106 of 137 people found the following review helpful
A Real Disappointment,
By A Customer
This review is from: Islam: A Short History (Hardcover)
The enormity of my disappointment from this book is a direct result of the high expectations I had based on a friend's recommendation and Ms. Armstrong's description as a scholar in the field. I found the book badly written, biased and lacking in critical depth. Ms. Armstrong bombards the reader with scores of names, dates and jargon. She wastes time describing minor events, sects and characters that did not leave a lasting impression on Islam or its interaction with the world. The level of detail and brevity of the work prevents the author from describing and analyzing the larger trends and does not offer the benefits of critical historical discourse.
While the books is not blatantly biased and avoids many "classical" pitfalls of antagonistic statements regarding Christianity and Judaism it is far from objective. One example of such subtle bias is that the author properly explains that many acts performed by the early Muslims (pillaging, conquests, etc.) should be judged in their context and that this was not uncommon behavior at the time. The same understanding, however, is not extended towards any other culture or group whose actions are described by Ms. Armstrong. The emerging sense from the language is that the militant expansion of the Muslims was appropriate and understandable, but defeats that were inflicted on them by their rivals were not. Another example of misdirection (or simply sloppy work), out of many, is the description of the Suez Canal as an Egyptian project that was forcefully taken over by European powers. In fact, a Frenchman designed and built it, financing the work by selling shares to French investors with support, mostly in labor supply, from the local government. The British government later bought shares of the canal from the Khedive Said of Egypt, the other major shareholder.
Having read the book I found myself disagreeing with the author's notion that there's some separation between "true" Islam and those that act under its auspices. All religions have some ideal form in the abstract; most religions are practiced differently by various sects or schools of thought and I find it hard to accept that we can say that those who do not follow our notion of the ideal religion do not represent it. Islam, just like Christianity, Judaism and all other religions is represented by all those who believe that they practice it. Among them you will find kind and generous people as well as thieves, militants or people having any other quality.
If you are looking to learn objectively about Islam and the history of the Muslim nations, your money and time will be much better spent reading other books.
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Initial post: Sep 12, 2013 9:17:10 PM PDT
J. Alexander says:
You wrote, "If you are looking to learn objectively about Islam and the history of the Muslim nations, your money and time will be much better spent reading other books."
What other books? I am unpersuaded if you cannot or will not name them.
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