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The Crisis of Islamic Civilization Paperback – April 6, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Allawi (The Occupation of Iraq), former minister of defense and minister of finance in Iraq's postwar governments, offers his version of the causes and consequences of the decline of Islamic civilization and proposals for its rejuvenation. The author argues that the West's violent encroachment on the Muslim world in the 19th and 20th centuries shattered local institutions and economies and disrupted any natural evolution of Islamic society; furthermore, current efforts to modernize the faith amount to draping an entire civilization in ill-fitting, inorganic ideas. Allawi calls for a return to the creative and artistic heritage of Islam and a restoration of balance—between the physical and the spiritual... between men and women; between rights and duties—while suggesting that the time to find balance may soon run out. The writing is erudite and the conclusions fascinating, but Allawi's dismissive attitude toward Western societies and their mass rejection... of the cardinal virtues, not least wisdom and moderation, as well as a reluctance to accommodate anything other than a faith-based understanding of human reality might limit his audience. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Allawi (The Occupation of Iraq) investigates the pathways that led to the deterioration of the Islamic civilization, known for its splendid culture between the eighth and 12th centuries. The inadaptability of Islam to modern life, the author argues, stems from its deep roots in the sacred. To be modern, according to Allawi, is to be liberated from the divine as the sole source of ethics and virtues. Allawi demonstrates that the individual in Islam is not an autonomous entity—a common principle in all religions—rather, its essence is driven from a complete submission to the godly creeds. He notes that the secularization of Muslim societies, which seemed to be on track until the mid-1970s, has shattered, giving way to political Islam. He suggests that the failure of Muslim societies to address the challenges and the threat of fast-growing Western cultural imperialism deepened their crisis. In an analytic, journalistic style, Allawi presents views about modern Islam that are both stimulating and informative. This provocative book is recommended for informed readers.—Sadiq Alkoriji, South Regional Lib., Broward Cty., FL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300164068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164060
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Roi Soleil on June 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a number of books on Islam's crisis, but this is the first I've read one actually written by a Muslim. Allawi was not just an Iraqi minister, he is at least partly educated in the West and clearly a first rate intellectual in any event. Allawi delivers a balanced view of Islam's difficulties coping with the modern world; he heaps significant blame on the West for repeatedly taking advantage of weaker Muslim countries, but he also doesn't hold back on his criticisms of Islam's many problems. His bottom line is that Muslims have lost their way and the true essence of Islam, and that is individual responsibility for dedicating one's life to the foundation of the religion. Living in harmony within the community, mutual respect and modesty (men and women, inside and out), staying in touch with one's environment and actively seeking knowledge that will lead to a closer relationship with God. He argues that the West has long since lost it's soul and the corrupt/despotic regimes of most Arab countries simply ape the most vulgar and despicable elements of Western "civilization." In my mind, he lays out a compelling argument for all of us losing our way.

It's truly an excellent book for anyone really interested in Islam's struggle, it's not necessarily for someone looking for a book focused on terrorists/fundamentalism/extremism. However, he does explain the the split in Islam between the Sufi and the Wahabi/Salafist extremists whom he explains have lost their way...and ability to think. The Wahabi/Salafists take every element of the Koran and Sharia as literal and are intellectually incapable of understanding nuance. Allawi argues that these extremists have no true knowledge of Islam and what it really means.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Brian M. O'Rourke on June 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that everyone should read, not because it is so good, but because it shows hows incredibly fractured are the thought processes of even leading Islamic intellectuals. The book is constant whine. Allawi is fair. He doesn't like the West, he doesn't like Islamic extremists. But his perspective on life shows how far apart the West and Islamic civilizations potentially are. His instincts are to deny any sense of individual rights or freedoms in consession to some mystical need for "community." In fact, he treats mysticism as central to his culture and something that the West has denigrated. He wants Islamic Science, deriding the impact of Western Science on the world or at least his world. As a scientist, a Western scientist, I truly believe that science belongs to the world. The approach and philosophy of science are not Western alone. Allawi wants a science that reinforces the idea of God as the creator. He's entitle to his view, but he cannot change the course of scientific philosophy.

The worst part of this book is his dismissal of criticism about treatment of heretics and apostates. So what if they are killed? It's no big deal, he argues, and it's all blown out of proportion by the Western press. I think if Allawi stood in front of a crowd about to stone him to death, he might just elevate his perspective on individual rights.

He whines. He does not offer one detailed solution. If he represents the Islamic elite, our war will be be endless.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ihab Hamdi on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is well written, in a balanced tone analyzing the differences between Islam as a comprehensive way of life and the "Islamic States". The book offers a valid point of view as a counter argument to the "Clash of Civilizations". It provides the reader with an eloquent description of the role of Islam in the Islamic civilization, and how the absence of the application of Islam, and not its presence, is the reason for the crisis. When I started reading the book I was skeptical, because of its name, that it is another half baked book written contributing to the Islam and Muslim bashing that became "en vogue" after the attacks on 9/11. To my delight, I found it a well researched book, portraying the bright face of Islam, and its positive impact on the human civilization. The book provides areas of compactibility and congruence between Islam and current world affairs including, but not limited to, human rights, the environment, minority rights, and the concept of citizenship and state system in Islam, as well as the relationship and interaction between the Islamic civilization and other states/civilzations.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Menon on October 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Both the importance and the misunderstanding of Islam has clearly been growing for a while. This book gives an exellent perspective on the foundational difference between Islam and western perspectives on subjects like human rights and the justice system.

One typically reads either reactionary pieces on the doctrinal tendencies of Islam that leads to its recent rise in militancy or in Cold war origins of the armament of militant islam by western powers. There obviously exist elements, in particular cold war power struggles, that have led to some of the political and social architecture that exists in the Islamic world, but this book discussions discuss other, and what have convinced me are much more powerful issues that have been conflicting Islam for some time.

It is argued convincingly that current inferences on violence and reactionary behaviour are not a function of embedded values. They are argued to be emergent phenomenon of a divided culture where wealth has driven much of affluent society to embrace consumption goals leaving most behind feeling excluded. The distribution of wealth in much islamic society falls into extreme pareto distributions, and the justice that exists does not seem to address things properly. The dismissal of the Caliphate and the stagnation of jurisprudence is argued to be a major factor in dissillusionment of the under represented. In such environments, reactionary tendencies tend to amplify. In a sense it is argued that the social contract which used to be effective has failed to keep pace with the society that governs it.
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