Cheryl's Reviews > No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

No god but God by Reza Aslan
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's review
Nov 18, 10

Read in November, 2010

With an almost lyrical writing style and the skill and scholarliness to carry it off, Reza Aslan has given us a book that blends history, religious study, and treatise. Islam, he contends, is in the throes of its Reformation, being torn apart from within and cleansed of its "new false idols -- bigotry and fanaticism".

To lead us into his conviction about Islam's present state, he unveils the context and the story of the life of Muhammed, the formation of the Islamic community, and the codification of the Quran following the Prophet's death. Unblinking, he presents the struggles for power and myriad tyrannies that have beset the religion's evolution, the rise of its various sects, the creation of Shariah law, and the waves of fundamentalism.

Recapitulating the events of modern Islamist movements arising from the destructive effects and aftermath of colonialism, Aslan writes an unflinching reminder of the co-creative role Britain, the United States, and other countries played in the establishment of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the spread of the Muslim Brothers.

If one were solely looking for an understanding of and possible defense for Islam, in our post September 11 world, this book would be invaluable. It both sheds light on the reality behind the common assumptions about Islam and violence while illuminating the message of "divine morality and social egalitarianism" many find at the heart of Muhammed's revelation.

Aslan's optimism for the success of Islamic Reformation and its necessary sibling, Islamic Democracy, seems to stem not only from his faith in the morality and egalitarianism but also from his observation of the Iranian Revolutions. The second one, in 1953, repressed with the help of the United States, the next, in 1979, usurped by Ayatollah Khomanni, and, presently, the ongoing struggle for truly free elections stand as a kind of proof of the organic need for a pluralistic community to act together on its own behalf.

The entire tome was a compelling read. However, the last thrid, speaking of Sufism and colonial history forward became a "page-turner" for me, I closed the book with many preconceptions still in tact, and my mistrust of all religion firm. Nonetheless, Aslan opened my mind to the elegance one might find in Islamic values and my heart to those who are courageous enough to inhabit and give voice to its Reformation.


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