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

No god but God by Reza Aslan
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Jan 25, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, non-fiction

With his first book No god but God, Reza Aslan has constructed a magnificent and moving narrative history of Islam. His telling bursts with the intellect of scholarship and the beauty of lyricism. He begins with an examination of pre-Islamic Arabia, which reveals a religious culture openly tolerant and receptive of a multiplicity of beliefs and practices. Into this diverse, spiritual environment The Prophet Muhammad was born. After a tough upbringing, he received the divine Revelation from God—a message of monotheistic and egalitarian ideals. Aslan shows how the essence of Islam, as preached by Muhammad, embodies a pluralistic vision most reflective of a democratic society built upon freedom of beliefs, human rights, and protection of the marginalized.

After the passing of The Prophet, the Muslim community (the Ummah) struggled to maintain Muhammad’s model of ethics and morality as compiled in the Quran. Over centuries, the religious elites (the Ulama or clerics) usurped leadership and violated the sanctity of the true teachings of Muhammad by installing corrupted and rigid codes of juristic law, known as Sharia law. Islam gone awry in its radical form can be seen among the brutal modern regimes of Khomeinism in Iran, Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In exposing the misguided turns that led to fundamentalism, Aslan explains how the turmoil taking place is “an internal conflict between Muslims” where the West is “an unwary yet complicit casualty of a rivalry that is raging in Islam.” Confronting this madness with open-mindedness, Aslan represents a visionary and hopeful voice for reforming Islamic states with a balance between the recognition of traditional religious values and the foundation of secular democratic principles. Achieving this balance will happen, Aslan explains, because Islam is built upon pluralism and is devoted to humanism and world unity as perfected in the true beliefs and examples set by The Prophet Muhammad.

As a modernist, Aslan also cares profoundly about the fate of Muslims and the future of Islam. His book serves a reference point to empower readers with reason and understanding. What he ultimately illuminates is how and why peace will flourish someday.
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