Islam by Karen Armstrong
A Short History

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 8 Critic Reviews



No religion in the modern world is as feared and misunderstood as Islam. It haunts the popular Western imagination as an extreme faith that promotes authoritarian government, female oppression, civil war, and terrorism. Karen Armstrong's short history offers a vital corrective to this narrow view. The distillation of years of thinking and writing about Islam, it demonstrates that the world's fastest-growing faith is a much richer and more complex phenomenon than its modern fundamentalist strain might suggest.

Islam: A Short History begins with the flight of Muhammad and his family from Medina in the seventh century and the subsequent founding of the first mosques. It recounts the origins of the split between Shii and Sunni Muslims, and the emergence of Sufi mysticism; the spread of Islam throughout North Africa, the Levant, and Asia; the shattering effect on the Muslim world of the Crusades; the flowering of imperial Islam in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries into the world's greatest and most sophisticated power; and the origins and impact of revolutionary Islam. It concludes with an assessment of Islam today and its challenges.

With this brilliant book, Karen Armstrong issues a forceful challenge to those who hold the view that the West and Islam are civilizations set on a collision course. It is also a model of authority, elegance, and economy.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Karen Armstrong

See more books from this Author
Karen Armstronga (TM)s first book, the bestselling Through the Narrow Gate (1981), described her seven years as a nun in a Roman Catholic order. She has published numerous books, including A History of God, which has been translated into thirty languages, A History of Jerusalem and In the Beginning: A New Reading of Genesis. Her more recent works include Islam: A Short History and Buddha, which was an international bestseller. Since 1982 she has been a freelance writer and broadcaster. She lives in London.
Published December 18, 2007 by Modern Library. 272 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Islam

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Would-be students of Islam will throw up their hands in despair at this tangled account of 14 centuries of battling Muslims.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

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

Aug 21 2000 | Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History

Entertainment Weekly

Armstrong says it's properly translated as ''effort'' or ''struggle,'' not ''holy war.'' And, she adds, the Koran justifies defensive war but ''does not sanctify warfare.'' The Arab conquests that created an Islamic empire from Spain to Afghanistan after Muhammad's death in 632 were not primarily...

Oct 24 2001 | Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History

Los Angeles Times

See more reviews from this publication

ISLAM, A Short History, By Karen Armstrong, The Modern Library, $19.95, 224 pages

Sep 16 2000 | Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History

Bookmarks Magazine

When Americans were asked in 2007 what they admire about Islam, 57% (that figure dropped to 53% in 2009) said “nothing” or “I don’t know.” The critical missing link in our information and the key question in understanding Muslims ought to be “What do Muslims globally, the mainstream majority, rea...

Mar 28 2010 | Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History

National Review Online

Being a bit of a Karen Armstrong fan after her “History of God” book, I started browsing her 1991 biography of Muhammed while waiting for a plane in New York.

May 08 2007 | Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History

Spirituality & Practice

Armstrong surveys the ups and downs of the Muslim community including civil wars, assassinations, rival dynasties, the Crusades and their dire effect on the faithful, the blossoming of imperial Islam in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism with its enmity...

| Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History


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.

Aug 25 2007 | Read Full Review of Islam: A Short History

Reader Rating for Islam

An aggregated and normalized score based on 255 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review