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No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam Paperback – August 30, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Grippingly narrated and thoughtfully examined . . . a literate, accessible introduction to Islam.”—The New York Times

“[Reza] Aslan offers an invaluable introduction to the forces that have shaped Islam [in this] eloquent, erudite paean to Islam in all of its complicated glory.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Wise and passionate . . . an incisive, scholarly primer in Muslim history and an engaging personal exploration.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Acutely perceptive . . . For many troubled Muslims, this book will feel like a revelation, an opening up of knowledge too long buried.”—The Independent (U.K.)
“Thoroughly engaging and excellently written . . . While [Aslan] might claim to be a mere scholar of the Islamic Reformation, he is also one of its most articulate advocates.”—The Oregonian

About the Author

REZA ASLAN has studied religions at Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds an MFA in fiction from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he was also visiting assistant professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. His work has appeared in USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, and The Chronicle of Higher Education as well as a number of academic journals. Born in Iran, he lives in Santa Barbara and New Orleans.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Updated edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812982444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812982442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (310 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Dr. Reza Aslan's bachelor's degree is in religious studies, with an emphasis on scripture and traditions (which at Santa Clara University means the New Testament). His minor was in biblical Greek. He has a master of theological studies degree from Harvard University, in world religions, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the sociology of religions. UCSB's doctoral program is an interdisciplinary one that draws from religion, history, philosophy, and sociology, among other fields. Aslan's doctorate in the sociology of religions encompasses expertise in the history of religion. Reza also has a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa.

Dr. Aslan is currently professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, with a joint appointment in the department of religion, and he teaches in both disciplines. He was previously Wallerstein Distinguished Visiting Professor at Drew University, where he taught from 2012 to 2013, and assistant visiting professor of religion at the University of Iowa, where he taught from 2000 to 2003. He has written three books on religion.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

262 of 285 people found the following review helpful By Phred on July 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
Iranian born Dr. Reza Aslan was seven years old when his family fled the Iranian revolution and arrived in America. He would grow up a Persian Muslim in a relatively open America. Here he would earn a Master's degree from Harvard Divinity School and his doctorate in the Sociology of Religion from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In other words Dr. Asan grew up in a world where he was very separate and distinct from his surroundings and reacted to the situation by seriously studying the history and meanings behind these distinctions.

In his book No God but God the reader is given the benefit of this thoughtful man's years of study. The majority of this book is a readable and systematic description of the theology and history of the Muslim religion. One of my favorite old Bible stories is that of the "Still Small Voice". The lesson from this story is to ignore the storms and bombast the world can give us and listened to the quiet internal logic of real inspiration. Dr. Aslan would never claim to be the still voice of God, but the tone of his book is that of a calm, confident, and knowledgeable instructor.

In reading the biography of Mohammed we meet a man whose divine inspiration may be a matter of debate in the West; but who lived a life remarkable for his ability to succeed in building one of the world's great religions. Along the way he would negotiate alliances and conduct warfare with and without the advantages that would normally guarantee diplomatic or military victory. The collections of his sayings that would be later assembled into the Koran appear to reflect the co-mixture of the words needed to inspire an Army, promote cooperation from allies and to inspire fear in enemies.
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114 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 19, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating read. Starting with the pre-Islamic Arabia, it traces the evolution of Islam all the way to the recent popular pro-democracy uprisings in the middle east - the updated edition that is. Along the way, it marries history with erudite commentary, answers a few dogmatic points of views, & raises, rather honestly, quite a few questions.

Quite a good many of the chapters dwell on the rise of Islam in the desert of the Arabian peninsula, the life of Muhammad & its strife, the power struggles after Muhammad's death, the expansion of Islam to far away corners beyond its humble Arab origins, & the consolidation of the ways & practices into codified religion. It further does a great job of articulating both the evolution & description, if not definition, of the various sects - namely the Sunni, the Shia, & the Sufi.

The tales continue into the modern nineteenth, twentieth & twenty first centuries - the story of Iran is a gripping one - & the book continues its journey into the many ideological branches that evolved in this period - the politics of Islam at battle with colonialism & a fast modernizing world, & the divergent pulls of reformist agendas against fundamentalist ones. Finally, the author speculates a little on the future of Islam, its diaspora in the western world with deep connections to each other & the larger community using the internet.

For me, the chapters on what defines a Muslim, to the extent possible, & the related symbolism of such practices was an eye-opener. Refreshing, & reinvigorating too, was the chapter on the Sufi - I think the author deliberately changed the tone of his writing in this chapter to sound more mystical - as was the content & commentary on the evolution of the Shia sect, its beliefs & symbols.
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84 of 93 people found the following review helpful By bmbower on August 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book doesn't simply recount facts, it places you in the desert and gives you a sense of what it might have been like to take sides with the Prophet during the war between Medina and Mecca. A master storyteller, Aslan turns the origin and evolution of the Sunni-Shia divide into an intriguing political yarn filled with all the knots of a modern thriller. I liked how he clearly connected the success of the ultra conservative Wahhabists to the development of the Saudi oil empire. And I loved learning that Sufism is as cool as I always suspected it was (though a great deal more diverse as well).

The only downside is that Aslan's skill as a writer allows him to overemphasize the positive. Somehow in the midst of massacres, assassinations, rivalries, oppression of women, modern extremism, and the dogmatic and even wicked Ulama, Aslan manages to present an idealized Islam that seems downright liberal, like it was born from the European Enlightenment rather than pagan tribalism.

A beautiful vision of what the faith could be.
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72 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Rick Carpenter on March 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has been quite a revelation. As long as we in the West have been involved and engaged with the Middle East, not one American in a thousand could probably tell you anything about the origins, evolution or true beliefs of the Islamic faith. I must admit that I have to include myself in that pathetically provinial group. Although the book seemed to raise as many quetions as it answered, it has provided giant step toward understanding a magnificent culture with albeit, a sickly rogue minority element that tends to destroy the reputation of a good, holy and peace loving majority.
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