Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After all the talk of a Muslim travel ban I thought I’d re-read Karen Armstrong’s Islam: A Short History. Last time I read it a year or so after 9/11 to get a friendlier reading of Islam than my rural Wyoming community.
I guess on the second read and 15 years later, it is less of a revelation, but still, a history of Islam that roots itself in Islamic history (as opposed to starting out from Western contact with Saracens or an Enlightenment “Orientalist” frame) is really refreshing. Having western events pop in as tangential to the thrust of the history being told is a very helpful corrective.
A few big take aways.
1. Christianity in its first couple centuries argued and split on questions of the nature of the Christ and the Trinity (obviously with politics floating around in the background)—in Islam the question of political leadership of The Community was what formed the first couple of centuries and the splits. This has heavy implications for how Islam interacts with Nationalism, Globalism, Secularism, the Enlightenment, etc.
2. Islamic interpretations of Aristotle are pretty interesting (something I already knew, but it popped back out in this reading of Armstrong).
3. Islam’s interaction with the Mongols is also fascinating.
It’s worth reading.
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