Islam: a Short History

Topics: Islam, Muhammad / Pages: 12 (2973 words) / Published: Oct 3rd, 2005
Karen Armstrong, billed on the jacket as "one of the world's foremost scholars on religious affairs," comments on everything from the Christian Crusades, the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, the taking of hostages by Ayatollah Khomeini and his issuance of a fatwah on author Salman Rushdie, and Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam to the Taliban in her book Islam: A Short History. It is important to note that the book was published prior to the destruction that occurred in the United States on September 11, 2001. Armstrong's observations, though often flawed because of her rose-colored view of Islam's mysticism, accurately reveal the impending nightmare of the Taliban. She harshly condemns the Taliban as fundamentalist and contrary to the Qur'an.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Armstrong's condemnation of the Taliban and its ideology and actions, I still must take issue with a number of critical observations and statements that she makes throughout her book. Her premise is that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, despite the fact that the West has incorrectly, and contrary to fact in her opinion, stereotyped it as a religion that provokes and promotes violence and intolerance.
A Community of Muslims. Armstrong writes, "The Qur'an did not put forward any philosophical arguments for monotheism; its approach was practical, and as such, appealed to the pragmatic Arabs. The old religion, the Qur'an claimed, was simply not working. There was spiritual malaise….The way forward lay in a single God and unified unmah (Muslim community), which was governed by justice and equity" (8). Armstrong repeats this Qur'anic ideal throughout her book. She explains that to follow the Qur'an is to work to establish a politically and socially Muslim community that adheres to and upholds Qur'anic principles. She critiques the Taliban's fundamentalist attempt at establishing this community as hopelessly evil and unislamic, even though the principles they so aggressively

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