99 of 118 people found the following review helpful
History and Desire,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Islam: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) (Paperback)
Karen Armstong would like to believe in the Prophet Mohammad, not because of his visions or poetry or even his special relationship to God, but because of his ability to create a compassionate and unified movement out of the chaotic tribalism of sixth century Arabia. She also wants to believe that Islam is at least as much social experiment--in equality, compassion, and surrender to God--as it is doctrines or rituals. For Muslims, Armstrong writes, "salvation does not mean redemption from sin, but the creation of a just society." That's a long way from hanging the burned body parts of Americans on public bridges, but that's exactly why this book should be on every American voter's reading list. It's not so much to find out the objective facts of Islam (though there are plenty of those), but to understand the religion's deepest yearnings and view of the world. If you've bought into the American party line on Islam, the last 40 pages of this book are going to be hard to swallow--Armstrong's litany of Western imperialism and meddling are unflinching and humbling. Violent Islamicists also come in for their own share of criticism. Alarmed by the failure of Western materialism to satisfy spiritual needs, Armstrong fears that Islam will fail in its calling to justice and compassion. The broad premise of this calling--that religion might provide an enduring improvement in social life--is the possibility Armstong is most interested in, the desire that makes sense of past and present. Muslims carry this sense and desire into every part of their lives. It may not be important for us to do the same, but refusing to recognize its grip on Muslim hearts and minds is where the battle of Fallujah really began.