No god but God
The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
Random House, 2005
I know this book has seen a lot of media play since its publication, but somehow it managed to stay off my radar until my friend Rob and I were discussing it at the gym. At that point I knew I needed to pick it up as I had a barely functioning knowledge of the history of Islam and it sounded like an excellent starting place. In this book Aslan slowly walks us through the development of Islam from pre-Islamic Arabia through the birth and eventual death of Mohammed, to the development of the modern fundamentalist movements like the Islamic Jihad. All of this is done in support of Aslan’s thesis that what were are seeing is an Islamic Reformation where, not unlike the Protestant Reformation, there is a struggle going on within Islam over the soul of the faith and like the Protestant Reformation this will be a bloody period in the history of Islam.
While I am not well-versed enough in the issues to pass judgment on Aslan’s assertions regarding an Islamic Reformation, the material he presents in the book certainly make a compelling argument. The one problem I see here, and this was actually pointed bout by Rob, is that while Aslan was born in Iran, his education is entirely western, at least according to his biographical information in the book, and from the tone of the beginning of the final chapter he was mostly raised in the United States. While this does nothing to diminish the value of his work, one could make the argument that he is lacking a certain perspective that someone who grew up in the region might have.
All in all this book was very enjoyable and while it was crammed full of information, names, and dates, it never feels like a history text. If you have any interest in this subject at all, and if you are a reasonable person in this day and age you should, then you need to go ahead and give this a read. If nothing else it serves as an excellent overview of the history of the faith and a good starting place for more in depth explorations.
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