I’ll admit it. My first taste of Reza Alsan came from this (hillariously sad) video. When I found his earlier book on “The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam” in a local second hand bookstore, I had to pick it up.
No god but God lived up to every superlative the blurbers had to offer: wise, passionate, incisive, scholarly, engaging, precise, perceptive, thought-provoking, sympathetic, lively, and the list goes on! Aslan has written a clear and compelling account of Islam from the century before Muhammad to the British subway bombings.
Alsan emphasizes that the modern wave of Islamic terrorism is not primarily an act of radical Muslims against the Western world, but an attempt at purification of Islam from within! This violence, Aslan argues, is far from the vision of the egalitarian social justice prophet Muhammad.
This book has given me a clear understanding of the historical roots of Islam along with its modern divisions—Sunni (orthodox), Shi’ism (followers of Ali), and the Sufi mystics.
I’ve learned from my own field of research that academics like to recast Jesus in their own image. While I don’t know enough about Islam to offer a well-informed opinion, I do get the impression that Aslan’s Muhammad looks a lot like Aslan himself—an egalitarian with a passion for social justice. While the violent wars that consumed the end of Muhammad’s life and plagued the generations to come are described, Aslan implies that they are deviations from the core person and message of the prophet himself.
I would recommend No god but God to anyone (of any faith) who seeks a scholarly yet readable account of the world’s second largest religion.
—Reza Aslan, No god but God (New York, NY: Random House, 2005, 2006).