I have today finished reading a very well written, balanced and well developed book on the history and development of Islam. The book, entitled No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam, is written by Reza Aslan, an Iranian born American academic.
To quote the blurb:
To many in the West, Islam remains shrouded in ignorance and fear. What is the essence of this ancient faith? Is it a religion of peace or of war? How does Allah differ from the God of the Jews and Christians? Can an Islamic state be founded on democratic values such as pluralism and human rights? In No god but God, challenging the ‘clash of civilisations’ mentality that has distorted views of Islam, Reza Aslan explains the faith in all its complexity, beauty and compassion.
The text, which is easily accessible, covers not only the basic understanding of Islam, but also the history of the various traditions and sects in a very sensitive and informative manner. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to know more about Islam.