Aslan reworks his illuminating and readable No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (2006) for a slightly younger audience with mixed success. The early chapters lay a strong foundation for understanding Islam’s essential tenets and character. The author describes the early Arabic cultural and religious milieu, separates (scanty) fact from legend in tracing Muhammad’s life and shows how Islam developed from a strong call for social and economic reform to a “revolutionary experiment” that profoundly and successfully challenged established traditions in every area of Arab society and government. Following that, though, the narrative fragments into a series of informative but less cogent essays on narrower topics, including the power struggle among Muhammad’s successors, the true meaning of “jihad” (no, not “Holy War”), the strong links between Islam and Judaism and the status of women in Islam. Nonetheless, the author offers a rare and lucid vision of early Islam from the inside, capped with a heartening (for many Westerners) contention that modern Muslim radicalism isn’t on the rise but actually in its dying throes. (source list) (Nonfiction. YA, adult)


Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-73975-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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An introduction to Islam as evocative as it is provocative.



A lively and accessible introduction to Islam.

If it accomplished nothing else, Aslan’s first book would be worthwhile for its clear expositions of the basics of Islamic history and Muslim thought. Aslan, a professor (Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies/Univ. of Iowa) and New York Times Middle East consultant, walks through the life of the Prophet, the redaction of the Qur’an, and the Five Pillars that are fundamental to Muslim life and practice. But these helpful expositions are just the starting point for making two arguments. First, Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations—the theory most pundits have gravitated toward since 9/11—is an inadequate description of the current world scene. What we really have, Aslan says, is a clash of monotheisms, competing particularistic, and often exclusive, claims about the nature of God, revelation, and prophecy. Second, there is real possibility for democracy in the Middle East. Aslan paints the Prophet’s teachings in a compelling light: not unlike Jesus (Aslan does make explicit comparisons between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), Aslan’s Muhammad was fiercely concerned with the rights of the oppressed and marginalized; but many Muslim scholars who came after Muhammad were just as fiercely concerned to evade the egalitarian implications of the Prophet’s teaching. (Muhammad emerges here almost as a proto-feminist. It’s the centuries of men who came after him who seem bent on backlash.) Aslan argues that Islam can—indeed must—“be used to establish a genuinely liberal democracy in the Middle East.” But the democracy he envisions is not a colonial democracy, imported from Europe or America. It is an indigenous democracy, with a distinctly Islamic flavor. Readers will gravitate toward No God But God not only because of its stimulating arguments, but also because it’s so well put together as a literary work. Aslan isn’t just a mere scholar and reporter; he also attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and it shows.

An introduction to Islam as evocative as it is provocative.

Pub Date: March 22, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6213-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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Written for today’s urban Muslim boys, this guide to faithful living is wise and understanding. Twenty-eight short chapters are divided into two sections: “Problems” and “Solutions,” in which the authors, both school administrators who understand teen language, acknowledge that modern culture and technology are often at odds with the teachings of the Qu'ran. Peppered with slang, chapters individually address teen problems such as peer pressure, parents, immodest dress, depression and social networking. Through Qu'ran quotes and stories of Islamic prophets and scholars, readers are encouraged to act in ways that are in keeping with their religion but do not promote isolation from modern society. The end of each chapter in the “Problems” section offers life tips that are Qu'ran-focused but often universally applicable, such as “Always be encouraging towards others with fewer blessings…than you.” In the “Solutions” part of the book, chapters end with tips on becoming more involved in the faith. The copyediting, design and binding leave much to be desired, but readers who pick this up will find the man-to-man advice practical and uplifting. (Religion. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84774-012-0

Page Count: 183

Publisher: Kube Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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