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Islam: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) Paperback – August 6, 2002
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Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
"Islam, A Short History" is densely written, and sympathetically describes the evolution not only of the Islamic world, but also of the practices and tenets of this major monotheistic religion. Armstrong's tome not only dwells on the history of Islam, but also traces most major currents of thought within Dar al-Islam. She examines the evolution of Sharia (Islamic law), Sufism, the Ismailis, Twelver Shiism, and Wahhabism, just to mention a few of the streams that comprise this river. Best of all, this volume is written in plain English, simply written, incisive when need be, concise if not.
Ten maps show the ebb and flow of Islam: The illustrate the early conquests, the growth of the Umayyad Empire, the disintegration of the Abbasid Empire, the extent of the Seljuk Empire, the geography of the Middle Eastern Crusader states (in the 12th century), the threatening Mongol world in the 13th century, The Safavid Empire, the Moghul Empire in India, and the Ottoman Empire. The amirs, caliphs, ulamas, qadis (judges), and a host of other political, military, administrative, and religious figures are examined and put into their historical contexts.
"Islam, A Short History" contains a first-class 275-entry (!) chronology, a listing of 118 historical figures (!) from the history of Islam, a VERY exhaustive listing of additional readings (bibliography), and a good index. (The only weak point is a somewhat truncated glossary of Arabic terms.) Of the many books I have read about Islam, this is the one I would recommend as the first to read - it is a the perfect introduction to a fascinating (and almost unknown) new world.
Armstrong is writing for a western audience, for those who have no great exposure to islamic teachings. What she has written is a very concise and objective run through of the history of the rise of Islam.
The writing is spare and spartan, and seems to have concentrated on keeping opinion out of the book. For the most part she sticks to simple facts. As a result what you get is a dry and unemotional style of writing which tells you what you want to know without engaging with you.
I see from other reviews that Christian fundamentalists are comdemning this book for being soft on Islam, while the Muslims are calling it "anti-islamic propaganda". I figure that is a pretty good sign that it has trodden a middle path. Certainly to me it appears to be as objective as it is possible to be. I wanted a history, not an apology for Islam, nor a condemnation of it.
What comes across clearly to me from this book is that Islam suffers from the exact same problem as Christianity. If you follow in the footsteps of either Christ or Mahommed you will live a good life. But there are many who claim to be Christians and Muslims who live lives that are truly repugnant. What is most difficult is to resolve secular and political realities with religious belief. Christians have tried to do this by taking religion out of politics, whereas Muslims have tried to subjugate politics to religion. No one has perfected the marriage yet.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an exceptional book, which should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the current state of the world. Read morePublished 14 days ago by F. W. Orde Morton
a must read for any muslim or non-muslim to understand how human politics influenced the practices of a good message.Published 2 months ago by MM
Before any Westerner gets all excited and jumps on the bandwagon of Islam-bashing, read several histories. Then, you just might be glad that you didn't say anything stupid. Read morePublished 2 months ago by imaloserdude
Hard to rate it as I really am not familiar with Islam. However, I am learning a lot about it and that was my goal. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Beverly L. Somerson
The author likes Islam and thinks the West has an irrational fear of it. I cannot see the whole book as anything but a whitewash of Islam. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jackal
As a big fan of Karen Armstrong's other books, this one left me wondering if she wrote it herself or if she had some students write it for her. Read morePublished 4 months ago by bda