In 1978, at age seven, Reza Aslan fled Iran with his family amidst the chaos of a revolution. Today, he is one of the nation’s most respected experts on Islam and the Middle East, a scholar and media consultant on issues of religion and politics and author of the internationally acclaimed No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. Praised by The New York Times as a “grippingly narrated and thoughtfully examined…literate, accessible introduction to Islam,” No god but God has established Aslan as the most dynamic voice of liberal Islam in the United States.
In his lectures and writings, Aslan masterfully explores the intricate interplay between faith and politics in the Muslim world, presenting Islam as an ever-evolving faith and culture that is currently in the midst of a cataclysmic internal battle for reform and modernization.
Drawing from No god but God, Aslan examines how, in the shadow of European colonialism, Muslims developed conflicting strategies to reconcile traditional Islamic values with the social and political realities of the modern world. He explains with great lucidity the different sects and schism within Islam and demonstrates the variety of ways in which the religion has been understood and interpreted by Muslims and Westerners throughout history. Aslan argues that the current conflicts in the Middle East are not the result of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West, but rather the consequence of an “Islamic Reformation” occurring within the Muslim world, an internal struggle to define the future of this magnificent yet misunderstood faith and to harmonize its traditions and values with contemporary ideals of democracy and human rights.
The first young Muslim intellectual to come on the scene in years, Aslan brings a new, passionate, and much-needed perspective to the national discussion regarding Islam.
Reza Aslan has degrees in Religions from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and U.C. Santa Barbara, as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 1998 he was elected president of Harvard’s chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, a United Nations organization committed to the cause of global understanding. In that capacity, Aslan brought U.N. Deputy Secretary Denis Halliday to Harvard for his first public appearance since resigning his post as the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in protest of sanctions. Halliday’s speech received national attention and sparked a worldwide speaking tour. In 1999, after the consecutive nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, the W.C.R.P. under Aslan’s leadership brought the ambassadors of the two countries to Harvard in order to discuss for the first time their shared nuclear future. His work with W.C.R.P. led to a position as legislative assistant for the Friend’s Committee on National Legislation in D.C., where Aslan worked as a liaison to Congress on issues of arms control and the Middle East.
In August of 2000, while serving as the Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Aslan was named Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa, becoming the first full-time professor of Islam in the history of the state. When the Pentagon and World Trade Center were attacked in September of 2001, Aslan put his expertise of the Middle East to work for both the university and the greater Iowa community by traveling throughout the state speaking to public and private organizations, businesses, churches, mosques, and universities.His efforts in Iowa received national attention in such periodicals as U.S.A. Today, U.S. News and World Report and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
In 2003, Aslan left his post at the University of Iowa to concentrate full-time on writing. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The New York Review of Books, Prospect Magazine (UK), Slate Magazine, and The Nation. Since the publication of No god but God, Aslan has discussed the book on Meet the Press, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Dennis Miller, Hardball, and The Daily Show.