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The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists Hardcover – October 4, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

El Fadl, professor of Islamic law at UCLA and Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, is the academic voice of the world's majority-moderate Muslims. His strong credentials and thoughtful approach set him apart from his peers. Here, he successfully argues that the extremist sects of Islam, mainly Wahhabism, blatantly defy the true values of Islam. He clarifies that Wahhabism was once an unpopular, fringe, cultlike movement, which only grew through a chance partnership with the Saudi Arabian ruling family. The discovery of oil created an unprecedented infusion of petro-dollars into the fledgling, conservative belief system. The point of the book, El Fadl writes, is to define "the reality of Muslim thought as it currently exists." He focuses on the extremists' "puritan" view, exposing the hypocrisies and inconsistencies inherent in their "imagined Islam." He doesn't offer specific solutions, but he raises the issues carefully and well. Though the writing can be dry and portions read like a law school lecture, overall El Fadl's book is a fulfilling read for moderate Muslims concerned about conservative leadership and any non-Muslims who want to inform themselves about the extremists' misuse of Islam. (Oct.)
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“The Great Theft is probably the most dramatic manifesto from an American Muslim since the September 11 attacks.” (Associated Press)

“Those looking for an understanding of the Muslim world and its relationship to the West…will find this book invaluable.” (Dallas Morning News)

“Mother Jones and the National Review rarely see eye-to-eye, but we both agree on this essential title.” (Mother Jones Magazine)

“An uncommonly rich, learned and easily accessible framework for understanding the current theological struggle within Islam.” (Washington Post Book World)

“… [The Great Theft] lucidly answers important questions Westerners have about Islam.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Khaled Abou El Fadl has made a contribution that should be widely distributed and deeply reflected upon.” (Globe and Mail (Toronto))

“One of the more engaging primers on Islam available.” (Foreign Affairs)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060563397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060563394
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
El Fadl takes the explanation millions of Muslims have been trying to make for years and articulated it for the world to hear. Instead of denying that "extremist" Muslims who take part in suicide bombings and death are not actually Muslim at all, El Fadl points out the distinctifying differences between the minority under the say of puritanism and the majority that is all too unspoken for in the Western world.

This is the only way to make a definitive point to many Westerners, since many take to heart much of what they hear. El Fadl realizes that many of the horrible things heard about Muslims is indeed true but indicative of the acute minority that hardly represents the whole. Thus, El Fadl does not attempt to redefine what the average Western audience has heard rather than expand on what they've heard and make the difference between puritan ideaology and the majorly-supported moderate ideaology.

Also, El Fadl realizes that lauding any particular part of the Qur'an or going beyond observation will make a cause for debate. For this reason, El Fadl does not make his own points rather than refer to doctrines on both sides of the argument that are highly supported. He also distinguishes between any of his opinions and the factual blueprints of the separate ideaologies. This method not only allows the reader to make his or her own opinion, it allows them to see the obvious contradictions in a school of thought rather than the Qur'an itself. This distinctifies the obvious difference between man-made twisting of Qur'anic verse and the more grounded interpretations that have been established through ages of highly intellectual study.

El Fadl also addresses the harsh subject of declining jurisprudence in Islam.
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Format: Hardcover
It is difficult nowadays to get an objective, nuanced opinion on Islam, neither flattering nor biased against it. If I were to recommend a way to try and achieve this, I would suggest reading several good books on the matter, including this one among them.

Professor El-Fadl was appointed by President George W. Bush as a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a strong human rights advocate and sits on the Board of Directors for Human Rights Watch. Dr. El-Fadl currently serves on the on the Advisory Board of Middle East Watch

A scholar trained in both Islamic and Western law, he depicts an ongoing struggle between puritans (those embracing an absolutist and intolerant orientation) and moderates to define and apply Islam today. This book opposes violent fundamentalism and is groundbreaking in the clarity of its ideas and refreshing for its lack of hypocrisy. Professor El-Fadl clearly extols the path of moderation, portrayed as the core of Islam, and takes on tough issues such as Islam and human rights, the status of women, and the jihad. The author argues that the Prophet and the text plead for a humane and rational treatment of all people, with human worth and dignity transcending all other considerations, and he offers a vision for moderate Islam past, present, and future defending that "the responsibility for what humans do in God's name must fall on the shoulders of human beings".

All that (and much more that I do not mention in this summary) is developed in 308 pages (footnotes included), the book being divided in the following parts and chapters: PART ONE. THE BATTLEGROUND FOR FAITH. 1) Islam torn between extremists and moderation. 2) The roots of the problem. 3) The rise of early puritans.
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Format: Hardcover
This book can be summed into the voice of the moderate Muslim world that is rarely heard amidst the violence of the puritans. Divided into two parts, Abou El Fadl starts by describing the state of the Muslim world today, along with a good historical account of the rise of the two puritan sects: Wahhabism and Salafism. In the second part he charts the difference between moderate and puritan Islam, first starting the basic principles that all Muslims agree on before diving into the many topics of disagreement : God and the purpose of creation, the nature of law and morality, approaches to history and modernity, democracy and human rights, interacting with non-Muslims and salvation, jihad warfare and terrorism, the nature and role of women. It is through these chapters that one begins to see the great difference of viewpoints, how puritans manage to skew the Quranic verses and the Prophets (PBUH) Sunnah to fit their needs, and the dire need for moderate Muslims to speak up and work towards ending the many years of bloodshed that the puritans have caused in order to bring back Islam to its true nature - a moderate, compassionate, peaceful religion that protects the human right to life and liberty.

This is a book that both Muslims and non-Muslims alike can benefit from greatly, one that can clear many misconceptions that both have about Islam. To anyone who really wants to understand the Islamic faith and know the differences between what moderate and puritan Muslims believe, I cannot stress enough what a wonderful job Abou El Fadl did in addressing this topic in his book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand the Islamic faith and the transformation it is going through today.

Remember, nothing helps the puritans' cause as much as Western ignorance, prejudice, and hate.
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