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

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  24,366 ratings  ·  1,573 reviews
A fascinating, accessible introduction to Islam from the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Zealot

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • A finalist for the Guardian First Book Award

In No god but God, internationally acclaimed scholar Reza Aslan explains Islam—the origins and evolution of the faith—in all its beauty and complexity. This updated edition addresses the events of
Paperback, 310 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by Random House Trade (first published March 15th 2005)
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Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Will Byrnes
Reza Aslan - from The Guardian

Aslan has produced what should be required reading for anyone with an interest in things Islamic, whether that interest be religious or geopolitical. He makes 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 we
Riding the Tiger

Various studies of religion over recent decades show a remarkably similar pattern of development that seems to be universal. The start of religious movement is most often sociological and economic. The deficiencies of the prevailing conditions are typically expressed in syncretistic religious terms borrowed from whatever spiritual traditions are available. These social/spiritual insights are progressively codified and formalised as doctrine with only an increasingly vague connect
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Cecilia Nelson
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Oh man. What a conflicting review to have to write. On one hand, we have a wealth of easy-to-read historical and cultural information about Islam in a great, readable format for Western audiences. On the other, we have an author so blinded by personal bias that I routinely had to put the book down and walk away.

The author, Reza Aslan, clearly knows his history as a scholar of Islamic culture and a personal believer, himself. It makes sense that the book is at its best when Aslan focuses objectiv
Zayn Gregory
Dec 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Justin Evans
Jan 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-etc
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
Nabilah M.
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
An easily read, clear account of the origins of Islam and its subsequent evolution into a religion with millions of followers.

75% of the book is about Muhammad and the two centuries or more of unrest after his death. We’re given an in-depth description of the different factions that Islam has inspired from Sunni and Shi-ite Muslims to Sufism. I found all this really interesting but it was then unbalanced by what felt like a quick rush through the last 150 years or so. Amongst events and develop
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
3.5 thoughts soon.
Ruchama Feuerman
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 Hezry
Sep 18, 2010 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
A very good, eye-opening, mind-blowing read on the foundation and development of Islam as a religion, movement, identify, community, or in short, the Ummah, from Medina to the modern age. It is quite easy to read, with lots and lots of details. Everyone should read it, even those who identify with it. I seriously could not count how many passages I highlighted (edit: oh wait, I actually could do that in Goodreads. There are 76 in total).

However, I have to deduct one star because it ends with a t
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Ola Hreiche
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Inderjit Sanghera
Aslan explores the history of Islam, from it nascent beginnings in the previously obscure Arabian desert, to the unprecedent bourgeoning of its power, as it spread from Spain to Northern India, evolving in countless different directions, under the guise of a million and one different messages all linked to a single figure named Mohammed, a merchant turned prophet, whose message transformed a series of small Arab tribes into one of the most powerful religious forces the world has ever seen.

What m
Saadia B. ||  CritiConscience
No god but God had been on my list for a long time and it was totally worth the wait. Reza Aslan shows a snapshot of Islam from its origin to its evolution. The book very elegantly explains this magnificent yet misunderstood faith, Islam.

The clash of monotheism is from the earliest days of the Islamic expansion to the bloody wars and inquisitions of the Crusades to the tragic consequences of colonialism and the cycle of violence in Israel/Palestine, the hostility, mistrust and often violent into
Jun 18, 2007 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
Dec 22, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Nabilah Firdaus
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
5/5 stars for No God But God by Reza Aslan.

No God But God begins with the journey of the author to Marrakech where he encountered an altercation between a Muslim and a Christian, who was a missionary. Apparently, the Muslim kept on hovering the Christian just because he is a Christian. From here, he talked about the clash of monotheism concept - which apparently is the major conflict between religions in our world today.

This book is written in chronological style which makes it easy to comprehen
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Elizabeth A.G.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Finished the book and a bit overwhelmed by the various tribes, factions, sects, leaders, rebels, extremists, militants and how each country and even areas in the same country proclaiming to be Muslim are so different in their expression of Muslim/Islamist thought. Reza Aslan, however, does a good job of presenting the history of the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions with the successor Caliphs and how the Revelations of the Quran over time were used for personal gain, ideological advantage and ...more
Apr 29, 2015 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
Caidyn (he/him/his)
I feel like I was given a huge disadvantage thanks to being an American, mainly because I was five when 9/11 happened. I don't remember the day. Some people my age talk about how they remember watching it on the news in school or at home. Some say that they remember their parents. I, on the other hand, literally have no memory of that day. I can only assume it's because my mom decided not to expose me to that. However, 9/11 still affected me. I grew up hearing Islamophobic rhetoric.

1) Islam is o
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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


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26 likes · 9 comments
“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?” 35 likes
“A Persian, a Turk, an Arab, and a Greek were traveling to a distant land when they began arguing over how to spend the single coin they possessed among themselves. All four craved food, but the Persian wanted to spend the coin on angur; the Turk, on uzum; the Arab, on inab; and the Greek, on stafil. The argument became heated as each man insisted on having what he desired. A linguist passing by overheard their quarrel. “Give the coin to me,” he said. “I undertake to satisfy the desires of all of you.” Taking the coin, the linguist went to a nearby shop and bought four small bunches of grapes. He then returned to the men and gave them each a bunch. “This is my angur!” cried the Persian. “But this is what I call uzum,” replied the Turk. “You have brought me my inab,” the Arab said. “No! This in my language is stafil,” said the Greek. All of a sudden, the men realized that what each of them had desired was in fact the same thing, only they did not know how to express themselves to each other. The four travelers represent humanity in its search for an inner spiritual need it cannot define and which it expresses in different ways. The linguist is the Sufi, who enlightens humanity to the fact that what it seeks (its religions), though called by different names, are in reality one identical thing. However—and this is the most important aspect of the parable—the linguist can offer the travelers only the grapes and nothing more. He cannot offer them wine, which is the essence of the fruit. In other words, human beings cannot be given the secret of ultimate reality, for such knowledge cannot be shared, but must be experienced through an arduous inner journey toward self-annihilation. As the transcendent Iranian poet, Saadi of Shiraz, wrote, I am a dreamer who is mute, And the people are deaf. I am unable to say, And they are unable to hear.” 24 likes
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