This is an important book and an excellent primer for
understanding underlying motives of present-day Muslims through their
history. The book covers all the largest Islamic cultures and regions
of the world with detail and relevance to today.
But keep in mind the subtitle: A Short History.
The book is not an appropriate sole introduction to Islam's current attitudes
and tenants, since it focuses on historical events, with spiritual issues
only sprinkled in when they directly influence the history. There is
enough spirituality included to understand the history, however, and
fairly good explanations of how the various sects differ.
The book was easier to get through then I expected.
The first section, on the life of the Prophet, and the last section,
on modern Islam, were particularly enjoyable. In the middle it got a
little confusing. The hardest part was the names - because of the brevity
of the book, many figures are mentioned only a few times, often with
long intervals between. Luckily there were many helpful supplements -
well-drawn maps, a glossary of arabic terms, a timeline, and list of
key figures. To truly understand and appreciate all the events, you should
keep flipping back and forth to the appendixes.