In "Understanding Islam" Dr. Dirks offers a timely and factually correct alternative to understanding Islam. It is written for the Western, and primarily Christian reader. The primary focus of the Book is on what is termed Sunni Islam, i.e., the Islam practiced by approximately 85-90% of the self-professed Muslims in the world.
The Book is unique in several respects. It treats Islam from its own point of view. It is written by a natural-born American for the Western reader, and thus may avoid some of the cultural overlay that accompanies some books on Islam written by other Muslim authors.
The author is an American who has practiced Islam both while living in America and in the Middle East, thus offering a broader perspective than would have otherwise been possible. As a convert from Christianity to Islam, and as a former ordained minister within Christianity, the author does a very good job of expounding the commonalties and contrasts of Islam with Judaism and Christianity, while still avoiding the temptation to distort Islam by interpreting it from within a Judaeo-Christian perspective.
The reader is introduced to Islam almost exclusively through the two primary sources of Islam, i.e., the Qur'an and the Sunnah, which are the only completely authoritative sources on Islam.