Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Comparative religions scholar Aslan (Univ. of Iowa) aims to halt the showdown between East and West by arguing that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have much in common. With a five-city author tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

According to Iranian-born scholar Aslan (Islamic & Middle Eastern studies, Univ. of Iowa), Islam is currently in the throes of a worldwide Reformation, not in a civilization clash against the West. A combination of scholarship and narration, this is a refreshing retelling of the origins and evolution of Islam and of hope for a future based on the Medinan principles of social egalitarianism, unity, and religious tolerance. Aslan convincingly states that the bigotry, fanaticism, and fundamentalism now infecting Islam are the last gasps of small, doomed religious factions, not the beginning of a horrific future. His understanding of al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, and the insurgencies in Iraq; the differences between Islamic and American democracy; and the Sufi belief in love as the most important ethic of any religion are all reasons to put great stock in this excellent primer of Islam. This book belongs on the shelf with Karen Armstrong's fine Muhammad and Natana J. Delong-Bas's revealing Wahhabi Islam. Highly recommended.-Gary P. Gillum, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, UT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Aslan, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Iowa and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, argues in this informative but uneven study that a reformation of Islam is already underway. He astutely recognizes that the struggle between arch-conservative Wahhabi Islam and the innovative, reform-oriented Islam of the Prophet Muhammad are at war, dragging the United States and the West along. Aslan's brief but accurate analyses of polygyny (or polygamy), the veil, jihad and the devastating effect that European, particularly British, colonialism had on the Islamic world convey deep insight. Unfortunately, charging through more than 1,400 years of Islamic history in 300 pages means that some nuances are lost. Moreover, Aslan quietly challenges various "myths" dear to the average Muslim. He states that Muhammad could not have been illiterate, making the Qur'anic revelation less miraculous; that the egalitarian Medina Constitution-the symbol of Muhammad's great statesmanship-was actually revised in hindsight to hold such values; and the death of the Prophet's grandson Husayn at the Karbala massacre was, post-death, recast as a gesture of martyrdom by Shi'ite Muslims and not a conscious, self-sacrificial decision by Husayn himself. These lapses will bother even progressive Muslims, but non-Muslim readers will find this a sufficiently quick introduction to a complex topic. 5-city author tour. (Mar. 22) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Aslan (an independent scholar) offers a historical and issues-oriented account of the development of Islam in its many forms. To appeal to a broad reading public, the author presents many of the characters at play in the Muslim tradition from both a historical and an anecdotal perspective. Starting with the pre-Islamic period in the Arabian Peninsula, Aslan sets the stage to examine Islam from its inception with Muhammad in Mecca and Medina, to its appropriation by the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, to its manipulation by the Taliban and al Qaeda. Though generally sympathetic, the author clearly and concisely critiques the diversions from normative Islam that various Muslim communities have made throughout its history. In the final chapter Aslan argues that in spite of the problems besetting it today, Islam is in the midst of a reformation through which it will eventually fulfill Muhammad's vision of "divine morality and social egalitarianism." It is a well-written narrative that brings to religious history immediacy seldom found in historical or issues-oriented accounts of world religions. The text also provides a helpful glossary and a section of detailed notes and references. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. First- and second-year college students; general readers. M. F. Nefsky emerita, University of Lethbridge


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Aslan's introduction to the history of Islam, which also devotes several chapters to the place of Islam in the contemporary world, tackles its subject with serious and well-informed scholarship. But, miracle of miracles, it's actually pretty fun to read. Beginning with an exploration of the religious climate in the years before the Prophet's Revelation, Aslan traces the story of Islam from the Prophet's life and the so-called golden age of the first four caliphs all the way through European colonization and subsequent independence. Aslan sees religion as a story, and she tells it that way, bringing each successive century to life with the kind of vivid details and like-you-were-there, present-tense narration that makes popular history popular. Even so, the depth and breadth here will probably be a bit heavy for some, who might better enjoy Karen Armstrong's shorter, if less authoritative, Islam (2000). That said, this is an excellent overview that doubles as an impassioned call to reform. --John Green Copyright 2005 Booklist