Islam dominates the news these days—be it a story on Shia uprisings in Iraq, banning headscarves in French schools or prosecuting extremists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks—yet few Americans are familiar with the religion’s complex history. Author Ruthven, along with Muslim scholar Nanji, present a rich but accessible history of Islam, now the religion of one-fifth of the world’s population, from Mohammed to bin Laden. Brief, digestible essays create an illuminating picture of the pivotal moments and movements, like the colonization of the Muslim world and recent rise of Islamist terrorists, which are complemented by numerous color illustrations mapping the religion’s spread from ancient Arabia to its outer limits in today’s Africa and Southeast Asia. While this is not an infallible resource (the authors misidentify the location of Djenne’s enormous mud mosque; it is in Mali, not Niger), it is certainly a most helpful one. Color maps and photographs throughout.