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No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam Hardcover – 2007
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Though it is the fastest growing religion in the world, Islam remains shrouded by ignorance and fear. What is the essence of this ancient faith? Is it a religion of peace or war? How does Allah differ from the God of Jews and Christians? Can an Islamic state be founded on democratic values such as pluralism and human rights? A writer and scholar of comparative religions, Reza Aslan has earned international acclaim for the passion and clarity he has brought to these questions. In No god but God, challenging the “clash of civilizations” mentality that has distorted our view of Islam, Aslan explains this critical faith in all its complexity, beauty, and compassion. Contrary to popular perception in the West, Islam is a religion firmly rooted in the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Aslan begins with a vivid account of the social and religious milieu in which the Prophet Muhammad lilved. The revelations that Muhammad received in Mecca and Medina, which were recorded in the Quran, became the foundation for a radically more egalitarian community, the likes of which had never been seen before. Soon after his death, the Prophet’s successors set about the overwhelming task of defining and interpreting Muhammad’s message for future generations. Their efforts led to the development of a comprehensive code of conduct that was expected to regulate every aspect of the believer’s life. But this attempt only widened the chasm between orthodox Islam and its two major sects, Shiism and Sufism, both of which Aslan discusses in rich detail.
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Starting with a brief outline of the pre-Islamic situation in Arabia, Mr. Aslan quickly progresses to the story of Muhammad and he spends better than a third of his book describing the Prophet and his impact. Then, in the chapters that follow, he discusses the successors to Muhammad and their impact on the development of theology and law. He describes the concept of jihad as well as the divisions into Sunni, Shi'ia and Sufi, describing their differences quite clearly. Finally, he spends a couple chapters trying to help the reader understand why we are in the clash we are in today by going through the impact of colonialism on Muslims and finishing with an eye on Islam today.
It is a very comprehensive and easy-to-follow history and Mr. Aslan is to be commended. In general, he stays away from judgements and focuses on trying to give us an objective history. In fact, if anything, he is skewed to the West--at times too kind to America and too apologetic for Islam. Not that there is any excuse for terrorism--there isn't--but the West has made mistakes in dealing with the Islamic world and this, too, needs to be acknowledged. Still, overall, Mr. Aslan has stayed away from anything that would be too controversial and, if this book doesn't have the depth and detail of some others, it is an excellent guide to the basics for any reader.
It really opened my eyes about Islam. Too bad the religion didn't stay true to the original teachings of the profit. The religion has been hijacked and perversely altered through time.
Dr. Thomas Accardi