Looking for Its Luther

No god but God
The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
Reza Aslan
Random House, $25.95, 336 pp.

Although it may not have felt like it, September 11 was just fallout. According to Reza Aslan, the West, with its great commercial center in downtown New York City, was “merely a bystander” in an ongoing conflict raging within Islam. This struggle has left a crater at the center of his religion that is so huge its creation generated a cloud of dust that we mistook for—and misnamed—the epicenter. In short, we’ve all been wrong about the location of ground zero.

Referring to 9/11 as fallout, or implying that Islam itself was in some ways more damaged by the attacks than the United States, does not minimize the tragedy of the day. Aslan, a doctoral candidate in religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara, knows well that thousands of dead cannot be considered collateral damage. And for this very reason, neither can the attacks be understood as jihad: Islam’s own highly regulated guidelines for “just war.” It is precisely because the attacks were so indiscriminate, says Aslan, that they were “roundly condemned” and unsanctioned within a Muslim world that takes seriously the requirements laid out in the Qur’an for jihad. Aslan belongs to this Muslim world, and No god but God is his explanation to the West, an apology and defense of his faith, and a “critical reexamination” of Islam that is as soulful as it is smart.

More than any other idea, event, era, or person discussed...

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About the Author

Scott Korb is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. He is the coauthor with Peter Bebergal of The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God (Bloomsbury).