Quotes from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam

Reza Aslan ·  310 pages

Rating: (18.3K votes)


“Even the Quran, which Sufis respect as the direct speech of God, lacks the capacity to shed light upon God’s essence. As one Sufi master has argued, why spend time reading a love letter (by which he means the Quran) in the presence of the Beloved who wrote it?”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“Religion, it must be understood, is not faith. Religion is the story of faith.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“As with all journeys, the Way has an end, though it should not be imagined as a straight road leading to a fixed destination but rather as a majestic mountain whose peak conceals the presence of God. There are, of course, many paths to the summit-some better than others. But because every path eventually leads to the same destination, which path one takes is irrelevant.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“A Persian, a Turk, an Arab, and a Greek were traveling to a distant land when they began arguing over how to spend the single coin they possessed among themselves. All four craved food, but the Persian wanted to spend the coin on angur; the Turk, on uzum; the Arab, on inab; and the Greek, on stafil. The argument became heated as each man insisted on having what he desired. A linguist passing by overheard their quarrel. “Give the coin to me,” he said. “I undertake to satisfy the desires of all of you.” Taking the coin, the linguist went to a nearby shop and bought four small bunches of grapes. He then returned to the men and gave them each a bunch. “This is my angur!” cried the Persian. “But this is what I call uzum,” replied the Turk. “You have brought me my inab,” the Arab said. “No! This in my language is stafil,” said the Greek. All of a sudden, the men realized that what each of them had desired was in fact the same thing, only they did not know how to express themselves to each other. The four travelers represent humanity in its search for an inner spiritual need it cannot define and which it expresses in different ways. The linguist is the Sufi, who enlightens humanity to the fact that what it seeks (its religions), though called by different names, are in reality one identical thing. However—and this is the most important aspect of the parable—the linguist can offer the travelers only the grapes and nothing more. He cannot offer them wine, which is the essence of the fruit. In other words, human beings cannot be given the secret of ultimate reality, for such knowledge cannot be shared, but must be experienced through an arduous inner journey toward self-annihilation. As the transcendent Iranian poet, Saadi of Shiraz, wrote, I am a dreamer who is mute, And the people are deaf. I am unable to say, And they are unable to hear.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“Over the last few years, the Islamic world has produced more female presidents and prime ministers than both Europe and North America combined.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam



“One could argue that the clash of monotheisms is the inevitable result of monotheism itself. Whereas a religion of many gods posits many myths to describe the human condition, a religion of one god tends to be monomythic; it not only rejects all other gods, it rejects all other explanations for God. If there is only one God, then there may be only one truth, and that can easily lead to bloody conflicts of irreconcilable absolutisms.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“It took many years to cleanse Arabia of its “false idols.” It will take many more to cleanse Islam of its new false idols—bigotry and fanaticism—worshipped by those who have replaced Muhammad’s original vision of tolerance and unity with their own ideals of hatred and discord. But the cleansing is inevitable, and the tide of reform cannot be stopped. The Islamic Reformation is already here. We are all living in it.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“In the Ummah, there was no tradition of veiling until around 627 C.E., when the so-called “verse of hijab” suddenly descended upon the community. That verse, however, was addressed not to women in general, but exclusively to Muhammad’s wives:”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“However, Saudi Arabia quickly discovered what the rest of the world would soon learn. Fundamentalism, in all religious traditions, is impervious to suppression. The more one tries to squelch it, the stronger it becomes. Counter it with cruelty, and it gains adherents. Kill its leaders, and they become martyrs. Respond with despotism, and it becomes the sole voice of opposition. Try to control it, and it will turn against you. Try to appease it, and it will take control.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“But perhaps the most important innovation in the doctrine of jihad was its outright prohibition of all but strictly defensive wars. “Fight in the way of God those who fight you,” the Quran says, “but do not begin hostilities; God does not like the aggressor” (2:190). Elsewhere the Quran is more explicit: “Permission to fight is given only to those who have been oppressed … who have been driven from their homes for saying, ‘God is our Lord’ ” (22:39; emphasis added).”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam



“Today, Medina is simultaneously the archetype of Islamic democracy and the impetus for Islamic militancy. Islamic Modernists like the Egyptian writer and political philosopher Ali Abd ar-Raziq (d. 1966) pointed to Muhammad’s community in Medina as proof that Islam advocated the separation of religious and temporal power, while Muslim extremists in Afghanistan and Iran have used the same community to fashion various models of Islamic theocracy. In their struggle for equal rights, Muslim feminists have consistently drawn inspiration from the legal reforms Muhammad instituted in Medina, while at the same time, Muslim traditionalists have construed those same legal reforms as grounds for maintaining the subjugation of women in Islamic society. For some, Muhammad’s actions in Medina serve as the model for Muslim-Jewish relations; for others, they demonstrate the insurmountable conflict that has always existed, and will always exist, between the two sons of Abraham. Yet regardless of whether one is labeled a Modernist or a Traditionalist, a reformist or a fundamentalist, a feminist or a chauvinist, all Muslims regard Medina as the model of Islamic perfection. Simply put, Medina is what Islam was meant to be.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“But what is most desperately needed is not so much a better appreciation of our neighbor’s religion as a broader, more complete understanding of religion itself.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“More than a thousand years before Christ, Zarathustra preached the existence of a heaven and a hell, the idea of a bodily resurrection, the promise of a universal savior who would one day be miraculously born to a young maiden, and the expectation of a final cosmic battle that would take place at the end of time between the angelic forces of good and the demonic forces of evil.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“No one speaks for God—not even the prophets (who speak about God).”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“Minds are not changed merely through acquiring data or information (if that were the case it would take no effort to convince Americans that Obama is, in fact, a Christian). Rather, it is solely through the slow and steady building of personal relationships that one discovers the fundamental truth that all people everywhere have the same dreams and aspirations, that all people struggle with the same fears and anxieties.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam



“How could the Law of Retribution function properly when one party in a dispute was so wealthy and so powerful as to be virtually untouchable?”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“Muhammad was not yet establishing a new religion; he was calling for sweeping social reforms. He was not yet preaching monotheism; he was demanding economic justice.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“As a text, the Quran is more than the foundation of the Islamic religion; it is the source of Arabic grammar. It is to Arabic what Homer is to Greek, what Chaucer is to English: a snapshot of an evolving language, frozen forever in time”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“In many ways, the partition of India was the inevitable result of three centuries of Britain’s divide-and-rule policy. As the events of the Indian Revolt demonstrated, the British believed that the best way to curb nationalist sentiment was to classify the indigenous population not as Indians, but as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, etc. The categorization and separation of native peoples was a common tactic for maintaining colonial control over territories whose national boundaries had been arbitrarily drawn with little consideration for the ethnic, cultural, or religious makeup of the local inhabitants. The French went to great lengths to cultivate class divisions in Algeria, the Belgians promoted tribal factionalism in Rwanda, and the British fostered sectarian schisms in Iraq, all in a futile attempt to minimize nationalist tendencies and stymie united calls for independence. No wonder, then, that when the colonialists were finally expelled from these manufactured states, they left behind not only economic and political turmoil, but deeply divided populations with little common ground on which to construct a national identity.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“It is pluralism, not secularism, that defines democracy. A democratic state can be established upon any normative moral framework as long as pluralism remains the source of its legitimacy. England continues to maintain a national church whose religious head is also the country’s sovereign and whose bishops serve in the upper house of Parliament. India was, until recently, governed by partisans of an élitist theology of Hindu Awakening (Hindutva) bent on applying an implausible but enormously successful vision of “true Hinduism” to the state. And yet, like the United States, these countries are considered democracies, not because they are secular but because they are, at least in theory, dedicated to pluralism.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam



“The only question that matters with regard to a religion and its mythology is “What do these stories mean?”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“All religions are inextricably bound to the social, spiritual, and cultural milieux from which they arose and in which they developed. It is not prophets who create religions. Prophets are, above all, reformers who redefine and reinterpret the existing beliefs and practices of their communities, providing fresh sets of symbols and metaphors with which succeeding generations can describe the nature of reality.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“This creator god was called Allah, which is not a proper name but a contraction of the word al-ilah, meaning simply “the god.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“There are striking similarities between the Christian and Quranic descriptions of the Apocalypse, the Last Judgment, and the paradise awaiting those who have been saved.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“[God] has established for you [the Arabs] the same religion enjoined on Noah, on Abraham, on Moses, and on Jesus,” the Quran says (42:13).”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam



“In fact, the term “holy war” originates not with Islam but with the Christian Crusaders who first used it to give theological legitimacy to what was in reality a battle for land and trade routes. “Holy war” was not a term used by Muslim conquerors, and it is in no way a proper definition of the word jihad. There are a host of words in Arabic that can be definitively translated as “war”; jihad is not one of them. The word jihad literally means “a struggle,” “a striving,” or “a great effort.” In its primary religious connotation (sometimes referred to as “the greater jihad”), it means the struggle of the soul to overcome the sinful obstacles that keep a person from God. This is why the word jihad is nearly always followed in the Quran by the phrase “in the way of God.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


“The only way to survive in a community where movement was the norm and material accumulation impractical was to maintain a strong sense on tribal solidarity by evenly sharing all available resources.”
― Reza Aslan, quote from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam


About the author

Reza Aslan
Born place: in Tehran, Iran
Born date May 3, 1972
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