Customer Reviews for

Islam: A Short History

Average Rating 3.5
( 43 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

OUTSTANDING PIECE OF LITERATURE

This book shows in basic English the principles of Islam and it's importance in the lifes of Muslims. It explains the purity of Islam.

posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2002

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Weak and glossy

As a former nun who rejects the Christian theology of Trinity, Karen Armstrong eagerly embraces Islam's monotheism, universalism and charity. But you won't find an open discussion of the faith or its history here. Islam means submission, which Armstrong fails to cover. ...
As a former nun who rejects the Christian theology of Trinity, Karen Armstrong eagerly embraces Islam's monotheism, universalism and charity. But you won't find an open discussion of the faith or its history here. Islam means submission, which Armstrong fails to cover. She glosses over the early Islamic massacres of infidels, as if they did not occur. Nor does she deal with Islam's historic persecution of other peoples, including Zoroastrians, Ba'hai, Hindus, Coptic Christians, Sudanese Christians and Middle Eastern Jews. The chauvinism of Mecca, a city closed to all but Muslims, is similarly avoided in this (mercifully) brief, overly sugared pabulum. For brief lessons on the faith, try the Internet writings of moderate Muslim believers like the Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, who heads Italy's Muslim community. He shares the rich beauties of the faith and discusses meanings of key passages in the Qu'ran and Hadith--as well as the interpretation of Islam by the rigid Wahabhi sect that governs Saudi Arabia and controls most mosques in the west. For history, try Bernard Lewis--revered by, Western, Arab and Muslim scholars alike. I recommend Islam in History; Islam and the West and The Muslim Discovery of Europe. To understand Islam's political effect on other peoples, try Bat Ye'or's The Dhimmi or The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, covering the 7th through 12th centuries. But skip Karen Armstrong. --Alyssa A. Lappen

posted by Anonymous on October 11, 2002

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2002

    Great start, bland finish

    The excellent start of this book gives a perspective on the development of Islam and the events early Mulsims endured. The latter chapters, however, speed along and the parts pertaining to modern times are not as good as the historical perspective. I would recommend it to readers looking for a historical survey of early Islam.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    Excellent snapshot of a complex subject

    The history and nature of Islam is one of the most relevant and important subjects today, one I'd been meaning to tackle but I was overwhelmed by the immensity of the subject matter. This book does a wonderful job of not only narrating the pivotal events of Islamic history, but placing it in a context that makes sense of current events.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2001

    From the Prophet Muhammed to the Taliban in 2000

    Ms. Karen Armstrong has covered an amazing amount of ground in this brief look at the history of Islam¿s beliefs and practices since 610 when the Prophet Muhammed¿s revelations began that we know today as the Quran (usually spelled Koran in English). She has supplied a generous number of maps, a detailed chronology, and constantly interprets each ruler, regime, and sect from the perspective of the Quran¿s text, and the practices advocated by the Prophet Muhammed. The book has an agenda, which I would describe as creating a spiritual appeal for mutual understanding among Muslims and nonMuslims, especially those of the Jewish and Christian faiths. That appeal seems based on an appreciation for similarities in the religious practices of the three religions as they were originally observed. Every deviation from those original Muslim practices is explained in the book as an error that needs to be and will probably be corrected in time. If you are like me, you will find that some of your understanding about historical Muslim beliefs is incorrect. For example, the original geographic expansion of Islam from 638-738 A.D. involved little attempt at creating converts to Islam. In fact, the Muslim forces usually were garrisoned in separate, new cities to minimize contact between them and the local people. Much of what we have heard about the doctrinal basis for religious war in Islam seems to have been developed through the successful Mongol invasion, and reactions to the secular invasion of Western culture into Muslim nations in the last few decades. One new idea that I learned from this book is that the success of all Muslims as a community in a combined political, social, and economic sense is viewed as a sign by Muslims of how well the religion is being observed. Until the arrival of oilfield riches in the Middle East in the 20th century, Islamic influence had been on the wane worldwide as the industrial West swept forward to create its colonies and continued economic dominance through advanced products and technologies. The seeking for a possible solution to this ebb of cultural success has led in part of the fundamentalism that has spawned conflicts with the United States and some other nations. I was also interested to note that in countries where Muslims are in the majority, democracy will lead to dominance by religious parties. Islam does not separate church and state the way that Western democracies usually do. Appreciating this point means a different kind of diplomacy and cooperation with Islamic democracies than will occur with multicultural, pluralistic democracies. Although I found the book to offer these kinds of insights, Ms. Armstrong would have helped me understand Islam more by sharing additional information about the religion from the primary source of the Quran and key writings of religious figures. Also, it is unusual to analyze a religion in terms of how closely it follows the original way it was observed. Few today, for example, look at the Catholic Church or any Protestant church for how closely it matches in specifics how Jesus and His disciples lived. Finally, I could probably have gotten the key points in the book without quite as much detail as was spelled out here about various leaders. With less ¿who did what, when, and where to whom¿ there would have been much more space to explain key ideas and to provide more detail about the Quran. I also wondered what misunderstandings various Muslim groups typically have about those of us who live in countries where the percentage of Muslims is relatively small. A number of other questions still came to mind after reading the book. If each person is to be treated equally in respect and in terms of economic goods in accord with the Quran, what do people in various Muslim countries think about the growing gaps between the richest and poorest Muslims? What do Muslims in various countries think about people of their same r

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Islam a Short History After reading this book I can s

    Islam a Short History



    After reading this book I can see where a way was needed for an individual from the Arab perspective could draw closer to God. This book gives a clearer look and a good understanding into the Islamic religion. I see a people who have struggled with old religious ways and practices. To move
    from old practices, a direction must come from a place that gives deeper insight and simplifies the path to go. Karen Armstrong lets the reader see the contrast between the Arabs the Muslims, the past and future for the Arab people. This book deals with the things needed to find the answers for those that seek it. Karen Armstrong allows the reader to take a glance at the interworkings and development of Islam.

    It is said that to change the old religious ways can sometimes complicate life in a dramatic fashion. To know that God has not forgotten or cast you aside can be very liberating, but everyone does not accept change. Teachings and texts were provided and leadership was established. A war was coming, and this war would make individuals question that very foundation that they believed to be from God. Arab and Muslim leaders from both sides struggle to find common ground during the early infancy of Islam. We must understand that religious and political views were heavily involved in this contention. When moving forward for the better every side will not be satisfied or happy if things do not go in their favor; however, to give life sometimes pain is involved. I give these people a great deal of credit. Through the early years things were not going so well.
    Karen Armstrong allows the reader to travel from the past to the present. She discusses the Seljuk, Moghul, and Ottoman Empire. Mrs. Armstrong discusses and in book about the political struggles between the different empires. The development of the Shii empire caused the difference of opinion between Sunnis and Shii's. I think Karen Armstrong does a magnificent job relating the beginning, development, and Islamic victories in this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2001

    My views about ISLAM

    Being student of Philosophy, i always find ISLAM as Best religion in the World. Islam view point for the problems faced by Philosophy is truely amazing. The one who honestly reads Islam becomes its follower. That's why it's the fastest growing religion in the World.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 5, 2012

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    Posted April 20, 2011

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    Posted December 3, 2009

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    Posted July 24, 2014

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