Islam A Short History — Book Review

abdul hannan
2 min readFeb 15, 2021

Author: Karen Armstrong

The book totally does justice to its title and objective. The Islamic History mentioned in this book is really very short. Obviously a span of around 1450 years can not be covered in around 160 pages still I would say that she has made a impressive effort in highlighting important events and issues of the past and I give her credit for that. But, while describing the religious and political struggles, complexities and sectarian divisions among the people of faith she lags to depict the fundamental ideas of Islam. While reading the book I felt kind of revising what I already knew about Islamic History.
The intended readers for this book from the perspective of Karen are Westerns and in the book she has tried to clear out the miss conceptions of Westerns or Non-Muslims in general about Islam. She has described the impacts of Crusades, Mongol invasions and Western colonialism on Islamic World. People in the west who don’t know about history mostly think that Middle East (Heartland of Islamic World) is war torn since the advent of Islam and things have always been like this in the region. Karen has given valid and authentic arguments/facts on the agenda that Islam is not a violent religion, it’s not a fascistic religion, it doesn’t promote antisemitism and like true teachings of all other religions in the universe Islam also promotes peace and harmony.
People tend to believe that colonialism is a thing of the past, but it’s not true. She has put an emphasis on the fact that Western powers still control the Arab Nations in the Middle world as the controlling powers of most of the Arab countries are puppets of the West and present day’s conflicts in the Middle World are the result of Western Colonialism. Whether it be Afghan, Iraq wars on the so called “terror” or Israeli occupation of Palestine or Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India.
I like and agree with the narrative Karen has put forward in the book and through the prism of which she has covered Islamic History. Enjoyed reading it and yes recommended!
P.S: The book was written before September 11 attacks.

A few recommendations for the readers interested in further exploring the topics mentioned in the book:

People who don’t already know much about Islamic History must not start reading Islamic History by this book. For such people in my opinion “Destiny Disrupted” by Tamim Ansary is a good read.

Maybe you could read “No God But God” by Reza Aslan to get an idea of fundamental ideas and evolution of Islam.

People interested in understanding/exploring the devastating impacts of Western forces in today’s Middle World are recommended to read “A Peace to End All Peace’’ by David Fromkin.

“An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India” by Shashi Tharoor explains how the so called “Great Britain’’ persecuted Indian people and exploited their resources in the name of modernization.

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