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No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam Paperback – January 10, 2006
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From The New Yorker
Aslan, a young Iranian emigrant, lucidly charts the growth of Islam from Muhammad's model community in Medina—depicted as a center of egalitarian social reform—through the chaotic contest to define the faith after the Prophet's death. Within generations, seven hundred thousand hadith—accounts of Muhammad's words and deeds—were in circulation, many "fabricated by individuals who sought to legitimize their own particular beliefs." Out of this muddle was born the primacy of the ulema, Islam's clerical establishment. The ulema, in Aslan's view, foreclosed Koranic interpretation, detoured from the Medinan ideal, and obscured Islam under a thicket of legalistic decrees. Fifteen centuries after Muhammad, Islam has reached the age at which Christianity underwent its reformation; Islam's renewal, Aslan attests, "is already here." However, both modernizers and their "fundamentalist" opposites call themselves reformers, and the victory of the former is not assured.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Aslan's introduction to the history of Islam, which also devotes several chapters to the place of Islam in the contemporary world, tackles its subject with serious and well-informed scholarship. But, miracle of miracles, it's actually pretty fun to read. Beginning with an exploration of the religious climate in the years before the Prophet's Revelation, Aslan traces the story of Islam from the Prophet's life and the so-called golden age of the first four caliphs all the way through European colonization and subsequent independence. Aslan sees religion as a story, and he tells it that way, bringing each successive century to life with the kind of vivid details and like-you-were-there, present-tense narration that makes popular history popular. Even so, the depth and breadth here will probably be a bit heavy for some, who might better enjoy Karen Armstrong's shorter, if less authoritative, Islam (2000). That said, this is an excellent overview that doubles as an impassioned call to reform. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Separating (but relating) religion, culture, and the desires of individual people, No god but God makes clear the point that Islam (the tenets of the faith as expressed in the Koran) is no more responsible for the terrorism often inflicted in its name than Christianity and the teachings of the Bible are responsible for the holocaust. Islam and Christianity are drawn clearly to be a code of faith and the behavior of their followers does not inform the Koran, rather the faith, both Islam and Christianity (and others) often becomes corrupted for the personal ambition and gain of individuals and peoples.
No god but God traces how this has happened within Islam, the conditions that have led to the rise of extremism, and leaves the reader with a deeper understanding both of Islam and of the people who claim to be its adherants.
Three weeks after reading this book, I attended a local mosque open house to learn more. The lectures and exhibits at the (moderate) mosque reflected No god but God's evidences and conclusions perfectly. Recommended reading!
The author has accomplished his goal in creating a readable, relatively neutral introduction to the Islamic faith. The author is a Shi'a, thus some passages are representative of a slight degree of bias in this respect, but the work as a whole is largely academic.
I gave this book 4 stars (wish I could give it 4.5) instead of 5 for one specific reason. I was looking for a more neutral examination of Islam. Reza Aslan (the author) spends some page space making the case that Islam is compatible with democracy, as well as explaining what factors have created the impression in many westerners that Islam intrinsically bends towards theocracy. He makes a compelling case, in part, because this is far from the focus of the book (which is to inform the reader).
Aside from the above critique (based on my expectation of the book), I found No god but God to be an enjoyable read throughout. In addition to being entertaining it was immensely informative. I would recommend this book to anybody who has a limited knowledge of the basic facts surrounding Islam and a desire to improve their understanding of the religion and its believers.