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No god but God: The Origins and Evolution of Islam

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,926 Ratings  ·  954 Reviews

An invaluable introduction for young readers to a faith that for much of the West remains shrouded in ignorance and fear. Written by Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed scholar of comparative religion, No god but God examines Islam: its rituals and traditions, the revelation of Muhammad as Prophet and the subsequent uprising against him, and the emergence of his succe
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Ember (first published March 15th 2005)
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Susan Johnson
Nov 28, 2011 Susan Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Our Bible study class decided we wanted to learn something about Muslims. We were woefully ignorant on the subject and needed to learn something about the religion. Someone recommended this book and it turned out to be a great choice. I have to be up front that I knew nothing about Muhammad and so it was great place to begin. One thing that came as a surprise to me was that Muhammad, like Jesus, did appreciate women and their contributions. It was the followers who came after both of them that t ...more
Sep 05, 2007 Conrad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, history
An astounding work. This book really took the top of my head off. Aslan is an excellent writer, and the book isn't too academic, but his command of Arabic and, at the same time, comprehensive familiarity with not one but at least three or four different English translations of the Quran (and the misunderstandings that result therefrom) makes this well worth reading.

Aslan makes a strong case for the Hijaz as a place of prelapsarian cultural intermingling for Jews, Christians, and Muslims; his po
Jan 19, 2010 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone with the slightest interest in religious studies or current affairs
Recommended to Kelly by: Conrad
"Don't like the question? Don't accept the premise. Then change the conversation."

This quote (from West Wing- yeahyeahyeah) kept coming to mind while I was reading this book. Reza Aslan has done this to absolutely brilliant effect. This book, which functions both as an introduction to the religion of Islam and a political statement on current affairs, frames Islam and its history in terms meant to make it sympathetic and understandable to an audience raised in Judeo-Christian based, secularized
Oct 22, 2007 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-islam
"Religion, it must be understood, is not faith. Religion is the story of faith." That is the reader's key to this fascinating account of the origins and development of Islam. Faith is a way of moving and being in the world; religion is a body of traditions and practices and institutions that preserve the story of how to move and be in the world that way. In order to speak to new generations, traditions adapt, but faith is eternal. From this perspective, Reza Aslan retells the story of Islam. Wri ...more
Cecilia Nelson
Feb 07, 2015 Cecilia Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, cultural
I have extremely mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand:

There are multiple cases of seemingly intentional skews. One particular example is Aslan's analysis of the practice of stoning adulterers: He says it was instituted by Umar, the second successor of Muhammad. Umar apparently lied about it being a part of original Revelation that was somehow "accidentally" left out of the authorized text. Aslan then refers to the hadith collections of Muhammad al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj as t
Justin Evans
I want to write two reviews for this book. In one I say well done, and thank you Reza Aslan, for your clear prose, your sympathetic defense of Islam, the remarkable way you cram so much--religious history, political history, theology, religious practice--into so few pages.
In the other I say for the sake of all that's holy Reza, will you stop banging on about how Islam is a liberal-democrat's wet dream religion? Because that doesn't sit very well with your endless claims that the Ulama comprises
Book Riot Community
It’s no secret that I have an intellectual crush on Reza Aslan. I adored Zealot and was charmed by Aslan’s ability to present a complicated history and an important mythology with clarity and precision. In No God But God, Aslan uses the same skilled hand to offer a history not only of the religion of Islam, but how Islam came to be practiced as it is today in all its variety all over the world. You will learn a lot from No God But God, especially about Islamic cultural practices and their Quaran ...more
Zayn Gregory
Sep 05, 2013 Zayn Gregory rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islam
Tight composition, fast pacing, authoritative tone: it's no surprise it was a bestseller. Of politics and history it is a good introduction for the non-muslim. But if the intent was to present a vision of how muslims should understand their faith under the challenge of modernity, it falls way short. Even presuming the raft of hostile orientalists he draws from represented the most neutral and authoritative of western scholarship on Islam, the author's own tone and framing make it needlessly more ...more
Ruchama Feuerman
Jul 01, 2013 Ruchama Feuerman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To me, this was worth reading, because Reza Aslan made the story if Islam come alive and told me so much I didn't know about Islam. I felt clouds parting in my brain and was able to comprehend some of the glories of the religion, and the hatred and factionalism, too. Sunni and Shiites had always been merely exotic names but for the first time I could understand why these groups might despise each other all these centuries later. It was fascinating to see the overlap between Islam and Judaism. No ...more
Khairul H.
Sep 19, 2010 Khairul H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Overall a very good book on Islam. Its history, briefly chronicled, makes a good primer for readers who have no idea of the origins of this faith.

If there is anything I didn't like, it would have been Reza's retelling of the history of the first three Caliphs of Islam especially the third Caliph, Uthman bin Affan. In this book, Uthman comes off looking like an inept leader who practised nepotism and corruption. Did Reza take notes from historical sources that were anti-Uthman? There have been m
Jan 22, 2016 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. day in America, the first I ever truly celebrated in full appreciation because only a few months ago I discovered that I had this eminent man’s legacy all backwards. When I thought Martin Luther King Jr., I would think of the Civil Rights Movement, the March on Washington, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the seminal “I Have a Dream.” My understanding of him was limited to a single optic, that of racial justice. But lately I’ve learned that King fought for more th ...more
Ana Maria Rînceanu
This book was thoroughly eye-opening. It is a must read!
Nabilah M.
Jul 10, 2014 Nabilah M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book can be a good starting point to those who want to discover more about Islam. Despite that, it cannot be the primary source of reference when it comes to Prophet Muhammad’s biography for few of the account of events are arbitrary and moot point to what I as a Muslim has been born and raised taught with. Too many instances dispute my current knowledge of the prophet’s life. In fact, Reza’s Shiite background strongly influences his writing. Of course you may argue that every author has th ...more
Jun 18, 2007 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this review first appeared on []

this was a book that mike recommended to me, and it just so happened that our local library had a copy.

i think most of us in the 'west', and certainly a good number of us christians, like to think we know a bit about islam. we hear about it in the news almost everyday, and we hear the rhetoric that comes from all sides. unfortunately, it is usually only sensationalist material that makes it to the news, and i have to admit that the sa
Jul 29, 2012 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Aslan begins his apologetic story talking of modern Islam as in a period of reformation, comparing it to the Reformation of the 16th century. This would be compelling if 1) he ever returns to this argument in any sustained fashion later in the book and 2) if he understood the Reformation as anything more than a violent religious response to modernity that threw off authority. The Reformation in Europe was tied to the rise of the power of the nation-state and the end of religion as a political po ...more
In this interesting book, Aslan starts each section by presenting 'the idealized' view of a topic, as narrated by early Muslim scholars (what he terms as 'myth') and then presents what he believes 'really happened' (objective history). Myth typically includes miracles, and heroic portrayals of people involved. Those inclined to believe in miracles may have difficulty with this approach, as he says that it doesn't matter whether miracles happened, but what role such myths play in shaping the beli ...more
Everything you ever wanted to know about Islam, but were too afraid or too benighted to ask.

This book is a great antidote to the kind of ridiculous rhetoric we see about "Islamofascism" (essentially a contradiction in terms, btw) as it explores the history of Islam, and how that history is the real subject of the current divide in the Islamic world. The author's central thesis is that the collected textual and extratextual traditions of Islam, like those of any other religion, can be assembled t
Ola Hreiche
Dec 10, 2015 Ola Hreiche rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having divorced myself from Islam a couple of years back but continued to struggle with a lot of resentment regarding current "theological" and cultural affairs, coming across this book parted some clouds in my mind. I am far more interested in the historical aspect of any religion than I'll ever be in its theology, and Reza Aslan proves to be thought-provoking at best. Whether man made or heavenly sent, timeless or bound to a specific era, there's a thing or two about Islam that one can learn t ...more
Apr 07, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a highly readable book, not because it simplifies a huge and complex subject - Islam - but because it is so well written. Aslan brings more than 1500 years of history to life like an investigative reporter, using the techniques of a first-rate journalist. While himself a Muslim, he is able to communicate to Western readers both articulately and compellingly, dismantling a good many misconceptions about his religion, fiercely held in his opinion by many, including members of his own faith ...more
May 25, 2015 Sofia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished reading this book. I cannot recommend it enough! I've seen lots of clips and a few presentations by Reza Aslan and always been very impressed by his intelligence, knowledge and eloquence but this is the first time I have read a book he has authored.
He ultimately relays the history of Islam from the context in which it was first revealed, through to its current state in flux. He's very academic but keeps the language accessible and fluid. He tackles events and instances from the lif
Mar 29, 2015 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic introduction to Islam and its diverse history. But my deeply ingrained atheism made me question a good majority of the writer's conclusions and remedies for solving the problem of Islamic Fundamentalism.
Will Byrnes
Aslan has produced what should be required reading for anyone with an interest in things Islamic, whether that interest be religious or geopolitical. He make clear that there are several types of Islam, and that fanatical, fundamentalist Wahabism is not the only brand on the market. I found the book eye-opening. The only reason I did not go for that 5th star is that the text can get quite dry, and in the early going was a sure cure for consciousness. But it was well worth the effort to stick wit ...more
رؤیا (Roya)
May 10, 2015 رؤیا (Roya) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I absolutely loved the book. Dr. Aslan did a great job using a very comprehensive unbiased language going through the history of one of the most talked and controversial religion of all time, Islam. The book was going through the Arabic peninsula’s geographical location, cultural norms, and traditions that made up the birth place of the last messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad. Then it goes on to explain the reaction of people toward the new introduced religion and then how Islam perceived in tod ...more
Najim Mostamand
Apr 11, 2012 Najim Mostamand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Reza Aslan's knowledge of the subject matter is profound, to say the least. In a book so engaging and heart-felt, No God but God delivers the unthinkable: a truly balanced, perceptive portrayal of a topic we thought we have understood for so long. In a little over 300 pages, Aslan gives readers a chance to understand Islam in the lens that it is supposed to be understood: through the religious, societal, and cultural context dictated through the Prophethood of Muhammad and the community of f ...more
Deni Aria
Aug 03, 2012 Deni Aria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No god but God is really fascinating yet handy book for me in finding out and understanding my quest of life meaning that is absolutely inextricable to the need of transcendental power within called God. The God that I live and affiliate is formed into term of Religion, mine is Islam. My never ending journey of understanding this faith will never stop as I believe and also this book narrates that the mighty of Allah and His'wills want us to keep searching as Allah/Lord instructed my prophet Muha ...more
Sai Kishore
May 09, 2015 Sai Kishore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"As with all journeys,the way has an end,though it should not be imagined as a straight road leading to a fixed destination but rather as a majestic mountain whose peak conceals the presence of God.There are,of course,many paths to summit-some better than others.But because every path eventually leads to the same destination,which path one takes is irrelevant.All that matters is to be on a path, to be constantly moving toward the top - one measured,controlled and strictly supervised step at a ti ...more
Aug 23, 2007 Steph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middleeast
An excellent introduction to Islam from a thematic standpoint. If you want to understand the subtleties of faith, belief, and passion that sustain the religion and characterize its relations within and outside the Muslim world, this book is a wonderful choice. For those who have absolutely no knowledge of Islam, the amount of information presented on Islamic customs, origins, and figures may be somewhat overwhelming. Chronology is only as important as its relevance to themes in this book, so hav ...more
Ryan Fagan
May 21, 2012 Ryan Fagan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative. Detailed explanation of Islam's past, present, and possible future. Great insight to the history of division and the different sects of Islam. I learned a lot from this book.
Megan Olsen
Jun 04, 2015 Megan Olsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A clearly laid out, interesting, and approachable history of Islam. I appreciate how the author chose to introduce the reader to Islam in a chronological, storytelling-based manner; I found it easy to understand -- much easier than other investigative efforts I've made. The founding characters of Islam were revealed with both empathy and honesty. I wondered, at one point, if a muslim reader would like this book. It seemed honestly-biased, in the same way that "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling" ...more
Mar 13, 2015 Suha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
An excellent read. No God But God is a well-written, informative book about the history and evolution of Islam. To most Muslim readers, the opening chapters may seem really redundant and boring. I had to force myself through them but it was worth it because I ended up learning a lot from the following chapters. The author also beautifully explains the evolution of different Islamic sects and ideologies in an interesting yet unbiased manner.
The only thing I disliked was the apologetic tone often
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Aslan on relgion vs politics 1 28 Oct 06, 2014 06:25AM  
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  • The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future
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  • Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources
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  • Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective
  • After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam
  • Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters
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  • Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
  • Daughters of Another Path: Experiences of American Women Choosing Islam
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Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is author most recently of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

He is the founder of, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world, and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and abou

More about Reza Aslan...

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“Even the Quran, which Sufis respect as the direct speech of God, lacks the capacity to shed light upon God’s essence. As one Sufi master has argued, why spend time reading a love letter (by which he means the Quran) in the presence of the Beloved who wrote it?” 29 likes
“As with all journeys, the Way has an end, though it should not be imagined as a straight road leading to a fixed destination but rather as a majestic mountain whose peak conceals the presence of God. There are, of course, many paths to the summit-some better than others. But because every path eventually leads to the same destination, which path one takes is irrelevant.” 16 likes
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