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No god but God

No god but God

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No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (ISBN 1-4000-6213-6) is a 2005 non-fiction
Non-fiction
Non-fiction is the form of any narrative, account, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are understood to be fact...

 book written by Iranian-American
Iranian-American
Iranian-Americans are Americans of Iranian ancestry or people possessing Iranian and American dual citizenship.Iranian-Americans are amongst the most highly educated groups in the United States...

 Shiite Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 scholar Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American activist, a nationally acclaimed writer of religions. He is on the faculty at the University of California, Riverside, and is a contributing editor for The Daily Beast...

. The book describes the history of Islam and argues for a liberal
Liberal movements within Islam
Progressive Muslims have produced a considerable body of liberal thought within Islam or "progressive Islam" ; but some consider progressive Islam and liberal Islam as two distinct movements)...

 interpretation of the religion. It blames Western imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 and self-serving misinterpretations of Islamic law by past scholars for the current controversies within Islam, challenging the 'clash of civilizations
Clash of Civilizations
The Clash of Civilizations is a theory, proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world....

' thesis.

According to journalist Reihan Salam
Reihan Salam
Reihan Morshed Salam is an American non-fiction writer and policy analyst. He is a columnist for The Daily and lead writer of National Reviews "The Agenda" blog, as well as a policy adviser at e21 and a contributing editor at National Affairs...

, the book has received a favorable response within the Muslim world. The book was chosen 'Best Book of the Year' in its category by The Financial Times, and favorite reviews have appeared in publications such as The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

.

Contents


Each chapter of the book covers a specific topic within Islam. For example, one chapter is entirely dedicated to the issue of jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

. Overall, the book covers the history of Islam from the point of view of the Prophet Muhammad as a social reformer struggling for egalitarianism
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 between people. It argues that the Koran does not order the veiling of women
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 and that the concept of jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

 was intended to be solely defensive. Aslan focuses primarily on the early practices of Islam, but he also discusses life within the Abbasid Empire, the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, and in the modern Muslim World.

One of the central themes is that an internal battle is currently taking place within Islam between individualistic
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

 reform ideals and the traditional authority of Muslim clerics
Ulama
-In Islam:* Ulema, also transliterated "ulama", a community of legal scholars of Islam and its laws . See:**Nahdlatul Ulama **Darul-uloom Nadwatul Ulama **Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal**Jamiat ul-Ulama -Other:...

. Aslan states that this situation is parallel to that of the 16th-century reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, which was as old as Islam currently is at that period. He writes,

Reception


The book was chosen 'Best Book of the Year' in its category by The Financial Times. The Los Angeles Times dubbed it a “favorite book of the year”. Journalist Fareed Zakaria
Fareed Zakaria
Fareed Rafiq Zakaria is an Indian-American journalist and author. From 2000 to 2010, he was a columnist for Newsweek and editor of Newsweek International. In 2010 he became Editor-At-Large of Time magazine...

 called the book "a textured, nuanced account that presents a living, breathing religion shaped by centuries of history and culture." Professor and author Noah Feldman
Noah Feldman
Noah Feldman is an American author and professor of law at Harvard Law School.-Education and career:Feldman grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where he attended the Maimonides School....

 called it "[e]legant, accessible, and informed by historical scholarship" and "a wonderful view into the rich world of early Islam." A scholarly review in International Journal of Kurdish Studies reported that "Such clarity is a welcome and refreshing antidote to the endless obfuscations that emanate from partisans on both sides of the issue."

Also, Muslim journalist Reihan Salam
Reihan Salam
Reihan Morshed Salam is an American non-fiction writer and policy analyst. He is a columnist for The Daily and lead writer of National Reviews "The Agenda" blog, as well as a policy adviser at e21 and a contributing editor at National Affairs...

 called the book "fascinating", and he has said that he considers it to be one of the most important books of the decade. The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

 wrote that "[o]ne of the achievements of Reza Aslan's book is that it gives Islam as much internal complexity and diversity as the concepts 'the West' and 'America' possess in our eyes". The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 gave a favorable review, describing it as a "wise and passionate book". It stated that:
Nikki R. Keddie, an author and professor emerita of history at UCLA, gave a mixed review of the book in The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

. She contends that Aslan's book is "one of the most readable" and that Aslan presents "a liberal and optimistic view of Islam." She states that Aslan sometimes relies on doubtful sources (hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

), and that while he acknowledges the gender inequalities in the Qur'an, he minimizes them. And finally, Aslan gives the most space to Islam's early era, for which the documentation is relatively less. Overall, Keddie stated that "Aslan provides a lively, enjoyable and mostly accurate picture, but parts of the book are shaky." The book also received mixed reviews from "The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

" stating that the book is "a fascinating guide" for non-Muslim readers. The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

 published a negative review, stating that "Aslan's account of early Islam is too literalist" and "Shia sects and some of their more esoteric beliefs have little to do with Islamic theology." It concluded that liberal Islam as Aslan sees it is only a "phase and it will pass".

In September 2011, blogger and law professor Glenn Reynolds
Glenn Reynolds
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, and is best known for his weblog, Instapundit, one of the most widely read American political weblogs...

 named the book in his frequent "IN THE MAIL" segment of book reccomendations.

Promotion


According to The Mercury News, the book turned its author into "a minor celebrity on the cable news circuit". Aslan has spoken about the book across the world. He has appeared on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher
Real Time with Bill Maher
Real Time with Bill Maher is a talk show that airs weekly on HBO, hosted by comedian and political satirist Bill Maher. Much like his previous show, Politically Incorrect on ABC , Real Time features a panel of guests that discuss current events in politics and the media...

 on September 22, 2006, to talk about the book.

See also

  • Liberal movements within Islam
    Liberal movements within Islam
    Progressive Muslims have produced a considerable body of liberal thought within Islam or "progressive Islam" ; but some consider progressive Islam and liberal Islam as two distinct movements)...

  • Clash of civilizations
    Clash of Civilizations
    The Clash of Civilizations is a theory, proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world....

    , a concept Aslan wrote the book to try to refute

External links