No god but God by Reza Aslan

No god but GodNo god but God: The origins, evolution, and future of Islam (Updated Edition, 2011) by Reza Aslan

No god but God is a beautifully written and thoughtfully presented look at Islam. Reza Aslan uses wonderful prose to take the reader on a journey through the tumultuous history of Islam from the Revelation of Mohammed through the development of the various philosophies, interpretations and schools of law to the modern world.

I have been fascinated by the religions of world for some time and I enjoy learning about their development and varied cultural voices. In the mid 1990's I read a translation of the Quran and found it to a exquisitely written text presenting an egalitarian, community based faith. It made me wonder how it was that this text and the society we see presented to us were related as there seemed to me a chasm between the faith and the society. No god but God helped clear this up.

What was surprising in reading this book was the level of detail and references that were used to create what feels to be a very balanced and objective approach to understanding this religion which I wasn't expecting. I think I have become jaded by a number of books being slanted toward extreme perspectives (positive and negative) that I did not expect to find a reasonable, well articulated discussion on a topic as divisive as religion and religious history.

Several times in the book Reza presents the history (sometimes conflicting versions) as understood, followed by arguments made by previous scholars from both extremes then presents further information to clarify the issues before presenting a reasonable resolution. This makes for a compelling narrative that kept me gripped to the book, going back to read each chapter again as I progressed.

If you have ever been interested in Islam, or have wanted to gain a greater insight into the supposed 'Clash of Civilisations' that permeates the media whenever Islam is discussed, this book is an excellent resource and a pleasure to read. It is a positive discussion, aiming not to tell you what is right or wrong, but to educate so that the reader can make an informed opinion on Islam.


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