I have been trying to learn more about Islam in an effort to sort out the truth from the fiction that is reported in conjunction with the war on terror and other similar realities of our day. As a part of that goal I recently picked up No god but God by Reza Aslan, an Iranian born and American educated Muslim scholar. I was well rewarded. This book is a must read for anyone trying to understand the religion that operates in the areas of the Middle East that have suddenly become so prominent in American politics. Not only did I come to a more complete understanding of Islam, but I came to a better understanding of faith, religion, society and America as well.
Aslan explains the difference between faith and religion and helps the reader understand the culture and history of pre-Islamic Arabia before trying to relate the rise of Islam with Muhammed and the changes that brought to the Arab culture of the area. The reader then learns how the challenges arising from the death of Muhammed eventually lead to the various movements in Islam such as Shi’ism, Sufism and Wahhabism.
After reading this book there was no more question in my mind as to why so much strife exists between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis as the Iraqis try to rebuild their country. In the struggle between the west and the people of Iraq in defining democracy in that country, Aslan helps differentiate between secularism and pluralism. With that distinction we may have less fear of letting the Iraqis set up democracy in a way that represents their culture rather than our own.
Representative democracy may be the greatest social and political experiment in the history of the world. But it is an ever-evolving experiment. These days there is a tendancy to regard American democracy as the model for all the world’s democracies, and in some ways this is true. The seeds of democracy may have been sown in ancient Greece, but it is in American soil that they sprouted and flourished. Yet precisely for this reason, only in America is American democracy possible; it cannot be isolated from American traditions and values.
Read No god but God to learn about the traditions and values that will shape the democracies that will make the world feel safe once again.
- Title: No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
- Author: Reza Aslan
- Publisher: Random House
- ISBN: 1-4000-6213-6