The Book & the Author:
The book “Ta’rif-e-Aam bi-Din il-Islam” was written in Arabic, by the renowned Syrian Scholar Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi, first published in the sixties, since then it has been translated to many languages and reprinted several times, the world over, also available on the internet. In Pakistan, Syed Shabbir Ahmad (late) not only himself translated it in to Urdu but also got it translated to English through Prof.Raja F.M.Majed (1924-2000), both Urdu and English translations have been published by Qur’an Asan Tehrik, 50 Lower Mall Lahore. [All these available sources have been consulted with gratitude for this reproduction.]
Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi grew up in Syria at the beginning of this century. He always expresses great admiration and gratitude to his father Shaikh Mustafa Tantawi, who was a leading Faqih (jurist) in his country. According to Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi, people in those days were either Shaikhs (scholars of Islam) or Effendis (Arabs who had "received a secular education). The Shaikhs were uninformed about the modem sciences of the Effendis, whereas the Effendis were ignorant of religion. Fortunately Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi, was among the few to receive both types of education. Some years ago Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi wrote a book entitled: ‘Religious Reform’, wherein he discussed the need for religion and referred to the mooted question of whether man can live without religion. According to Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi, such questions can only be answered by counter-questions, such as whether it is possible for man to lead a material life, casting off all his inner emotions of love, and admiration of nature and her beauty. In this context the author also discussed the values of western philosophers and thinkers such as Kant, Newton, Pascal and Goethe. To disprove the statement made by some of them that the universe was created by accident, the author gave the following example. If we were to place five balls, four white and one red in a bag, the probability of taking out the red ball the first time would be one in five. Similarly, if there were nine white balls, the ratio would be one in ten. But if one were to place an unlimited number of balls in the bag, the probability of picking out the red ball would be one to an unlimited number. Therefore we cannot say that the red ball could be picked at the first or even the hundredth attempt. So how could the planets that orbit on a set course without colliding with one another have come into existence by accident? Therefore, there must be a Divine Power behind them.
In 1936 Shaikh Tantawi went to work as a secondary school teacher in Iraq, and he was assigned to the teaching of Arabic literature and religion. It was during this time that he felt the need for a simple and comprehensive book on Islam. He decided to campaign for this idea, and wrote many articles urging the Ulema to compile such a book. But no one responded. Many years passed. Meanwhile, other scholars who, like the Author, were also well read in religious and secular studies had decided to write books on Islam. While many of these were excellent, a simple and comprehensive book on Islam had still not been published. In 1966 the author wrote an article called "A General Introduction to Islam". It was published in the journal of the Muslim World League at Mecca, and caught the attention of a minister in the Saudi Arabian government, Mr. Muhammad Umar Tawfiq. He immediately advised the Muslim World League to commission the services of Shaikh Tantawi to write this book. So finally Shaikh Tantawi took up this long awaited task. He worked on the book during one full summer vacation and an academic year. Having finished writing all the chapters of the book, complete with footnotes and quotations, it only needed to be given the final touches. The author placed the manuscript in three large envelopes and went off to Jordan to spend his summer vacation. He carried the envelopes around with him carefully until his arrival, but once he was there, and was busy meeting friends and relatives, he forgot all about it. Alas, during this time the manuscript was lost. He searched for it everywhere, and even asked all the taxi drivers in town if they had seen it, but in vain. Once he had got over the distress of losing the manuscript, Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi set to work afresh. By the grace of God he was able to produce this book within ten days and he wrote it with one source of reference the Holy Qur’an. The author gave this edition of the book the title “Ta’rif Am bi-Din il-Islam” [A General Introduction to Islam]. He had intended to write two more parts in order to explain other aspects of Islam, but due to the pressures of a demanding schedule and illness, he was unable to do so. May God bless his soul at eternal peace, while his work continues to inspire all those interested in correct understanding of Islam.
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Humanity, Religion, Culture, Ethics, Science, Spirituality & Peace