One of the world's foremost commentators on religious affairs on the history (and destiny) of the world's most misunderstood religion.
One of the greatest of the world religions through the 1500 years of its existence, Islam has also been by far the most misunderstood. The Western world has undergone a complete revolution of thought in recent centuries, but its mistrust of Islam is still essentially medieval. Seven centuries from the last Crusade, the Holy Places Islam occupies are oil wells; once the 'Scourge of God', its forces are now an affront to secular liberalism. The 'fundamentalist' fanatic; the oppressor of women; the ruthless terrorist; the tyrant: these are the stereotypes of the new-look Islamic infidel. In the public mind, Islam is a religion of extremes: it is the world's fastest growing faith and more than of the world's refugees are Islamic. Whether we are reading about civil war in Algeria or Afghanistan, or political turmoil in Pakistan or Malaysia, the Islamic context permeates all these situations.
This book traces how Islam grew from the other religions of the book, Judaism and Christianity; introduces the character of Muhammad; and demonstrates that for much of its history, the religion has been a force for enlightenment that promoted liberties for women and allowed the arts and sciences to flourish. It also shows how this progressive legacy is today often set aside as the faith struggles to come to terms with the economic and political weakness of most of its believers and with the forces of modernity itself.
Karen Armstrong spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun, an experience she recollected in her two volumes of best-selling autobiography, Through the Narrow Gate and Beginning the World. She is the author of the world-wide best-seller, A History of God (which has now appeared in more than thirty languages), the acclaimed History of Jerusalem and, most recently, The Battle for God. She is a teacher at the Leo Baeck College for the Study of Judaism and, in 1999, she received the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Award.