- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Random House; Later prt. edition (March 15, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400062136
- ISBN-13: 978-1400062133
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 654 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam Hardcover – March 15, 2005
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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
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
Top customer reviews
For anyone serious about taking the time and concentration to try to begin to understand the vast appeal of another religion, I recommend that this is a good place to start.
I come from an Islamic country, I have studied, loved and hated this religion through whole my life, but had never got the full picture of its history. And here Aslan takes me to all corners of this world, places I had already seen and knew about, and places I didn't even know that existed. Such a journey.
Thank you Aslan.
I can recommend this book to everyone. It's a must read in our time.
I wish I could find similar books about other religions. I will now read his latest book about Jesus of Nazareth with big expectations.
Turn the clock ahead a few years and I wind up picking up and reading Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan and saw him on the Daily Show a few times to boot. Eventually the dots connect and I realize that this was Reza's first book. Doh!
So I grabbed it for my Kindle (where the size and density are at least masked) and have enjoyed it quite a bit. Reza is a born storyteller and this book really is at its best when he is telling the story of Muhammad and his journey and the events that followed his death.
Though it is not Reza's intent, reading the story of Islam following the death of Muhammad is like reading about a train wreck in slow motion - a slowly unfolding series of events that fractured and politicized a religion in shockingly little time.
Reza is originally from Iran and fled to the US with his family following the revolution that deposed the Shah. He was an avowed atheist for many years before coming back to his religion. While he doesn't evince the radical fervor of the converted, he does have a genuine heartfelt love for Islam that informs his writing. That said, I cannot judge whether his Iranian background in any way has "prejudiced" this account. It certainly FEELS like Reza is working mightily to be even-handed and factual.
That said, Reza clearly abhors the political radicalization that has permeated much of Islam. He is clear that the true values of Islam do not support this turn. He is also clearly attracted to the passionate mysticism of the Sufis, something that Westerners like myself will appreciate, but may offend more traditional Muslims.
If you liked Zealot and felt you learned something from it, then I heartily recommend this book. Islam's history is complex and frankly confusing, but Reza does a heroic job in sorting things out.