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Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong
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Islam: A Short History

by Karen Armstrong

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Armstrong offers a succinct overview of the history of the Islamic community. Informative, sympathetic but critical, this book should be recommended reading for those officials, in and out of uniform, dealing with the Islamic world. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
I thought this would be much, much better than it actually was. Honestly, I was quite underwhelmed. Armstrong doesn't explain history well at all, and she often states her arguments/opinions as fact without offering support. Are her other books better? I thought she was supposed to be a very well-respected author. I guess I'll look elsewhere for a more insightful, interesting history of Islam. ( )
  purplehena | Mar 31, 2013 |
A clear, neatly constructed overview of a complicated chunk of history. I particularly liked her delicate handling of modern developments, such as the rise of fundamentalism in both the east and the west, and the support of the western powers for brutally undemocratic regimes in the middle east. I was sorry the book wasn't a lot longer, as I would have enjoyed a more in-depth look at some of the historical figures she describes.

On a totally shallow note, I've never seen so many semi-colons in one book in my life. It became pretty distracting. ( )
  paperloverevolution | Mar 30, 2013 |
I read this book because The Satanic Verses is on my bookshelf and I heard that one should have a cursory understanding of Islam prior to reading that. I don’t know that this book did the trick. The book starts in the year 610 with the revelations of Muhammad and touches on nearly every relevant piece of Islamic history up to the current century. All in 161 pages. There were some good parts, specifically the story of The Prophet and then the section on modern Islam, but there was way too much crammed into this slight book. A plethora of names, dates and places was not only a challenge to keep straight, but also detracted from the history.

On the plus side, she does present a very middle of the road look at Islam and works to correct the stereotypes of violence and oppression. I was impressed with the origins of Islam and the beliefs that Muhammad was sharing concerning peace, social justice, and acceptance of other religions. Then, as with any religion, people got involved with their own agendas and interpretations of the Quran and mucked up some major stuff. Armstrong’s take on the fundamentalist Muslims was also insightful; her argument is that all religions have a fundamentalist offshoot that crops up as a direct response to the problems presented by modernity. Armstrong states that, “Fundamentalists nearly always feel assaulted by the liberal or modernizing establishment, and their views and behavior become more extreme as a result.” The book ends on a hopeful note even after a short postscript concerning the 9/11 attacks. ( )
1 vote aliciamay | Feb 9, 2013 |
A good short history of Islam.

(8/10) ( )
  Tullius22 | Feb 7, 2011 |
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During the holy month of Ramadan in 610 C.E., an Arab businessman had an experience that changed the history of the world.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 081296618X, Paperback)

The picture of Islam as a violent, backward, and insular tradition should be laid to rest, says Karen Armstrong, bestselling author of Muhammad and A History of God. Delving deep into Islamic history, Armstrong sketches the arc of a story that begins with the stirring of revelation in an Arab businessman named Muhammad. His concern with the poor who were being left behind in the blush of his society's new prosperity sets the tone for the tale of a culture that values community as a manifestation of God. Muhammad's ideas catch fire, quickly blossoming into a political empire. As the empire expands and the once fractured Arabs subdue and overtake the vast Persian domain, the story of a community becomes a panoramic drama. With great dexterity, Armstrong narrates the Sunni-Shi'ite schism, the rise of Persian influence, the clashes with Western crusaders and Mongolian conquerors, and the spiritual explorations that traced the route to God. Armstrong brings us through the debacle of European colonialism right up to the present day, putting Islamic fundamentalism into context as part of a worldwide phenomenon. Islam: A Short History, like Bruce Lawrence's Shattering the Myth and Mark Huband's Warriors of the Prophet, introduces us to a faith that beckons like a minaret to those who dare to venture beyond the headlines. --Brian Bruya

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:12 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

No religion in the modern world is as feared and misunderstood as Islam. It haunts the popular imagination as an extreme faith that promotes terrorism, authoritarian government, female oppression, and civil war. In a vital revision of this narrow view of Islam and a distillation of years of thinking and writing about the subject, Karen Armstrong's short history demonstrates that the world's fastest-growing faith is a much more complex phenomenon than its modern fundamentalist strain might suggest.… (more)

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