151 of 164 people found the following review helpful
A good history of the Muslim religion from a moderate voice - quiet optimism in a world of shouting,
This review is from: No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (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. What undergirds all of these practical problems is a fundamental belief in promoting a system based on social justice and relief from an existing system that had promoted family good over, community good.
As one who has read the Koran, Dr. Aslan's explanation of how it came to be written allowed me the context to understand the apparent contradictions, which are typical of many sacred texts, and to appreciate why this text is so radically different from others. The Koran is not intended to be read as a history or as a collection of stories. It is a collection of speeches, revelations and instructions to be applied not merely in one's religious life but in one's daily life and the institutional life we would call government.
In trying to interpret the violent extremes present in the modern House of Islam, Dr. Aslan proposes the following hypothesis: The Christian West would undergo a Reformation lasting 100 or more years. During the Reformation conflicting ideas in the pressure to modernize thinking drove people to extreme acts of violence not only against each other but across continents where Christianity was either unknown or not wanted. It is Dr. Aslan's belief that part of what is going on in the contemporary House of Islam is a Muslim version of the Reformation. He believes that the Muslim world long withdrawn from modern influences is increasingly dealing with complexities and issues not found in the writings of Mohammed. This produces all manner of societal stresses. Some of these stresses will be fought out as religious violence. A second manifestation of this process is and will be violence directed at the non-Muslim world. How long this process will take and how severely it will manifest itself is unknown.
I very much hope that Dr. Aslan is correct. My read of Muslim history is that it has gone through cycles of adaptation and modernization followed by periods of repression including violent repression in efforts to restore the presumptive purity of an older time. The non-Muslim world however is under no obligation to tolerate or remain passive in any portion of that Reformation that expresses itself as violence in our house. If No God of but God is correct the events in the House of Islam will eventually burn themselves out with the more moderate face of Islam strengthened with a greater ability to function in a larger modern non-Muslim world. If this interpretation is too optimistic the rest of us must rightly concern ourselves with yet more militant efforts to draw more of this planet into a repressive and backward looking House of Islam.
No God but God has much to teach the Western reader. My recommendation is enthusiastic but conditional. Too much of Western discussion of the Muslim religion is based on shouting, ignorance, and fear. Too many who would make and are making policy decisions seem to believe that any actual knowledge of the "other" is almost a moral failing. The real moral failing is to not take advantage of books like No God but God as part of the process that real morality dictates. It is never enough to let doctrine drive policy. Both must be informed. Dr. Aslan makes a legitimate effort to provide this information.
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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 8, 2013 12:38:52 AM PDT
Thoughtful, interesting review; thanx.
Posted on Jul 8, 2013 7:07:48 AM PDT
Thanks again for taking this much time.
Encouragement is always apreciated
Posted on Jul 27, 2013 3:32:29 AM PDT
I have yet to read the book, but I very much enjoyed your analysis and review. It was a rational piece, optimism and pragmatism went hand in hand. Thank you.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2013 6:39:21 AM PDT
Thank you for taking the time to comment. Encouragement is welcome.
Posted on Sep 27, 2013 6:57:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 23, 2013 3:59:45 PM PST
It is presumptuous to assume critics of Islam are merely ignorant of it. The problem is, Islam was born in violence, cruelty, and human rights abuses at the hands of Mohammed himself. All of that is going to take some sweeping under the rug.
Update: For instance, I have now consolidated and analyzed every teaching in the entire Quran related to women. It is not a pretty picture. Here's the first of three posts:
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2013 1:35:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 27, 2013 7:14:00 PM PDT
I am fairly sure I never specified that all critics were ignorant. To be exact: the expression "Too many" is by definition not the same as "all". The presumption is yours. I remain more than a tad sure that too many are ignorant and perfer to remain so.
As for that, one is hard pressed to find a religion and esp one in the West that has not worn out a few brooms, more correctly whitewash brushes, while claiming all manner of victim status for theirown.
Do we really need to list the Western history of religious wars, religious driven human rights abuses and etc? Would it shock you to learn of wars between Buddhists and Hindi an so forth?
Thanks for posting your comments, all are apreciated.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2013 11:09:29 AM PDT
James Pohl says:
While it may indeed be "presumptuous" to label ALL critics of Islam as ignorant, to dismiss Islam merely as a religion "born in violence, cruelty, and human rights abuses" cannot be viewed as anything but ignorance in its most pernicious form. It demonstrates an insidious ignorance of historical, cultural, and theological context, and it plainly reflects a bias that precludes any honest attempt to attain a deeper knowledge of that which one appears so eager to condemn. But I guess the philosopher Amos Alcott was onto something when he said, "To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant."
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2013 2:49:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2013 2:54:42 PM PDT
Phred: If we're going to quote exact phrasing, neither did I say "all" before "critics." So why do you not only represent my phrasing with that word, but even put quote marks around it?
This book appears in part to be about the origins of Islam, and you write above about Mohammed's admirable qualities in particular, contrasting them with "the modern house of Islam." Well let us begin, if we are going to be honest, with the crimes of Mohammed himself.
No, it would not surprise me "to learn of wars between Buddhists and Hindus;" heck, I was in New Delhi when Hindus killed two thousand or so Sikhs, I heard the bombs and rifle shots with my own ears.
Sure, if someone whitewashes the crimes of Torquemada, let me know, and I'll complain about that, too.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2013 2:53:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2013 2:54:26 PM PDT
James: Yet I am NOT ignorant of those contexts, "insidiously" or otherwise. Are you saying that one should make proper excuses for Mohammed's murders, tortures, enslavements, and rapes, and that if one does not, one is a bigot? And maybe Jack the Ripper had a troubled childhood? I am trying to express contempt for such a patronizing notion, here; let me know if the message fails to get through.
Posted on Oct 7, 2013 3:11:12 PM PDT
Applying the standards of 2013 few if any religions do very well. The founding of Christianity, Orthodox as well as Protestant includes their share of violence, up to and including rape incest and etc. . The foundation documents of the old testament do not sweep quite as clean as some of your review comments would suggest. More to an immediate point, the documentation of the Zealots is hardly a record devoid of murder and etc.
My point remains. Too much decision making is being made on a hate driven/ignorance driven agenda.
There is blood enough on all hands.
Whatever your history says of Mohammed's crimes, we can play a game of this for that for years to come. The result will be a caution that religions can be dangerous things. Your apparently blanket condemnation of Mohammed is something you are not going to give up. I am not interested.