Last Saturday I was presenting at a one day workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, called Muslim Journeys.

It was a great opportunity and I had a wonderful time!

It was well attended by educators from all over Wisconsin and even other states nearby! And one of the ladies exclaimed to me afterwards that she could have listened to me all day! “It could have been the Rukhsana show!” And then when I told her that I’d be presenting at the NCTE conference in Washington D.C. this fall, and I asked her if she was going to be there, she replied, “I hadn’t planned on going, but now I think I will.”

And while I was there, I purchased a number of books I’d heard of through the book vendor.

I got Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta by James Rumsford, which was pretty good. I had actually seen a documentary at the Omnimax at the Ontario Science Centre so I already knew a fair amount about the famous Muslim traveler.

And I picked up Ayat Jamilah and I’m really enjoying that! It’s quite a nice hefty book, with a LOT of resources in it!

And I picked up The Genius of Islam by Brn Barnard, even though the title made me cringe.

And I immediately asked myself, “Why should such a title make me cringe?” “Don’t I think Islam is genius???”

And the answer is of course! I wouldn’t be Muslim if I didn’t!

But hearing a non-Muslim say that feels weird. And I thought, they shouldn’t have called the book that!

I thought a lot of non-Muslims would find the title too confrontational, too intimidating. I mean would I be inclined to pick up a book called “The Genius of Christianity”?

Wouldn’t I assume the book would be proselytizing in nature?

No one wants to be converted for goodness sakes!

It looked like an interesting book, so I went ahead and bought it, thinking I should add it to my Muslim Booklist.

And then as I was reading it, I thought, uh huh, this Bryn Barnard has made the classic mistake! The same mistake that Irshad Manji made when she wrote The Trouble with Islam.

She’s equated Islam with Muslims.

Don’t people get it? Islam is a religion, it is an ideology filled with principles and doctrines to live your life by. In and of itself, it cannot DO anything!

The basic belief lies in the creed: There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger.

It’s Muslims that do things, both good and bad.

So this book The Genius of Islam isn’t really about Islam at all, but rather about how Muslims were able to launch a lot of the scientific and basic things we take for granted today.

The book isn’t about ‘the genius of Islam’ at all! It’s about the genius of Muslims! And it should have been called that! There is a slight, very slight reference to the fact that Islam led to the Arabian people and the Muslims searching for knowledge because the Prophet (peace be upon him) urged his followers to pursue knowledge even if it meant going all the way to China, but for the most part, it’s about what Muslims have done.

The funny thing is though, when I was searching for the accuracy of the title, I came across the subtitle of The Genius of Islam, and it reads: How Muslims Made the Modern World and isn’t it funny but I didn’t even notice the subtitle until writing this blog post even though I bought the book and it is right there!

I’m convinced that it should just have been called How Muslims Made the Modern World, because that’s what it’s about! And by making the title less ‘controversial’ maybe more people would pick it up.

Thing is I already knew all this stuff. And the last section where he talks about how the West has tried to forget the contributions of Muslims, I think should have been at the beginning of the book!

Oh well. It’s definitely a worthwhile book and it’s great to see that the contributions of Muslims to modern civilization is finally being acknowledged, even in some small way.

I’ll definitely be adding this book to my Muslim booklist.

Here’s Bryn Barnard talking about it:

There are apparently a number of other videos you can watch.