Karen Armstrong,
Islam: A Short History
(Orion, 2000)

At a time when the most powerful man in the world frequently uses the compound word "Islamofascist," this book aims to demonstrate that, contrary to nationalistic media coverage, Islam and fascism are not one and the same.

Writer Karen Armstrong takes us from the uncertain beginnings of the Ummah (Muslim community) to the current struggles and misconceptions of the Islamic world in just 161 pages. I knew nothing at all about Islam before reading this book, but I found it both accessible and fascinating. This is clearly written, narrative history.

Armstrong takes a line and she sticks to it -- no lengthy discourse here. I occasionally had the feeling that some parts were glossed over in the name of structure and overall continuity, but this is perfect for the beginner who doesn't want to get bogged down in the details. At the back there's a useful glossary of Arabic terms and an alphabetical listing of key historical figures in case you forget who's who. There are also suggestions for further reading, with titles grouped under the main themes covered in the book.

Islam: A Short History is an excellent introduction for those who want to inform themselves of Islamic history in these uncertain times.

review by
James Weikert

25 August 2007

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