The Islamic Reformation Has Begun

A decade ago , author Reza Aslan had a dinner conversation that helped set him on a path that makes him one of the hottest new voices on Islam. At the table, a man argued “Muslims are violent and irrational. They’re all terrorists.” His dinner companion? His father, an Iranian émigré who blamed not only the clerics of Iran’s Islamic revolution for turning his country upside down, but Islam itself.

Facing hatred against Islam from an early age set Aslan on a path that makes him one of the brightest lights for Islam today, separating fact from mythology in his groundbreaking, thinking person’s guide to Islam, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. Reza Aslan is the “It Boy” of Islam. He is a rising star few could have predicted. Just 32 years old, he is still a student: a doctoral candidate in religious studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. But Aslan has a strong aura of confidence, clear thinking, and intellect that makes him look at ease everywhere from Comedy Central to the Sunday morning news shows. This makes him one of the greatest hopes for Muslims to take back the faith from puritanical and dogmatic interpretations that sanction ideological beliefs such as the killing of innocent people—the most egregious crime confronting the Muslim world today.

He is a staunch supporter of the progressive values of Islam, including women’s rights and tolerance. Amusingly, he receives entreaties just about every week from aunties in the Muslim world interested in matching their daughters up with him. This would be a charming but insignificant detail except that winning over the aunties and uncles, as elders are often affectionately called in many immigrant Muslim communities, is vital to winning the kind of transformation Aslan argues for in No god but God. He writes: “This book is, above all else, an argument for reform.”

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Sojourners Magazine January 2006
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