Peace be upon you!
In order to prepare for the introductory course on Islam I am due to teach, I am currently reading Daniel Brown's A New Introduction to Islam.
Upon receiving the book this morning, I felt an inward groan, 'oh no! not another intro. to Islam book'. Having briefly looked through it during lunch, I have to say that I've revised my opinion. Although, as a believing Muslim, there are things in the book I disagree with (when is that not the case anyway?) it represents an encouraging trend in 2 ways: firstly, it deals with Islamic sources in a much more concrete way than some similar works do. Part II: the Formation of the Islamic Tradition looks at the origins, nature and development of three key areas: the Quran, the Sira and the Hadith. Although other works do the same, here they are treated in a significant number of chapters - giving them the coverage they so richly deserve.
Secondly, the book, which is consciously aimed at students, also provides useful suggestions for further reading. Again, as a Muslim, I would disagree with a number of the statements included here. But, and this is an important point, any serious student of Islam needs to be introduced to some of the key debates in the contemporary field. This is true for non-Muslim undergraduates, who need to know about the debates and discussion within Islam. It is also true for Muslims. It is no longer enough for us to merely retreat; we need to read what others are writing about our faith. We also need to interact with them. That is, we need to consider their ideas carefully and to formulate our own responses.