Readers seeking a quick but thoughtful introduction to Islam will want to peruse Armstrong's latest offering. In her hallmark stylish and accessible prose, the author of A History of God takes readers from the sixth-century days of the Prophet Muhammad to the present. Armstrong writes about the revelations Muhammad received, and explains that the Qur'an earned its name (which means recitation) because most of Muhammad's followers were illiterate and learned his teachings not from reading them but hearing them proclaimed aloud. Throughout the book, Armstrong traces what she sees as Islam's emphasis on right living ( la Judaism) over right belief ( la Christianity). Armstrong is at her most passionate when discussing Islam in the modern world. She explains antagonisms between Iraqi Muslims and Syrian Muslims, and discusses the devastating consequences of modernization on the Islamic world. Unlike Europe, which modernized gradually over centuries, the Islamic world had modernity thrust upon it in an exploitative manner. The Islamic countries, Armstrong argues, have been ""reduced to a dependent bloc by the European powers."" Armstrong also rehearses some basics about Islamic fundamentalism in a section that will be familiar to anyone who has read her recent study, The Battle for God. A useful time line and a guide to the ""Key Figures in the History of Islam"" complete this strong, brisk survey of 1,500 years of Islamic history. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/21/2000 Release date: 08/01/2000 Genre: Religion
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