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on 10 October 2013
I recommend this book to those who wish to have a good basic understanding of Islam without all the emotional baggage. Karen Armstrong does a balanced job with presenting information with a minimum of opinion.
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VINE VOICEon 13 May 2002
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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on 2 January 2007
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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on 9 September 2001
Karen Armstrong writes a fascinating insight on a subject that has historical, political and spiritual connotations on a world level today. From the cave of Hira where it was suggested the Prophet Muhammad first received the 'revelation' to Islamic 'fundamentalism' and the contentious role of the media, this publication provides a short, succinct comprehension into a faith generally misunderstood outside its own circles.
Chronologically developed the writer attempts to explore Islamic history and challenge misconceptions of its current climate.
The insight allows the reader an understanding into contemporary world issues on the faith through objective historical analysis. A must for one looking for an impassionate summation on the subject, as a lead to further research or alternatively for a genuine understanding of the religion and it's effect on the world.
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on 8 November 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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on 5 October 2000
This really is a MUST READ book when it comes to anyone being interested in Islamic history. The book is well written, easy to read and concise. Above all it is objectively written. Karen Armsrong puts in order the main historical events in the Islamic World , without being judgemental, on the contrary she is very quick to place events in perspective, relating to the norm of the time. In the process many Western thoughts about Islam are brought in to focus, with Karen Armstrong refelcting on their evolution from the crusades. Importantly this book will make you think, whther you are a Muslim or a non Muslim, and should help place many of todays disagreements between Islam and the West in to perspective.
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on 26 June 2016
Laughably bad. For example: "we must realize that democracy is [only] made possible by an industrialized society which has the technology to replicate it's resources indefinitely". Er, what?
Seriously, if you want to foster a warm fuzzy feeling about Islam and have no critical faculties whatsoever, read this book. Otherwise steer well clear.
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on 6 December 2014
To be completely honest this book is a bore the writer does keep you interested and I advise others not to buy this book as it's a waste of time and money
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on 17 November 2011
As other people have highlighted, this book is an excellent introduction to the history of the religion. I'd highly recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about Islam from the very start of its existence, however you won't find much more than historical statements. That is not to say that the history does not allow insight; it does, however the title is "A Short History" so don't expect anything additional to that. A great foundation to build further reading on.
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on 22 July 2014
Dont agree with all of it but well written and certainly made me reflect on society and faith in history
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