. The author of this work has shared his thoughts and reflections on selected passages from the Holy Qurʾān, demonstrating its teachings in a contemporary light. Discussing the effects of gambling, homosexuality, women’s rights, feminism, calls to revisit the Qurʾān, Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men and numerous other topics, the author provides food for thought on every subject in just a few paragraphs.
- Muftī Muhammad Taqi Usmani, The Islamic Laws of Animal Slaughter (California: White Thread Press, 2006) ed. Amir Toft.
The fraudulent nature of the meat industry needs no elaboration. In addition to the author discussing contemporary issues (including slaughtering with a rotating knife; animals slaughtered by atheists; automated slaughter; and when the slaughterer is unknown), the translator has added beneficial appendices at the back of the book. These include an essay by Dr. Muftī Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera on the worrying laxity of eating meat in the USA, and another interesting paper by a female PhD on whether Islāmic slaughter falls under animal cruelty.
- Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, Birth Control & Abortion in Islam (California: White Thread Press, 2006).
Such expertise articulated in a small treatise is much needed in today’s climate. Covering all the way from contraception within a marital relationship to abortion from illicit relationships and even rape, it is undoubtedly a work to be read and appreciated. For the laymen and doctors alike, the work even gives guidance to Muslim doctors, who can be faced with the task of aborting a child of an unlawful pregnancy.
- Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations (London: Huma Press, 1429/2008).
Considered taboo by many, it is a shame this topic had not been touched upon in a balanced manner, without exaggerating the concept of ḥayāʾ. In this book, the author is the first to fill the void and acknowledges the fact that many writers on this topic have ‘completely missed the point’. The Shaykh’s style is lucid, with no hesitation in writing on pertinent topics, yet maintains full adab throughout the work. He also includes other relevant fiqh-related issues, such as the ruling on wearing alcohol-based perfumes.
- Muhammad Mojlum Khan, The Muslim 100: The Lives, Thoughts and Achievements of the Most Influential Muslims in History (Markfield: Kube Publishing, 2010).
Inspired by The 100 of Dr. Michael Hart, this book is a must-have for every library and household. The author’s lucid style and simple language only adds to the reader’s pleasure. The work covers the thoughts and achievements of both men and women, scholars, scientists, mathematicians, philosophers and political figures – all Muslims. It stretches all the way from the Prophet ﷺ and others from his time until the late Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. Whether for a casual read or to take inspiration, this book caters for the laity and students alike. Each entry is approximately four pages long, ideal for those who are otherwise intimidated by a large volume.
- Muhammad Mojlum Khan, The Muslim Heritage of Bengal: The Lives, Thoughts and Achievements of Great Muslim Scholars, Writers and Reformers of Bangladesh and West Bengal (Markfield: Kube Publishing, 2013).
Although the title seems irrelevant to the list, this book is in fact both educational and inspiring. With each entry being approximately seven pages long, the masterpiece is filled with informative inspiration that is relevant to all British Muslims, not just those of Bangladeshi descent. Ranging from the 12th Century CE to today, the book covers the challenges the Muslims faced in the subcontinent during the British raj, and how they dealt with life in a climate where the British distrusted the Muslims. Not only that; the likes of Mawlānā Abdur Raʾuf Wahid (d. 1893 CE) demonstrate to today’s Muslims living under British rule how to champion modern education while remaining faithful to the religion, and how to bridge the gap between the Muslim populous and elite rulers. Other than the above, the reader is exposed to the mental framework and methodology of the Muslims throughout history, and how they managed to bring reform (whether religious, spiritual, educational, financial, political or otherwise) to their country.
- Sheikh Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Kattānī, The Khulāṣa: A Summary of Abu ʿIsa at-Tirmidhī’s Ash-Shamāʾil al-Muḥamadiyyah (London: Turath Publishing, 1435/2014), ed. Javed Iqbal.
A small treatise on the physical features and characteristics of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ, this is an enjoyable work for all. Educative and emotionally stimulating, it is an excellent choice to read with the family. As well as being educative, the reader will also find this book to contain prophetic practices that are easy to act upon, such as eating dates and cucumber. It is the perfect book for both a light read and in-depth study.
- Tawfiq Al Refaie, The Decision is Yours (no date).
For something intellectually stimulating, this work in three short volumes is another important contribution to the books of the Islāmic thought genre. A unique work, the author presents new answers and responses to critiques of Islām. From thought-provoking analogies demonstrating how ḥijāb is fully in line with sound intellect, to a scholarly analysis of the rules of inheritance – where a female is entitled to half of that of her male counterpart, where equal and where more – this work seems to leave no stone unturned, and certainly deserves more recognition and acceptance within the masses.
Note: As the Muslims of the world are diverse, each individual would require a different recommended reading list that suits his/her interests and needs. For that, it would be ideal to directly speak to a well-read person of knowledge who can guide one in such matters. Another point to keep in mind is that reading – albeit important – is not enough. A real-life connection with the people of knowledge is imperative. Balance is of most importance.