According to independent research, what follows is a collection of the best known books for Muslims. (Much thanks to the Islamic Foundation of America, ISNA, ICNA and MAS for working so hard to compile the base list which we have built upon). As an Islamic book store in the USA, we feel it is important to evaluate books and provide only the best texts on a given subject rather than offer 20 different texts that may not adequately explain a topic fully. If you don’t find what you are looking for in our online Islamic bookstore, please contact us and let us know what topic you are researching from a Muslim perspective and we will, insha’Allah, do our best to find the book you need.
The Best Rated Translations of the Holy Quran
The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an Translated by 'Abdullah Yusuf Ali. This translation of the Holy book of Islam is probably the most popular, it is relatively easy to find and it is well known all over the world. The only down side is that the English used is intentionally done in an old style to appeal to Chrsitians who are used to the language used in the King James Bible.
The Glorious Qur'an Translated by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall. This is one of the earliest English-speaking Muslim translations of the Quran. Previous translations are believed to all be Orientalists who had questionable motives for translating the holy book of Islam. This translation is presented in Victorian British English and is a preferred translation for former Christians who love the old King James style of the Bible.
The Message of the Qur'an translated by Muhammad Asad. This translation features a beautiful tafseer (explanation of the Qur’an) which is often considered among the best for a single volume tafseer.
Towards Understanding the Qur'an translated by A.A. Maududi and Zafar I. Ansari. This is presented in very clear modern English. This translation was a labor of love which spanned decades of effort. It is considered one of the most accurate and reliable translations of the Quran. The full version is multiple volumes, there is an abridged volume but most of the lovely commentary has been edited out to compress it so we recommend the full version for at-home reading.
The Noble Reading translated by T.B. Irving. This is translated in relatively modern international English and is frequently printed with very clear typeface. However, since it uses very international English, some of the terms used may be unfamiliar to some readers.
A Journey Through the Holy Qur'an translated by Yahiya Emerick. This translation is considered to be the absolute easiest to read English version of the meaning of the Qur’an which still provides depth to the verses. Emerick has provided detailed information about the historical context of the revelation, the people and cultures represented and many other aspects of the society that the Qur’an was revealed within. Therefore, the reader is not merely presented with the answer to “What is the holy book of Islam?” but is also given answers to the significance of the Holy Qur’an and the history of Islam and how it advanced the rights of women and all individuals.
The Noble Qur'an Translated by Muhsin Khan and T. Al Hilali. This translation is very easy to read. It is filled with a lot of parenthetical notes and opinions of the translators which reflect a more conservative perspective than other translators.
The Best Rated Books For Learning Islamic Beliefs
These are great for people who wish to learn more about Islam, new Muslims who want to study and make their practice of Islam better, Muslims who need a refresher course or maybe even people who were raised Muslim but have only recently decided to become serious about their faith.
Islam: Beliefs and Teachings by Ghulam Sarwar. May Allah bless Ghulam Sarwar; this book has been given to new converts as a guidebook to the new way of life and it has definitely helped many people as they fully embrace the path of Islam. This is one of the absolute best (if not THE best) overviews of every aspect of Islam and how Muslims worship.
Fate and Predestination by Sheikh Muhammad al Sharawi. This is a very nice presentation and clear explanation on an abstract topic that most find difficult to understand.
Ihya Uloom ud Din and The Remembrance of Death and the After-Life by Imam al Ghazali. Two of the best classical works on Islamic beliefs.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam by Yahiya Emerick. An excellent overview of Islam that is presented in an easy to follow format.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Koran by Sheikh Sarwar. This is an excellent overview to explain major themes of the Quran using modern terms and examples.
What Islam is All About by Yahiya Emerick. Written in textbook format, this book provides an excellent guide for Islam from an American convert perspective. It is exceptionally detailed and precisely phrased to make the reader fully comprehend how concepts are applied. This book has been suggested for weekend schools in Mosques due to the textbook formatting with reviews and quizzes.
Biographies and other Books on the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him (PBUH)) and the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet)
NOTE: Biographies of the Prophet are usually referred to as “Seerah”
Al Raheeq al Makhtum, also known as The Sealed Nectar by Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri. This seerah is quite possibly the most beloved biography of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ever written. It is a very complete biography that also gives some background into the lives of companions, wives of the Prophet and cultural context. Though it is a heavy read; it is a must-read for all Muslims as the method of explaining certain information is not duplicated elsewhere.
God-Oriented Life by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. Everyone who has reviewed this book as far as we can find have expressed that it contains life-changing explanations and it is considered another “must read” for all Muslims.
The Life of Muhammad by M. H. Haykal. This book is considered to be very enjoyable to read and is surprisingly detailed.
Muhammad by Yahiya Emerick. This simply titled seerah is written in novel format to help the reader become immersed in the life of the beloved Prophet of Islam.
The Life of Muhammad by Tahia Ismail. This seerah is praised for its quality of information by many intellectuals and laypersons alike.
Companions of the Prophet by Abdul Wahid Hamid. This two volume set is considered by many to be the best book available on the sahaba in English.
Highly Ranked Books on the Hadith, or Teachings, of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
You don’t have to invest in a massive multi-volume hadith collection to get a good grasp of understanding. While it is nice to have a reference collection of Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, An Nisa’i and Abu Dawud in order to have the full six collections; the reality is that for most Muslims this is impractical.
Additionally, Hadith are not like the Qur’an. The Qur’an was revealed by Allah to be a system of living for all time and a structure of belief for all people. Hadith, however, incorporate a variety of topics and scenarios. Many of these scenarios are not immediately relevant for modern life or require a deep level of contextual understanding to appropriately interpret the full meaning.
Therefore, for most Muslims it is better to begin with collections that are assembled by scholars who can take the reader on a journey through Hadith and explain them properly. Many of the books here contain selections of Hadith from the six recognized and authenticated Hadith collections. Through reading these, the average Muslim can gain a far better understanding for the importance of Hadith and how to understand the implementation in everyday life.
Summarized Bukhari a single volume of Bukhari abridged and edited by Al Hilali and Khan.
Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development and Special Features by Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqui. This is quite possibly the best single book regarding the science of Hadith. Here, Siddiqui also outlines the method of recording, authentication and reveals the way a Muslim can identify false, weak and doubtful hadith.
A Study of Hadith by Khalid M. Shaikh. This will help in understanding certain terms used in connection with Hadith along with the structure of how hadith collectors went about finding these teachings of Muhammad (PBUH).
In the Path of the Holy Prophet by Yahiya Emerick. This book contains 57 spiritually uplifting sayings/teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which have been lovingly collected. This has been called “The American An-Nawawi” referring to the centuries-old classical hadith collection.
Riyadh us Saliheen compiled by Imam An Nawawi.
Mishkat ul Masabih (A Niche for Lamps) is a good general hadith collection with multiple authors/contributors.
Forty Hadith Qudsi by Imam an Nawawi. In this classical, essential Islamic text; the forty Hadith which were expressed directly by Allah are collected and explained. These represent teachings from Allah which were deliberately left out of the Qur’an for one reason or another. Here Imam An Nawawi attempts to discern the reasons for their continued significance in Islamic thought and express to the reader how he or she should apply them.
Excellent Islamic Books for Spiritual Contemplation
Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship by Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al Ghazali. Imam Al Ghazali’s interpretation of Islamic thought is often considered to be unparalleled in the great level of love and deep spiritual expression that it provides. Other books of deeply spiritual Islamic thought by the great Imam Al Ghazali include the essay On Disciplining the Soul and Breaking the Chains of the Two Desires, The Alchemy of Happiness, and Remembrance and Prayer
Jewels of Remembrance: A Daybook of Spiritual Guidance Containing 365 Selections from the Wisdom of Mevlana Jalaluddin compiled by Camille and Kabir Helminski. There are no Muslim poets as widely recognized and loved as Rumi. This daily selection of readings from his poetry provides a Muslim with beautiful spiritual thoughts to ponder through the day.
The Road to Mecca by Muhammad Asad. This brilliant autobiography travels through the early 20th century as the groundwork was being laid for the modern States of the Middle East. Muhammad Asad expresses his journey from a complete rejection of religion to the embrace of Islam. In addition to being a beautiful spiritual journey, it gives insight to the restructuring of government in early 20th century Arabia and may help readers understand some of the current conflict in the region today.
Thinking About God by Ruqaiyah Waris Maqsood. What is the nature of God? In this book, the author explores deep philosophical thought regarding the nature of God, the creation and existence of the universe and many other aspects of being. It is modern philosophy written for Muslims from a faith-neutral voice. The book reads easily and does not get too “heady” for a philosophy text. This is a highly recommended read.
American Islam by Richard Wormser. In this book the reader gets first-hand accounts from Muslim Americans in dealing with the struggles of growing up in America post-9/11. It goes beyond being merely a social biography and extends into religious thought. Overall, it is an excellent read for anyone interested in understanding the Muslim American experience.
Ramadan Rhapsody: A daily Celebration by Linda “Ilham” Barto. Designed to enhance the flavor of Ramadan, this delightful book is a daily celebration of the Muslims month of fasting. Ramadan Rhapsody is a delicious blend of poems, prayers, and Quranic renderings arranged in a day-by-day, devotional adventure. Each day begins with a Quranic passage, which is followed by one of the Prophet’s teachings. The devotion continues with an exuberant poem and ends with a powerful prayer. This little book is big on inspiration as it offers the joy of Ramadan as a rare delicacy. It is certain to dazzle your spiritual taste buds and add spice to your Ramadan experience
Struggling to Surrender by Jeffrey Lang. Brilliant mathematician and avowed atheist Jeffrey Lang was not seeking Islam when he found it. In his book, Even Angels Ask, he explains that it was his own students that led him to Islam and he discusses very frankly, how his internal struggles made the journey so stark and powerful. In Struggling to Surrender, Jeffrey Lang discusses many of the issues he encounters during the full transition to submission as a Muslim. Lang’s expression is familiar to many Americans who have embraced Islam as the unfamiliar concepts and rituals challenged his conventional knowledge and appreciation of pure logic. Finally in his book Losing My Religion: A Call for Help he analyzes the struggles of born-and-raised Muslims in American society and how they feel displaced in society and disenfranchised by Islamic instruction that no longer seems relevant to their personal experience.
An excerpt from Even Angels Ask shows Jeffrey Lang’s wonderful writing style as he describes his first salat:
Standing in the center of the room I aimed myself in what I hoped was the direction of Makkah. I glanced back over my shoulder to make sure that I had locked the door to my apartment. Finding that it was locked, I looked straight ahead straightened my stance, took a deep breath and in a hushed voice I pronounced “Allah-o-Akbar” I felt a little anxious, I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that someone might be spying on me so I stopped what I was doing and went to the window, I glanced around outside to make sure no one was there.
Then, I carefully pulled the curtains closed and returned to the middle of the room. Once again, I stood straight and whispered “Allah-u-Akbar” in a barely audible tone I slowly and clumsily recited the first surah of Quran and another short surah in Arabic. I then bowed with my back perpendicular to my legs. I had never bowed to anyone before and I felt embarrassed I was glad that I was alone. I stood up and recited “Sami’Allaahu liman Hamidah” and then I felt my heart pounding and anxiety mounting as I called out another “Allah-u-Akbar”.
I had arrived at the moment when I had to perform Sajdah. Petrified I stared at the area of the floor, I could not do it, I could not lower myself to the floor like a slave dropping before his Master. It was as if my legs had braces on them that would not let me bend. I felt too ashamed and humiliated. I could imagine my friends laughing & watching me make a fool of myself. Poor Jeff! I could hear them saying. ’Please, please help me do this’, I prayed. I took a deep breath and forced myself to the floor. Now on my hands and knees, I hesitated for a brief moment and then I pushed my face to the carpet, ridding my mind of all other thoughts. I mechanically pronounced three times “Subhaana Rabbi Al A’laa”, ”ALLAH-U-AKBAR” I called and sat back on my heels and put my face again to the carpet. I was determined to finish this no matter what. ”Allah-u-Akbar” I called and lifted myself from the floor and stood up straight, three cycles to go I told myself. I had to wrestle with my emotions and pride the rest of the prayer but this got easier with each cycle.
Finally, I recited the Tashahud and then I ended the prayer. Spent, I remained on the floor and reviewed the battle I had just been through. I felt embarrassed for I had to struggle so hard to go through the prayer. With my head lowered in shame I prayed ‘Please forgive me my arrogance and stupidity, I have come from very far and have so very far to go’. At that moment I experienced something I had never felt before. A wave of coldness swept through me, which seemed to radiate from some point within my chest. It was much more than a physical sensation. It was as if mercy had taken on an objective form and it was now penetrating and enveloping me, I cannot say why but I began to cry. Tears began to run down my face and I found myself weeping uncontrollably. The harder I cried the more I felt the embrace of a powerful kindness and compassion. I remained on my knees crouched on the floor with my head on my hands, Sobbing for some time.
When I finally stopped crying I was completely exhausted but one thing I realized I needed Allah and prayer desperately. Before getting up from my knees I made one last dua, ‘O God If I ever gravitate towards disbelief again then please kill me first, rid me of this life, it is hard enough living with my imperfections and weaknesses but I cannot live another day denying YOU’…
Top Books for Muslims on Specific Topics
For Da’wah & Islamic Outreach:
How To Tell Others About Islam by Yahiya Emerick. The author outlines essential information about various religions in order to briefly educate the prospective daee (one who gives dawah) about the framework of belief that another will have. Then, Emerick explains strategies of how to explain Islam in a way that is best understood by individuals coming from that perspective along with some well-researched general knowledge about sharing Islam with others.
The Choice by Ahmad Deedat. This two-volume set of comparative religion studies helps any Muslim who has no exposure to the Bible or Christanity to understand the differences between Islam and Christianity. Ahmad Deedat’s well known debates with Christian leaders drew from the research that went into these books. Deedat’s analysis of prophecy in the Torah (old Testament) and the Gospels (New Testament) illustrate that the Bible foretold the coming of Muhammad.
Jesus a Prophet of Islam by M. Ata ur Rahim. Originally written in 1977, this book has had several updates, the most recent in 2008 with Ahmad Thomson enhancing the text and clarifying points. The analysis of Jesus from both a Biblical and Qur’anic context allows both Muslim and Christian readers to gain a better perspective of one another’s beliefs.
American Islamic History:
Islam, Black Nationalism and Slavery by Adib Rashad. Beginning with the origins of Islam in Arabia and continuing to the African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, Mr. Rashad examines the influence the religion had on the peoples of that continent and the impact of slavery on African Muslims brought to the Americas. He offers several biographical sketches of pre-Civil War Muslim slaves and how Islam was reintroduced into the United States at the turn of the century.
Mr. Rashad describes the rise of Islamic and Black Power movements in urban areas of the U.S. and presents vivid portraits of such powerful historical figures as Marcus Garvey, Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm X. The book also includes biographical profiles of current leaders such as Minister Louis Farrakhan, Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Imam W.D. Mohammed, and many others who have contributed to the present African-American Islamic consciousness. The chapters on Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan are particularly revealing, shedding much light on the origins and teachings of the Nation of Islam.
Islam and Science:
The Bible, Qur'an and Science by Maurice Bucaille with 2014 revisions by Faisal Fahim. Originally written in 1979 this book has seen many updates over 40 years of scientific advancements. The book makes a strong attempt at an objective study of the Biblical texts and the Quran while uniting similarities in the texts, additionally it sheds light on what belongs to divine revelation and what was human error or interpretation. The evaluation of scientific discoveries and how they are prophesied or explained in the holy texts is remarkable and will be eye-opening for any reader.
The Proper Conduct of Marriage by Imam al Ghazali. This is the 12th part of Imam al-Ghazali’s Revival of the Religious Sciences series. The text is filled with references to Qur’an and Hadith which instruct men in the proper method of being a husband and caring for one’s wife. Since this is a classical text, there are some references made to practices that rarely exist in today’s world, however the analysis on those may reveal other truths to the vigilant reader.
The Muslim Marriage Guide by Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood. Hailed as a practical guide for the Islamic marriage, this book goes into direct, real-world advice for couples in the fine aspects of marriage. The whole book is really intended for women, with only a chapter dedicated to being a good husband; however, the information is relevant for all. This book is not for the faint of heart as it tackles issues of sexual rights and relations directly.
Blissful Marriage: A Practical Islamic Guide by Drs. Ekram Beshir & Mohamed Rida Beshir. This excellent guidebook written by a husband and wife team is a wonderful look into the realities of married life. This book on Islamic marriage addresses real issues with an appreciation for the perspectives given in Hadith and Qur’an.
The Muslim Woman's Handbook by Huda al Khattab. This is a good basic handbook for young women and converts to Islam who need a primer for the rights and obligations that a woman has in Islam.
In Search of Islamic Feminism by Elizabeth Fernea. Although written by a non-Muslim Orientalist; this book does a great deal of investigation into the meat of Muslim culture and how women are portrayed versus how they are treated. Fernea explains how her travels exposed her to the various cultures of Muslims and made her search the depths of Islamic understanding to get to the bottom of Feminism from the Islamic, and Muslim, perspective.
On Raising a Child
The Child in Islam by Norma Tarazi. This book represents a series of reflections on raising children Muslim in a predominantly non-Muslim society. These perpectives can greatly help parents who are looking for help in dealing with issues such as drugs, sexuality and other “modern” issues that arise.
Meeting the Challenge of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective by Drs. Ekram Beshir & Mohamed Rida Beshir. The husband and wife team are at it again with an excellent guidebook for Muslim parents who are struggling with raising a child in the Islamic way while living in non-Muslim countries. The Beshirs tackle the subject of parenting from firsthand experience and reveal the invaluable concepts that they learned. Considered a must-have for new Muslim parents in America.
Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence)
Reliance of the Traveler Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. This is the single best book of Fiqh as interpreted by the Shafi’i school of thought. It is so comprehensive and was written centuries ago to be a guide for all Muslims so the differences between the other madhab and what is presented here should be very small. This is an excellent book for anyone who wishes to understand sharia better and is perfect for anyone who follows Shafi’i school or who does not follow one school over another.
The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam by Yusuf al Qaradawi. Quite possibly the most brilliant mind of our time in terms of understanding Islamic law, Qaradawi’s book details the permissible and prohibited in Islam through clear explanation that any Muslim could follow.
Al-Maqasid: Nawawi's Manual of Islam by Yahya Ibn Sharaf Al-Nawawi, Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Imam al-Nawawi’s 13th century text is considered by many to be the most concise explanation of Islamic legal thought. This book actually goes beyond merely the laws of Islam and integrates a practical way of life for the believer.
Have we missed a book? Do you think there is a classical text of Islamic literature that should be ranked among these best Islamic books for Muslims in America? Please contact us and email your thoughts!