5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Story Of Islam,
This review is from: No God But God (Hardcover)
In his introduction, Reza Aslan defines religion as the "story of faith". By this definition, his book "No God but God" is the story of a story, and that is a good description. Mr. Aslan does a wonderful job of covering the history of the faith, both the mythological one and the historical one. He starts with the history of the region prior to the creation, and the conditions which helped shape Muhammad and the culture. I have read a couple histories of Islam and the Middle East before, but this one was much more accessible than the others, because Mr. Aslan is able to tell the story in a way which brings the story alive.
Another large section of the book is dedicated to talking about the different sects of Islam and what their differences are. This goes along with a history of the regions in which they developed and where they were adopted. This for me was probably the most important section of the book, because it is tremendously useful in understanding the mindset of the Sunni and Shi'ites, Sufis, and Wahhabi. This section is supported with many modern day examples which really help the reader to understand the differences.
There is also a section of the book which talks about what Islam really is. There is a lot of confusion these days over what is a part of the faith and what is not, and that confusion is certainly understandable after reading this book. It is also central to understanding how there can be such diverse interpretations even among Muslims of the same sect. The book closes with Mr. Aslan discussing the difference between secularism and pluralism. He shows how an Islamic state should by its very nature be pluralistic and could easily be a democracy founded on Islamic principals. His very optimistic finish is a declaration that "The Islamic Reformation is already here."
There are two smaller sections in this book where Reza Aslan relates some personal experiences. The first appears at the start of the introduction, where he discusses coming to the aid of two English speaking tourists and a train conductor in Morocco, which turns out to be a minor clash in cultures. The second is about his return to Iran after being taken away by his parents when he was very young. Both of these sections, although very short, really help the reader connect with the author. I would certainly be interested in seeing more of these types of stories included, to help make the text even more accessible than it already is.