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Islam: A Short History (UNIVERSAL HISTORY) [Paperback]

Karen Armstrong
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

In the public mind, Islam is a religion of extremes: it is the world¿s fastest growing faith; more than three-quarters of the world¿s refugees are Islamic; it has produced government by authoritarian monarchies in Saudi Arabia and ultra-republicans in Iran. Whether we are reading about civil war in Algeria or Afghanistan, the struggle for the soul of Turkey, or political turmoil in Pakistan or Malaysia, the Islamic context permeates all these situations. Karen Armstrong¿s elegant and concise book traces how Islam grew from the other religions of the book, Judaism and Christianity; introduces us to the character of Muhammed; and demonstrates that for much of its history, the religion has been a force for enlightenment that promoted liberties for women and allowed the arts and sciences to flourish. Islam shows how this progressive legacy is today often set aside as the faith struggles to come to terms with the economic and political weakness of most of its believers and with the forces of modernity itself.

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Islam: A Short History (UNIVERSAL HISTORY) + Muhammad: Biography of the Prophet: A Biography of the Prophet + A History Of God
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (3 Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842125834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842125830
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,996 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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A balanced approach 8 Nov 2003
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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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief yet informative and very enjoyable!! 30 Aug 2001
By A Customer
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I am doing an Open University religious studies course and wanted something to supplement the set text on Islam. This is a good run through the history of Islam but really spends most of its time in "history book" mode rather than "religious studies book" mode. As such, it is more a history of Arab conquest and defeat than a detailed examination of the religion that most of those Arabs followed. Also, Ms Armstrong tells the story of the prophet, and others, in quite a "cosy" way, speaking of them as if she knew exactly what he was thinking and why he did things, which is using a little too much artistic license - just something to be wary of.

However, it IS very well written, easy to read, and excellently laid out, with a very detailed timeline and glossaries of people and terminology for reference. Buy it as a high quality starter text (in fact buy it at this low price just for the reference pages alone), but if it is Islam (the religion, not the "state") you particularly want to know about, dont expect more than the basics.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, but detailed - sometimes too detailed 13 May 2002
By Lendrick VINE VOICE
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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent In Places 21 Aug 2005
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting
Dont agree with all of it but well written and certainly made me reflect on society and faith in history
Published 5 days ago by J. Sutton
Published 1 month ago by CENTRAL LONDON MAN
4.0 out of 5 stars a good book
This book is an easy to read book and gives a balanced view in these troubled times. I can recommend it.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. Sheelagh A. Keast
5.0 out of 5 stars Very balanced book
Karen Armstrong is an honest spiritual person who does not hesitate in expressing her appreciation of good a man or a good religion when she finds about it.
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Tariq Yusuf Rajbee
4.0 out of 5 stars glad I read it... it says a concise but comprehensive history of Islam .... many interesting observations, fascinating, thought provoking.. and rewarding .
Published 9 months ago by susie casson
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative and Unemotional Book About Islam
I recommend this book to those who wish to have a good basic understanding of Islam without all the emotional baggage. Read more
Published 9 months ago by yogibob
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual and political history
This is a brief spiritual and political history of Islam from the earliest times to the present day. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Dr Michael C Thorne
3.0 out of 5 stars the other religion
This is a potted history and as such becomes boring. Not up to the usual standard of the author. read 'The Spiral Staircase'
Published 15 months ago by D. J. Green
4.0 out of 5 stars Islam
I found this book very interesting re. Karen Armstrong's perspective on this subject. Without prejudice she gives the reader plenty to ponder on.
Published 18 months ago by Mrs. Margaret EG Makortoff
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent short account - you won't find a better one!
I have taught Islam to secondary school examination level for many years and I have to say this is one of the best overviews of the religion I have come across. Read more
Published 20 months ago by J. J. Ward
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