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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief, concise & easy to read
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...
Published on 19 Feb. 2009 by Mr Tea-Mole

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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 9 months ago by J. Sutton


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, 22 July 2014
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This review is from: Islam: A Short History (UNIVERSAL HISTORY) (Kindle Edition)
Dont agree with all of it but well written and certainly made me reflect on society and faith in history
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive history, 17 Mar. 2009
By 
Mr. P. G. Mccarthy (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is an excellent introduction to the history of Islam. The entire history of the religion is covered and in a way that is thorough but accessible. Armstrong's discussion is a critical history as she makes very judicious comments along the way. One is struck by the sheer diversity of thought and practice in the religion. Armstrong writes very sympathetically but is honest enough to include discussions on the nastier aspects of the religion. It becomes clear that the religion's impulse towards `tawhid' (divine unity) is completely at odds with the conflicts that have marked the religion throughout its history which is often tragic. One of the book's greatest strengths is that it helps the reader to more fully understand the frustrations and hostilities in relation to the West through an analysis of history as well as looking at the impact of polemicists such as Sayyid Qutb and Khomeini. She handles this very intelligently and convincingly; without such an understanding westerners can only stand in bewilderment. I know of no better introduction to the religion of Islam.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good introduction to the history of Islam, 31 Oct. 2003
Armstrong's book not only offers a good and detailed overview, but also provides us with a sound and well-balanced historical argument. The style is easy to read and the author's un-dogmatic approach very appealing. The book obviously not only considers the history of Islam, but also that of the Islamic world and its political settings. Although some passages are rather traditional in approach, fixing very much on names and dates, which after 40 pages might spin around your head, the book nonetheless never loses its focus: Islam. Indeed, its greatest strength lies precisely in connecting the religious and spiritual developments of this world religion to the political and socio-economical circumstances. The book manages especially well with destroying our sometimes rather simplified views of Islam, presenting the different spiritual movements and tendencies that Islamic culture developed over the last 1300 years. It clearly shows that there has always been far more then just Islamic fundamentalism. Another good point is the well-illustrated relation between Western Europe and the Islamic World. In fact the last 30 pages, which almost over-ambitiously try to condense the past 200 years, actually grasp the problematic directly at its roots providing once more a clear and concise description. The book is nothing more than it pretends: a short history of Islam, but I would strongly recommend it to everyone who is looking for a good introduction or overview of the topic.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From the Prophet Muhammed to the Taliban in 2000, 6 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Ms. Karen Armstrong has covered an amazing amount of ground in this brief look at the history of Islam's beliefs and practices since 610 when the Prophet Muhammed's revelations began that we know today as the Quran (usually spelled Koran in English). She has supplied a generous number of maps, a detailed chronology, and constantly interprets each ruler, regime, and sect from the perspective of the Quran's text, and the practices advocated by the Prophet Muhammed.
The book has an agenda, which I would describe as creating a spiritual appeal for mutual understanding among Muslims and nonMuslims, especially those of the Jewish and Christian faiths. That appeal seems based on an appreciation for similarities in the religious practices of the three religions as they were originally observed. Every deviation from those original Muslim practices is explained in the book as an error that needs to be and will probably be corrected in time.
If you are like me, you will find that some of your understanding about historical Muslim beliefs is incorrect. For example, the original geographic expansion of Islam from 638-738 A.D. involved little attempt at creating converts to Islam. In fact, the Muslim forces usually were garrisoned in separate, new cities to minimize contact between them and the local people. Much of what we have heard about the doctrinal basis for religious war in Islam seems to have been developed through the successful Mongol invasion, and reactions to the secular invasion of Western culture into Muslim nations in the last few decades.
One new idea that I learned from this book is that the success of all Muslims as a community in a combined political, social, and economic sense is viewed as a sign by Muslims of how well the religion is being observed. Until the arrival of oil field riches in the Middle East in the 20th century, Islamic influence had been on the wane worldwide as the industrial West swept forward to create its colonies and continued economic dominance through advanced products and technologies. The seeking for a possible solution to this ebb of cultural success has led in part of the fundamentalism that has spawned conflicts with the United States and some other nations.
I was also interested to note that in countries where Muslims are in the majority, democracy will lead to dominance by religious parties. Islam does not separate church and state the way that Western democracies usually do. Appreciating this point means a different kind of diplomacy and cooperation with Islamic democracies than will occur with multicultural, pluralistic democracies.
Although I found the book to offer these kinds of insights, Ms. Armstrong would have helped me understand Islam more by sharing additional information about the religion from the primary source of the Quran and key writings of religious figures. Also, it is unusual to analyze a religion in terms of how closely it follows the original way it was observed. Few today, for example, look at the Catholic Church or any Protestant church for how closely it matches in specifics how Jesus and His disciples lived. Finally, I could probably have gotten the key points in the book without quite as much detail as was spelled out here about various leaders. With less "who did what, when, and where to whom" there would have been much more space to explain key ideas and to provide more detail about the Quran.
I also wondered what misunderstandings various Muslim groups typically have about those of us who live in countries where the percentage of Muslims is relatively small.
A number of other questions still came to mind after reading the book. If each person is to be treated equally in respect and in terms of economic goods in accord with the Quran, what do people in various Muslim countries think about the growing gaps between the richest and poorest Muslims? What do Muslims in various countries think about people of their same religious persuasion who live in various Western democracies?
Greet all with an open mind and a welcoming heart and hand!
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but not always accurate, 2 Oct. 2006
By 
John Deighan (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a useful book for anyone who wants a concise introduction to Islam; it is well written, and for such a short book it covers a lot of ground. The last chapter is of much value in the current climate of ignorance and fear towards Islam in the West.

However, it is not entirely accurate at places, ranging from small and relatively insignificant slips to more important instances of over and under-emphasis. There is a clear, if never annunciated, anti-Christian feel to this book too, which comes through in occasional offhand remarks, and more importantly in a general and quite blind disregard for the wonderful achievements of Medieval Christian Europe as such. The author espouses the values of post-Enlightenment Europe (minus spiritual malaise) but obviously sees its Christian history before the 17th century as a protracted and embarrassing affair quickly to be forgotten about. I find this attitude objectionable. Hence the 3 stars for what is otherwise a good book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very informative and as objective as one can expect to be..., 22 Jan. 2001
By A Customer
One of the better books on the subject, taking a nicely balanced view on what is a very mis-understood topic for western culture readers. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend this to all who prefer to find out facts and ideas for themselves rather than remain in ignorance of what is essentially the history of mankind.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unbalanced and uncritical., 18 April 2011
By 
J Sawyer (uk) - See all my reviews
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This book would have been better titled a Defence of the History of Islam.

The two attributes any historian needs are Perspective and Balance. Here Karen Armstrong is deficient in both.

Firstly, perspective. Karen Armstrong, a former nun, has a religious, monotheistic, spiritualistic, starting point with an apparently Predestined (in the religious and philisophical sense) perspective of history. Most modern historians try and place themselves in the time but Karen Armstrong writes this History as though Islamic hegemony in the Middle East and beyond is predestined.

Secondly, balance. This book is, by no definition of the word, balanced. Karen Armstrong provides every Islamic misdeed with an excuse.Perhaps misdeed is the wrong word but every invasion, every massacre, every murder seems to be explained sympathetically.

And so when the Muslims Conquer Jerusalem in 638 AD, Karen Armstrong mentions it in passing as though no one was inconvenienced by this invasion (page 25). However, when in 1099 AD, after continued Turkish Muslim encroachments on the Byzantine Empire (as Ms Armstrong herself concedes) and the Pope calls for a Crusade this is described as "disgraceful"," tragic", an aggressive western intrusion" (page 79-80). Karen Armstrong mentions that Jerusalem was the "third holiest City in Islam" at the time of the Crusades but fails to mention that it was the primary holy City for Christians and Jews in 638 AD.

Unfortunately, this unbalanced example is indicative of the book as a hole.

It's completely uncritical. I don't think a history needs to be critical just for the sake of it but this really is a toothless and servile account.

I'll assume that the names and dates are correct but I've had to discount any personal opinion the author ventures.

When the 'Rashidun' invade neighbouring countries that's excused but when the Mongols do it Ms Armstrong explains why that's different, it's because the Mongols didn't bring "spirituality" with them. I bet that was a consolation to the husbands of raped wives and fathers of murdered children. I bet they said to themselves afterwards "at least that invasion force brought with them spirituality".

If I'm angry it's just because a fair and balanced history of Islam would be welcome.

Unfortunately, this fawning, grovelling effort isn't it. This is a sanatised history fit for any Iranian, or Taliban male only school.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb overview, 27 Aug. 2009
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This slim and easily read book gave me exactly what I wanted: a concise overview of the development of Islam. For the first time I understood the origins of the different strands of Islam and the history that drives them. This book also gave me a very different insight into how Muslims must feel in a world that has taken away their historical status and recognition. I shall re-read the last chapter more than once. Not just a look at the past, but a window into a very complex present.
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3.0 out of 5 stars the other religion, 8 April 2013
By 
D. J. Green - See all my reviews
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This is a potted history and as such becomes boring. Not up to the usual standard of the author. read 'The Spiral Staircase'
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5.0 out of 5 stars a very concise and comprehensive account, 27 Feb. 2015
a perfect book for someone looking to get acquainted with islamic history post the prophet (PBUH) in a short time.
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