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No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
Synopses & Reviews
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.
Finally, No god but God examines how, in the shadow of European colonialism, Muslims developed conflicting strategies to reconcile traditional Islamic values with the social and political realities of the modern world. With the emergence of the Islamic state in the twentieth century, this contest over the future of Islam has become a passionate, sometimes violent battle between those who seek to enforce a rigid and archaic legal code and those who struggle to harmonize the teachings of the Prophet with contemporary ideals of democracy and human rights. According to Reza Aslan, we are now living in the era of "the Islamic Reformation." No god but God is a persuasive and elegantly written account of the roots of this reformation and the future of Islamic faith.
"Aslan, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Iowa and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, argues in this informative but uneven study that a reformation of Islam is already underway. He astutely recognizes that the struggle between arch-conservative Wahhabi Islam and the innovative, reform-oriented Islam of the Prophet Muhammad are at war, dragging the United States and the West along. Aslan's brief but accurate analyses of polygyny (or polygamy), the veil, jihad and the devastating effect that European, particularly British, colonialism had on the Islamic world convey deep insight. Unfortunately, charging through more than 1,400 years of Islamic history in 300 pages means that some nuances are lost. Moreover, Aslan quietly challenges various 'myths' dear to the average Muslim. He states that Muhammad could not have been illiterate, making the Qur'anic revelation less miraculous; that the egalitarian Medina Constitution — the symbol of Muhammad's great statesmanship — was actually revised in hindsight to hold such values; and the death of the Prophet's grandson Husayn at the Karbala massacre was, post-death, recast as a gesture of martyrdom by Shi'ite Muslims and not a conscious, self-sacrificial decision by Husayn himself. These lapses will bother even progressive Muslims, but non-Muslim readers will find this a sufficiently quick introduction to a complex topic. 5-city author tour. (Mar. 22)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An excellent overview that doubles as an impassioned call to reform." John Green, Booklist
"This is a fascinating book. Reza Aslan tells the story of Islam with one eye on faith and another on history. The result is a textured, nuanced account that presents a living, breathing religion shaped by centuries of history and culture." Fareed Zakaria, author of The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
"Elegant, accessible, and informed by historical scholarship, No god but God offers a wonderful view into the rich world of early Islam. Reza Aslan brings to the life of Muhammad and the story of classical Islam a lyricism and deft touch reminiscent of Roberto Calasso at his best." Noah Feldman, author of After Jihad and What We Owe Iraq
"Reza Aslan counters superficial notions of a clash of civilizations with a deep and exhilarating exploration of the fifteen-hundred-year-old clash within the civilization of Islam. Distinguishing concepts like faith and religion, Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism, in ways that shed vital new light on the morning?s headlines, No god but God is a passionate argument for the shared history of the world?s religions. An essential contribution to the most important issue of our time." Tom Reiss, author of The Orientalist
In this compelling--and profoundly hopeful--book, Aslan demonstrates that Islam has much in common with Christianity and Judaism, and bears seeds of egalitarianism and social reform at its core.
About the Author
Reza Aslan, was born in Tehran, Iran in 1972 and left in 1979 during the revolution to come to the United States. Aslan has degrees from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and is currently a Doctoral candidate in Religious Studies at The University of California at Santa Barbara. Until recently, he was both Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa and Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where he received a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction. He has lectured extensively on the Middle East, and has published numerous articles on the religion and politics of the Middle East. In 1998 Reza Aslan was elected president of Harvard?s chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, a United Nations organization committed to the cause of global understanding. In that capacity, Aslan brought U.N. Deputy Secretary Denis Halliday to Harvard for his first public appearance since resigning his post as the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in protest of sanctions. His speech received national attention and sparked a worldwide speaking tour. In 1999 after the consecutive nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, the W.C.R.P. under Aslan?s leadership brought the ambassadors of the two countries to Harvard in order to discuss for the first time their shared nuclear future. His work with W.C.R.P. led to a position as legislative assistant for the Friend?s Committee on National Legislation in D.C., where Aslan worked as a liaison to Congress on issues of arms control and the Middle East. In August of 2000, Aslan was named Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa, becoming the first full-time professor of Islam in the history of the state. In that capacity, he taught courses in Introduction to Islam, Gender and Human Rights, and Religion and Politics in the Middle East, as well as supervising theses in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Women?s Movement in Iran, and Gender Violence Laws in Pakistan.
When the Pentagon and World Trade Center was attacked in September of 2001, Aslan put his expertise of the Middle East to work for both the University and the greater Iowa community by traveling throughout the state speaking to public and private organizations, businesses, churches, mosques, and universities. His efforts in Iowa received national attention in such periodicals as U.S.A. Today, U.S. News and World Report, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
In 2003, Aslan left his post at the University of Iowa to concentrate full-time on writing. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Slate Magazine, and the Nation. No god but God is his first book.
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