Book Review – No God But God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam

A Review Of  No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam By Reza Aslan

Introduction

The author of this book Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American and a Shia by persuasion. He writes in his book that a time is coming when he will be denounced an apostate by a group of people. Another group however, will also declare him and an apologist. He however says that, the latter does not bother him a bit because “there’s no higher calling than to defend one’s faith” especially amidst ignorance and sheer hatred. In this book he points out that the essence of his writing by insisting that the book is basically an argument that objectively aims at reform. In his conclusion he puts a warning “like the previous reformations, this will be a horrifying event, an event that has begun engulfing the world” (Reza, 2006).

Summary

The Islamic religion is indeed facing hard times. However,it is not merely the tension that exists between the Islamic religion and other religions. Much trouble is brewing within the Islamic religion and the Abode of Peace is being brought down; the notional ummah of the Islam is no longer what it used to be. It is important to appreciate the change that has happened within the Muslim community as a result of the rapid expansion of literacy as well as the readily available and access to communication. The change basically seeks to redefine the interpretation of the Jihad and how to apply the Islamic law. Muslims minorities are also subjected to this change as to how they are supposed to engage with the society within which they reside.

Reza Aslan in his book talks about “No god But God”.  This is nothing less than a fight or a movement that seeks to totally redefine the Islamic religion and reform the system and Reza Aslan believe the struggle is already underway and the Muslim community is indeed on the verge of transformation. The surge of the western interest in the Islamic states is pointer to the reformation of Islam. While others may view it as a just a mere clash of civilizations, the fact of the matter is that the struggle is an internal struggle within the Islamic religion (Reza, 2006).

The book generally talks of reformation of the Islamic religion in reference to the proclaimed perpetual war between the Islamic nations and the west. The author says that the violence and bloodshed witnessed in the Islamic nations is not in reality a war between the Muslims and the west but rather an internal war between Muslims themselves. While there may exist a struggle between Christianity and Islam, this does not provide enough justification for the war because it is merely a universally typical religion war. However, the author says that the war is derived from within as to who has the authority to define faith. Is it the institution or the individual?

Considering the social and the political setting from which the Islamic religion emerged, Reza Aslan presents a credible case for viewing the Islamic religion as a product of its own age. Aslan points out that the Koran itself calls for other faiths, the Jews and Christians to come together and embrace the things they hold common as far as religion is concerned. The author seems to emphasize on the tolerant and merciful side of the Islamic religion and this poses a big blow to the religion especially the doctrines that seem to be undermine humanity and the course for which the religion is supposed to act on (Reza, 2006).

The author argues that these problems spring up from the fact that the Islamic religion has no central religious authority for example, Muslim pope or something of that kind. Instead, the Islamic religious authority is scattered across a wide collection of competing institutions. For this reason, the stronger institutions have maintained a virtual monopoly over the Islamic faith as well as the meaning and message of Islam.

Personal reflection

Although the Islamic religion is the fastest growing religion in the world today, it remains one of the religions that are masked with ignorance and fear. What is the meaning of this new faith? Could it be guided by peace or war? What is the difference between Allah and the God of Christians/Jews? Reza Aslan one of the greatest scholars of comparative religions has pointed out and clarified that the issue is not merely a clash of civilizations, a mentality that has gained ground among the people. In his book “Not god But God”, he challenges this mentality by explaining this faith in totality, beauty and compassion. According to Reza Aslan, the western perception of the Islamic religion is ill-founded. He says that the Islamic religion owes its existence to the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Reza Aslan provides a detailed development of the Islamic religion from its inception in the Arabian Peninsula to the emergence of Muhammad in Mecca and Medina and the subsequent change and manipulation of the religion by the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.  He tries to bring into perspective the diversion that the radical Islamic communities have made to the true meaning of the Islamic religion, a course that has not only put to risk the future of the Islam affiliated individuals but the world at large.

In actual sense, this book is written to appease the West. The west is known for its ideologies in regards to clash of civilizations and therefore, this book points out clearly the fight for modernity by appreciating the west for their efforts towards making civilization a reality. The author views the occupation of Iraq by the US as liberation. This contradicts the views of the astute and dogmatic Muslims who believe that the US is against the Islamic religion and will do anything to bring it down.

Ordinarily, the book is underplayed by the economic and social challenges in the peninsula that informed the founding moment of Islam. While it is true that Muhammad was not a member of the Meccan trading elites, the part of the Koran that talks about him generally talks about commerce. This makes sense why the Islamic religion is portrayed to have underprivileged merchants and traders. Allah in this case is the merchant and life is viewed as a business that can either gain or lose. The common/ordinary Muslims are forced to sell their soul to Allah in order to enter the Islamic paradise.

The most critical part of this book is the discussion of the Sufi Beliefs and literature. Reza Aslan’s knowledge of the Attar’s, The Conference of Birds is fascinating. His mastery of the Punjab traditions makes his writing exciting and captivating however limited it is. In addition to his quest on reformation, he calls for the enlightenment of the Islamic Religion. The world is calling for global reformation especially in religion. This book is therefore important to the Islamic religion and the west that are engaged in a religious war that has sought to annihilate the entire religion.

The book by Reza Aslan is an interesting piece of well written narrative the explains religious history and the controversies that dig into religions that are likely to cause more harm than good to the world. The text also provides a glossary and detailed section of notes and references. Apart from just the historical appeal the book displays, this is indeed and excellent piece of work that doubles as an impassioned call to reform.

Conclusion

Today, religion is on the rise in the western countries. The United States is best victim of this circumstance. Previously, New Labor has always been Christian and so this begs the question as to why the Islamic religion should be marginalized? Reza Aslan alongside other Islamic modernists calls for reformation in the Islamic religion. They are campaigning for a modern Islamic religion that can favorably compete in the west with Christianity and other religions such as Judaism.

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