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No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam | [Reza Aslan]

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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 lived. 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.

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.

©2006 Reza Aslan; (P)2009 Random House

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  •  
    Bob WHEATON, IL, United States 03-01-13
    Bob WHEATON, IL, United States 03-01-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Excellent Introduction to Islam"
    What made the experience of listening to No god but God the most enjoyable?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Shishir Kurup’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but Kurup's reading is excellent.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    We are not so different after all.


    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rahimah 02-21-15
    Rahimah 02-21-15 Member Since 2013
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    "This is a great book to listen more than once
    "

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adel Abdallah 02-14-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great book that summarized the history of Islam"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James San Jose, CA, United States 01-08-15
    James San Jose, CA, United States 01-08-15 Member Since 2009
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    "A good primer on Islam"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Raleigh greensboro, NC, United States 10-14-13
    Raleigh greensboro, NC, United States 10-14-13 Member Since 2009
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    "THE IMPENDING RE - FORMATION OF ISLAM"

    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


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara crystal beach, FL, United States 11-29-10
    Barbara crystal beach, FL, United States 11-29-10
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    "a wonderful lesson on Islam"

    I enjoyed listening to the history if Islam by Reza Aslan. It was informative and answered many questions I had about this world religion.

    6 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris BELLEVUE, WA, United States 12-14-12
    Chris BELLEVUE, WA, United States 12-14-12
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    "Maybe would have enjoyed if I had more time."
    Any additional comments?

    I was assigned to read this book for a comparative religion book. I didn't end up having the time to listen to the whole audiobook. I got about a third of the way through and realized there was far too many chapters left to listen too. The teacher assigned three chapters a night, which for this book = hours of listening or reading. I might have enjoyed it more had I taken the opportunity to listen to it for fun. Though it seems like this book is for a scholar, not the curious student. It goes deep into all of the historical intricacies loosing my attention many times. There was also a rant that seems endless about how Muslims aren't racist, especially against Jews, seems a little desperate to convey the point. Not a terrible book but I would not recommend it unless studying Islam is your passion.

    5 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SH Milpitas, CA 12-08-14
    SH Milpitas, CA 12-08-14 Member Since 2013

    A traveler

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    "Simple horrible"
    What would have made No god but God better?

    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.


    What was most disappointing about Reza Aslan’s story?

    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.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    No major issue with the narrator


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from No god but God?

    I would throw the book into the trash


    Any additional comments?

    I would like my money back

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Harris Sacramento,Ca 08-29-13
    Paul Harris Sacramento,Ca 08-29-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Good overview of Islam"

    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.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John in PA 07-18-14
    John in PA 07-18-14
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    "Islam Apologist - Unsound Argumentation"
    What disappointed you about No god but God?

    Reza writes of Islam the way good people want it to be exercised and applied. No problem there! But he states the aspects of historic Islam - of which radicals use to advance violence - only to arrive at a pathetic attempt to dismiss those historical aspects by means of unsupported and unsound reinterpretation. While the approach is likely welcomed by those who wish to see ONLY good, the approach does absolutely nothing to reduce or weaken the arguments made by violent radicals. Violent radicals get to maintain their credibility by maintaining their historical arguments. Reza is simply expressing a DESIRED interpretation of Islam. He does nothing to weaken the radical arguments, and, therefore, he is simply cloaking the historical Islam as a wholly peaceful religion WHILE providing those violent radicals cover form the open exposure that they deserve.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Reza Aslan again?

    No.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    No comment.


    What character would you cut from No god but God?

    Strawman arguments - which requires deletion of far more than half the content.


    0 of 4 people found this review helpful
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