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Islam: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) Hardcover – 1 Aug 2000

50 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Inc; Modern Library Ed edition (1 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679640401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679640400
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Armstrong is one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun in the 1960s, but then left her teaching order in 1969 to read English at St Anne's College, Oxford. In 1982, she became a full time writer and broadcaster. She is a best-selling author of over 15 books. An accomplished writer and passionate campaigner for religious liberty, Armstrong has addressed members of the United States Congress and the Senate and has participated in the World Economic Forum.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The picture of Islam as a violent, backward, and insular tradition should be laid to rest, says Karen Armstrong, bestselling author of Muhammad and A History of God. Delving deep into Islamic history, Armstrong sketches the arc of a story that begins with the stirring of revelation in an Arab businessman named Muhammad. His concern with the poor who were being left behind in the blush of his society's new prosperity sets the tone for the tale of a culture that values community as a manifestation of God. Muhammad's ideas catch fire, quickly blossoming into a political empire. As the empire expands and the once fractured Arabs subdue and overtake the vast Persian domain, the story of a community becomes a panoramic drama. With great dexterity, Armstrong narrates the Sunni-Shi'ite schism, the rise of Persian influence, the clashes with Western crusaders and Mongolian conquerors, and the spiritual explorations that traced the route to God. Armstrong brings us through the debacle of European colonialism right up to the present day, putting Islamic fundamentalism into context as part of a worldwide phenomenon. Islam: A Short History, like Bruce Lawrence's Shattering the Myth and Mark Huband's Warriors of the Prophet, introduces us to a faith that beckons like a minaret to those who dare to venture beyond the headlines. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

One of the world's foremost commentators on religious affairs on the history (and destiny) of the world's most misunderstood religion. --This text refers to the Perfect Paperback edition.

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
During the month of Ramadan in 610 C.E., an Arab businessman had an experience that changed the history of the world. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr Tea-Mole on 19 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Armstrong achieves a remarkable feat with her presentation of over 1400 years of Islamic history into a succinct and very readable mere 160 pages. The different strands of Islamic development in intellectual, spiritual and political dimensions are systematically chronicled to present the picture of a faith with a long, vibrant and chequered past. Major events such as the Crusades and the Mongol conquest and their implications on the Muslim world are nicely covered.

Several useful appendices add significantly to the value of this book. These include a very detailed chronology recording every major date, event and development, an alphabetical list of key figures, a glossary of Arabic terms and a detailed list of suggested further reading material

The book is worth reading for the value of the final section alone entitled "Islam Agonistes" where Armstrong moves out of her abstract "narrator" mode and provides a profound analysis of the contemporary Muslim situation vis-à-vis the West, modern technological society and the challenges of secular modernity for Muslims. Her conclusion is that many Muslim societies have commitments and attachments to their faith which they are unwilling to jettison wholesale similar to Christians in the West. They would like to participate in the modern world but on their own terms, whilst remaining faithful to the central tenets of their own religious understanding.

I gave the book 4 stars as opposed to 5 because - as a practising Muslim who has experienced being a member of the faith for many years - I was unable to relate fully with Armstrong's central thesis - namely that the supreme Islamic mission is the establishment of a just society.
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Aug. 2001
Format: Perfect Paperback
Islam is a religion of many cultures and traditions spread over more then 1400 years in time. And for an out sider (as I assume Karen to be), she seems to have a vast amount of knowledge on the subject.
The book is written in a very approachable manner and would be understandable to even the beginners. But having said that, there are so many details covered in this one book (even if as brief references) that I couldn't help but admire the effort put into her work. I started off not expecting too much (thinking I know it all any way), but ended up finding so much new stuff and refreshing what I knew before to be true. And the best thing was that it gives us a different prospective of things. It makes us think about things we usually take as a given (either for religious or social reasons), hence closing our minds to them. Also makes us think logically about historical facts we believe to be true but usually tend to look at them just from a religious view point and hence not being able to appreciate them to the full.
So all in all, I very much recommend this book to any one who would like to study the fastest growing religion in the world. It takes away a lot of stereo types about Islam (and made me want to further study a lot of personalities and events mentioned in this book.) and brings things into prospective.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Adam Clarke on 21 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a very readable book which I highly recomend to anyone who is intrested in but has little knowledge of the islamic world and its history. With its pleasant style and useful glosary of araboc terms is a very enjoyable and intresting read. However while Armstrong deals excellently with the early history of islam her section on modern islamic politics tends to lose objectivity and presents evidence to support her ideas ignoring other factors and explanations. I found it also a little hard to follow the sucession of the various monarchs discussed as there is no list to aid the reader.
Despite these problems this a deeply well written and informative book. I took this book out of the library and Iam considering buying a copy, Its just that good.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Lendrick VINE VOICE on 13 May 2002
Format: Paperback
At a little over 100 pages of core text (there is also a timeline and a glossary) this is as the title says a short history and as such good way of getting an overview of islamic history.
Armstrong writes well and for the most part mixes historical facts with he own interpretations in a way that is both informative and enightening....more support for some of here assertions in the form of quotations from the Koran would have helped.
At times there is just too much detail. Caliphs, Imans and other leaders come and go so quickly it becomes quite bewildering.
However the final section on Islam in the modern world is excellent, and should probably be compulsory reading for everyone!
I certainly felt I learnt about the essence of islam as well as the historical facts, and would recommend this to anyone want to know more about this religion.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Ahmed Hafeez on 8 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
One of the greatest barriers for Muslims, like myself, in reading books such as these, is that they have been written by a non-muslim. This is largely because, in many conservative Islamic societies, reverence is ingrained to such an extent from childhood that the one hesitates to question - in fear of potentially weakening faith. As a result, most of what I have read and heard has been largely from Islamic sources, whose own devotion to the faith has sometimes meant an approach where they have chosen to overlook or omit historical facts, which may be unpalatable from a western standpoint - since there is awareness that Muslim readers are increasingly exposed to western education as well.
I therefore picked up armstrong's book with some reservation, but only to overcome it in the first few pages. The author's approach is disciplined in the acamedic sense and yet takes ample care in use of language so as not to offend (this is especially evident in the description of revelations to the Prophet). The general Arab context within which the religon and it's beginnings are described is amazingly well written.
I would rate this book highly and recommend it to people of all faiths. It is an excellent resource for a short overview of the history of Islam and tackles the spiritual aspect incredibly well, with the result that it is neither a sermon, nor a rejection - it is a well balanced view and description of history.
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