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No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam Hardcover – March 15, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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

From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • 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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A few days after I was asked if I'd be willing to review Reza Aslan's new book "No god but God," and before I committed myself to doing so, I happened to catch the author's appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" where he and four other gentlemen were discussing the role of religion in current affairs. The panel included the author, two Protestant leaders, one Roman Catholic theologian, and an editor from a news magazine, and Aslan was by far the youngest participant. I was so impressed with his discussion of the topic, particularly in reference to the impact of Islam on the world today, its historical antecedents, and what is currently going on, that I immediately consented to read and review his book. I'm glad I did.

Reza Aslan is a brilliant young scholar of Islam and also of comparative religion in general, just the sort that we so dearly need today when there is so much confusion surrounding one of the world's great historical religions and its theological beliefs and political intentions. Born in Iran a few years prior to the overthrow of the Shah and the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, the young boy was whisked out of the country and settled in the United States. Later, he studied religions at Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. At the University of Iowa he received a master's degree in fine arts and served as a visiting assistant professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. In my opinion, one of the advantages he has when speaking and writing about Islam for the American audience is that he is not only knowledgeable about his own heritage, but appears to be thoroughly acquainted with the Western religious tradition and the American culture.
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Format: Hardcover
The first thing that struck me about this book is how well-written it is. I am a writer with about 5,000 articles in print or online. I'm also an editor, and I am noted for my harsh evaluations of the writing of others--most people simply do not write well.

Reza Aslan writes well. Extremely well.

By the time I was into the second page of this book, I felt that if Aslan had written a book about navel lint--I would still want to read it.

Couple the excellent writing with quality content, and you have a captivating book. When the subject is an authoritative explanation of Islam, the book becomes a must read for two groups of people: Those who are Muslims, and those who are not.

Aslan takes us on a journey through time. We see Muhammad before he becomes the "messenger of God," and we see his struggles along the way. From this, you can understand how Islam got its start. And then we see the various forces that act upon Islam as a blacksmith's hammer acts upon hot metal, and we watch this religion take shape over centuries.

Today, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. But, it's also a sharply fragmented religion. Aslan explain the origins of the various factions shaping Islam today. There's a strong parallel to what happened in Christianity. And, Aslan draws on this parallel to explain a core concept of the book--that Islam is far from monolithic. You have to remember that Christianity got a 500 year head start on Islam. Read your history of the West, and you can see Islam along the same trajectory.

Americans, in the aftershock of September 11, generally felt much of the Islamic world had declared war on the West.
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Format: Hardcover
A truly fascinating and accessible book written by Reza Islan, a scholar of comparative religions. It documents Islam's evolution since the time of Prophet Muhammad till our present day in a highly engaging fashion. In a succinct account, the book documents the history of this greatly misunderstood religion, starting from the Prophet's life, the civil war that englufed Muslims after his death, and Quran'ic interpretations that medieval islamic scholars advanced due to political reasons rather than theological conviction. The position of women in Islam is further clarified, with the author contrasting the Prophet's great appreciation of women's role in society to their later degradation as a result of men's monopoly over the interpretation of the Quran. The roots of modern terrorism are exposed from their origins in 18th century Wahhabist thought which relied on ultra-conservative interpretations and un-substantiated sayings from the Prophet, to the current scene after 9/11. This insightful book also deals with the roots of anti-semitism in Islam, the Islamic rulings on the treatment of minorities and prisoners of wars, and Islamic theology and law. A truly engaging account of Islam that is a must-read for anyone who is interested in learning more about current events and/or the history of religions.
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Format: Hardcover
Reza Aslan is a second generation American Muslim and here is your up-to-date optimist's guide to Islam. He is accutely aware of the turmoil unleashed in the Middle East that has called the US to its lands. He believes we are at the dawn of an Islamic reformation, and much of the initial impetus for this modernizing current comes from people like himself.

What defines a Muslim? There is no God but one God and Mohammed is his Prophet. This simple, supple catechism makes Islamic belief protean and unwieldy. But many, he thinks, stand behind the movement to usher in a new Islamic enlightenment. As a humanist, I pray he is right!

Unfortunately, Aslan also believes that fundamentalist or traditionalist appeal is very very limited. Based on surveys, I think he's wrong - but clearly the world situation with so many in Muslim lands so young (most under 18), there is enormous room for change and development. Pessimists underestimate people's aspirational needs and their awareness of what' s involved and how to get it. In an increasingly interconnected and urbanizing world, doubting the consumers of ideas is increasingly untenable. And partisans of Bush policy sure hope he's right.

Thus, read this book and add it to your shelf. Avoid psuedo-guides to Islam like Karen Armstrong who has her own anit-Catholic axes to grind. With Azlan, instead, you have the genuine article.
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