As a large and growing body of Muslims speak English as a first language, reference works for believers are increasingly available in what was once the language of the orientalists. Massive source books, such as the compilations of the hadith (accounts of the Prophet Muhammad's sayings or doings) now provide a fair representation of what previously had only been accessible in the traditional languages of Islam. Bakhtiar takes credit for "adapting" the Encyclopedia of Islamic Law, which means that she has mostly translated one book from Arabic, then reshaped it for an English-speaking readership.

For the informed Muslim, the Encyclopedia serves as a handy reference guide to the four Sunni schools (madhhabs) and the one Shi`i (the Ja`fari). To other readers, it provides a fascinating immersion into the world of Islamic jurisprudence in all its complexities, common-sensical variation, and stunning dissimilarity from modern Western life. The titles of sections give their flavor: "a disobedient wife," "taking an oath to refrain from sex with one's wife," and "the inheritance of a fetus, disowned and illegitimate children." The five schools usually agree on essentials and disagree on details. All schools concur on forbidding silk to men during prayer, Ja`faris alone permit it during illness or war. All concur that a traveler need not fast during Ramadan, but Shafi`is limit this exception to the occasional traveler, and not to someone who travels continuously for a living.