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

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  11,054 ratings  ·  843 reviews
Though it is the fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam remains shrouded in ignorance and fear for much of the West. In No god but God, Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed scholar of religions, explains this faith in all its beauty and complexity.

Beginning with a vivid account of the social and religious milieu in which the Prophet Muhammad forged his message,
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published March 15th 2005)
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James O'Hara sorry for the delay. i got my copy from the library. i highly recommend this book - also available on Amazon, print paperback and Kindle.…moresorry for the delay. i got my copy from the library. i highly recommend this book - also available on Amazon, print paperback and Kindle.(less)
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Susan Johnson
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
"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
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
Ruchama Feuerman
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.
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
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
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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
Nabilah M.
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
Zayn Gregory
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
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
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
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.
رؤیا (Roya)
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
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
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
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
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
Ryan Fagan
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
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
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
My favorite part of this book came early on:

"All religions are inextricably bound to the social, spiritual, and cultural milieux from which they arose and in which they developed. It is not prophets who create religions. Prophets are, above all, reformers who redefine and reinterpret the existing beliefs and practices of their communities, providing fresh sets of symbols and metaphors with which succeeding generations can describe the nature of reality. Indeed, it is most often the prophet's suc
Reza Aslan is perhaps more credulous of the Islamic faith and principles than he seemed to be of Christianity in Zealot, which is both expected and disappointing. I was really hoping that he could be as neutral towards Islam as he was towards Christianity, but I suppose that's one of the benefits of having a history of a religion written by someone outside of that religion.

The story of Aisha (one of Muhammed's wives) and her lost necklace in particular had me snickering at the idea that Allah w
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
No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam is an articulate, scholarly primer on the history of Islam. Starting with the religious beliefs of pre-Islamic Arabia, Resa Aslan describes the life of the Prophet, and the social, political, and economic context in which this new religion—based on religious pluralism and social egalitarianism—developed. It's the familiar story of how a prophet's message is altered by successors that have institutionalized it while sometimes promoting t ...more
Jess Dollar
It took me much longer to read this book than it took to read Zealot. I had to read this much slower and with more deliberation because my previous knowledge of Islam and it's major figures and events was non-existent, whereas my previous knowledge of Christianity and the story of Jesus allowed me to read through Zealot quickly and without difficulty.

If you want to read a good introduction to the Muslim faith and how it's played out since Muhammad, I recommend this book. I certainly learned a l
Very heady little book (about 140 pages) that zips the reader through the beginning, middle and future of Islam. Points of personal interest for me:
1. The Quran does not dictate Muslim women to wear the veil...yet countless women have been imprisoned, tortured and/or murdered for not wearing the veil.
2. Jihad once prohibited wars unless it was in defense. Now, it oft is the rallying factor behind war.
3. Members/supporters of al-Qaeda "believe their rigid and Puritanical form of Islam is the onl
Kirk Battle
A solid historical examination of the origins of Islam told with a narrative sensibility. Other than Aslan's really obnoxious habit of prefacing sentences with 'Indeed' constantly, it's pretty good. Of particular interest are the economics of religion, particularly the Ka'ba.

It really is one of the most interesting economic and social stories I've heard in a while. A tribe takes over the local religious icon and reorganizes the town around it. The closer you live to the Ka'ba, the wealthier you
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Aslan on relgion vs politics 1 24 Oct 06, 2014 06:25AM  
  • "Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an
  • Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate
  • Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes
  • Islam: A Short History
  • In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad
  • Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective
  • The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future
  • Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources
  • After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam
  • Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations
  • The Venture of Islam, Vol 1: The Classical Age of Islam
  • The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam
  • Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think
  • The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books
  • The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity
  • A History of the Modern Middle East
  • The Heirs of Muhammad
  • A World Without Islam

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...
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities Global Jihadism

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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?” 22 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.” 13 likes
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