This book is filled with both historical information and contemporary relevance, but Aslan somehow manages to convey it all with brevity, depth, depth, and sincerity. He avoids the pitfalls of dogmatism or sounding preachy on the one hand while unapologetically remaining faithful to the spirit and intention of Islam on the other. I would recommend it highly to anyone with even a passing interest in Islam. I would especially recommend it to the opponents of Islam, or to anyone politically-minded, as it presents what I believe to be an accurate, measured account of the history of one of the world's great religions and sheds light on so many of the current conflicts in which our world is embroiled.
No, but Kurup's reading is excellent.
We are not so different after all.
I had to stop the recording several times and repeat what I was hearing. But found it very informative and it gave me a better understanding about the history of Islam.
The title of this book intriqued me and I wanted to know more about Islam from a different perspective. And indeed, I was in for a treat! There were many 'shocking' moments and new views that was totally something I wasn't expecting. Dare I say, some parts I listened with my jaw dropped and asked myself, 'Is that so?' It was more than a week of listening as each chapter took about an hour or more and it was difficult for me to do work and listened at the same time as I wanted the precious readings to be fully appreciated. it was an insightful read indeed starting from Muhammad(pbuh)'s birth to the 9-11 act of terrorism. I felt that I was given a grand tour of Islam with an ending that leaves much to my imagination what the next era of Islam will be like.
I enjoyed this book and learned new things about my own religion. It's real encompassing. My only concern was the quick jumps to conclusions on critical issues in early sacred Islamic history but maybe it's too much to talk about in one book. I disagree with the author ideas that prophet Muhammad chose what to reveal in the quraan. It was Gods will and revaluation from A to Z.
If your looking for a Islam 101, this is a worthy enough listen. It's pretty straight forward and gives the Orthodox history of the religion. Within the limitations of an Apologia the book works. It's fairly obvious that Aslan is trying to make the listener or reader comfortable with Islam, that he will constantly give the benefit of the doubt to his faith.
Where this does not work is in the very beginning of the narrative. The actual history of Islam in the early years is not so cut and dry. A serious student of history should be a little less credulous of the Muslim sources. At the very least Aslan should have done a better job of flagging the biases of the early sources and explained the problems with getting a more rounded view. He started to do that, but then quickly abandoned the effort to give the standard narrative as laid down by the hagiography of relgious authors. A historian, which is what Aslan is attempting to be, should be a little more circumspect and offer contrarian views if possible.
Once out of the early years, Aslan is on firmer ground and does provide a tour de force of Islam and the diversity of the religion. Not only does Aslan explain the diversity but he also goes into the history and practice of the major movements. This brings us to Sufism.
If you have never had any contact with a mystical faith your first brush with the Sufi tradition is going to be confusing. Mystical faiths, Taoism, Buddhism, Hindu tantric practices get very wild and wooly to those of a more literal mind. Words really can not explain a mystical faith, it has to be experience. So unless you are willing to take up with a guru, join a monastery, or take up with the Franciscans or with some Russian Orthodox "Fool for God" it's going to be a hard climb to logic out the faith. Aslan does as well as can be expected with a faith that would rather get on with having an ecstatic union with God than clear cut instructions. Again, it helps if you have delved into Zen Koans or Taoist scripture prior to tackling Sufi efforts.
Leaving the Sufism behind, I have to address the last part of Aslan's book, which may be the weakest part of the effort. To suggest that the present day upheaval in the Islamic world is an analogue for the Christian Reformation is cold comfort indeed. He even mentions, in passing, how nasty that transformation was for Europe. No one with even a passing understanding of the history of Reformation and Counter Reformation could be very sanguine about being collateral damage in the brutal exchange between various forms of Islam. Europe went insane for nearly a century and did not get truly right in the head until Darwin came around, if even then. To have a repeat of that chaos and the damage it entailed is not something that any sane person would want to be a part of. Aslan may be correct in that the Islamic Reformation has already begun but he may not be totally honest about how much blood, sweat and tears will be shed in the effort to realign the faith. I understand why Aslan the individual may want to hope for best, but his insistence on viewing the field with rose tinted glasses really does hurt his message. It is pretty clear that Aslan has an agenda here, and he is flogging it for all its worth. I wish that the book did not end on such a partisan note.
Sidebar: The vocal talent was, for the most part, spot on. It was uncanny in many places with the narrator almost sounding like Aslan himself, or at least a close relative. As with most narrators, it is only when a voice other than the author is being read that we get into trouble. It's jarring to have shift in voice and accent, I doubt that Aslan would be using such mimicry. It's the only reason the narrator did not get five stars.
An objective description of the religion. All this book is is hours upon hours of a believer reciting religious dogma.
Think of going to one of those evangelical Christian assemblies and listening to the minister talk hour upon hour about Christianity. Now replace Christianity with Islam and you get an image of what this product is about.
It is dogmatic. The author also takes potshots at other authors who at least attempt to provide an objective account of Mohammad life's. Example, apparently another author questioned the sexual attraction that the much younger orphaned and poor Mohammad had for his richer and much older wife. Reza states that such comments are offensive. Maybe they are to him, but this is an important point to consider when looking at Mohammad life and who he was. Reza goes onto state that Mohammad, when married to the rich Khadijah, never married another woman out of his love for her. But another explanation might well be that she controlled the money and would not allow it.
He also seems to question a Christian Minister that states that states that Mohammad was a pedophile who was demon possessed. I grant you the words are harsh. But did Mohammad have a thing for marrying little girls -yes. Did he at one point claim that he had been possessed by a devil. yes. Reza can explain these facts in terms of historical cultural practices, but he should not discount the factual nature in Islamic tradition. Look if the dog shits on the floor it is there, do not deny it.
No major issue with the narrator
I would throw the book into the trash
I would like my money back
reza aslan was born in teheran, iran; he now lives in hollywood CA
that's quite a scholarly transition to accomplish in one life time
it gives him a unique perspective to relate islam's own impending transition
islam began, in tribal desert isolation, about 600 years after christianity
three of the first four islamic leaders, to follow mohammed, were assassinated
even today, islam retains many of its' harsh, mercantile and feudal elements
but, aslan persuasively argues, much of that history really doesn't matter
the changes outside of islam are minor compared to the changes within islam
the conflict and carnage we see from the outside, obscures an inner turmoil
islam is desperately trying to come to grips with the modern world
it's similar, aslan argues, to the catholic church's encounter with the reformation
the problem is that islam lacks the enlightenment tools for the job
of the 500 best universities on the globe not one is in the muslim world
basic literacy in many arab countries approaches only 40 %
illiterate, uneducated tribesmen make for a slow religious renaissance
reza aslan has the almost impossible job of explaining islam to the west
the task requires equal measures of bravery and scholarly insight
we should applaud him for trying, many others will follow in his steps
I enjoyed listening to the history if Islam by Reza Aslan. It was informative and answered many questions I had about this world religion.
This book is very well done and gives you a good overview of current world views in Islamic nations. You won't get this info from western media...they are too busy reporting on Miley Sirus and her dancing exhibitions!
If you have an interest in Islam...start here.