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Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty Hardcover – July 18, 2011
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"Informative at every turn, the author lifts the veil on the beautiful truths and harsh realities of a faith at war with itself, and ever-evolving in its interpretations and executions." -- Kirkus Book Reviews
"A delightfully original take on Turkey and on the prospects for liberal democracy in the broader Islamic Middle East." -- Wall Street Journal
"Akyol clarifies the complexities and contradictions of Islam in this indispensable book. He demonstrates how the harsh tribal cultures of the Arabian desert shaped Islam for centuries often at odds with the Qur'an... This even-handed scholarly work... makes Islam accessible to Western readers." -- Publishers Weekly
Akyol is doing important work that should have an impact well beyond his native Turkey. — Doug Bandow (American Spectator)
Starred Review. Informative at every turn. — Kirkus Reviews
From the Author
secular authoritarianism versus Islamic authoritarianism,
there is a third, and promising, way: Islamic liberalism.
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Top Customer Reviews
This question is all the more important now, as we observe the fallout from the Arab Spring of 2011. It is not rare to hear someone ask if there is something inherently authoritarian in Islam. Is democracy even worth trying? Should we be concerned, for example, that an Islamist regime will be elected in Egypt, replacing one kind of authoritarianism with another?
This excellent book by Mustafa Akyol, apparently written before the Arab Spring, speaks to these questions. It is an useful aide to those of us trying to understand these exciting and challenging times.
Akyol first traces the history of Islam, a survey which alone is incredibly helpful to this American reader.
Next Akyol points to a problem that should not surprise western Christians or western readers at large: the confusion of tradition/culture with scripture. By separating these two things, he argues, we can see seeds of liberalism within the scripture. Sharia -- which many fear and some for good reason -- is not scripture, and, Akyol reminds us, is written by men. Therefore it can be amended by men.
With such bold statements, one wonders if Akyol is nailing theses to doors. Only he is, apparently, not the first to do so. Others have come before him and, he says, it is worth taking a look at their work... as well as at the historical events that crushed it.
Finally looking to his home country, Akyol reports exciting news from Turkey. Thriving new economies, new (and old) means of public and private expression, discussions of freedom of religion. All these Turkish experiences, and others, give us means for optimism for the people of the so-called Middle East.
Key to it, Akyol argues, is not to throw away a "backward" religion but instead to embrace it. In fact, Akyol argues, stripping away the religion in Turkey -- just as others have imposed it elsewhere -- has been tried and resulted in disaster. Instead, a marriage of a secular (not "secularist") state and a free people is the recipe for not just the success of the state, the economy, and the nation but also for the faithful and free hearts of the people.
I have recommended this book, already, to many. The subject matter is interesting, as I have said, but in addition, Akyol somehow makes this rather intimidating topic into an enjoyable read. This makes Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty a unique and important work.
Putting aside this observation the insights as the contextual birth and developmental evolution of Islam against the backdrop of the societal environment that begot and molded the third leg of western theology based on the chief tenant of Abrahamic introduction, one supreme deity, is a worthwhile read. While the genesis of the Moslem faith is revisited along with the divide of Sunnis and Shiites the true value of the book is an examination of the two key principles that affect if not control the lives of the faithful – the Koran, written verses of the Prophet Mohammed and Shariah law, as derived from Islamic Hadith, supposedly oral ‘overheard’ sayings attributed to him of which thousands have circulated. Interesting that Judaism contains an identical parallel with the Torah and Mishnah or Gemara providing duel guidance for its followers. Both of these mutual references seem to cause the most problems in applying the two religions with faithful observance due at times troubled by the conflicting aspects between both as well as the interpretations offered of the two duel prime texts, the Koran and Torah by the respective Hadith and Mishnah . The author presents at great length how the Hadith impacted Islam observance across different social-political environments – and here he is at his best.
The second area where the author provides insightful references is in his discussion of the Ottoman Empire as it wrestled with the flow of modernization seeping across its western borders while trying to maintain its traditional Moslems roots. The old adage that to go forward one must understand and appreciate the past helps to give the reader a valued background for the events that continue to reshape the Islamic world today.
While the book has been criticized by the Islamic orthodoxy as to its historic religious references and political observers regarding the portrayal of how best to settle issues in the future; it might be best for its readers to draw their own conclusions as at least it offers another step on the ladder of knowledge in the complicated world of religious history as influenced by the social, political and economic environments that helped birth it and gave nourishment to its development.
This is way better than 'Destiny Disrupted'.
Must read for all Muslims !
Promise to come back and update this review after I complete the book....
OK, finished the book and as promised have come back to update my review.
Although 'Destiny Disrupted' is a much detailed account of Islamic history, Akyol's account provides a historical perspective on what led to Islam's decline, stagnation and ultimately extremism and despotism.
I strongly suggest all Muslims to read this to better understand themselves, their roots and traditions they take for granted.
And for someone curious about where extremism took its ugly roots in Islam, this book provides a detailed explanation.
Further, it dares to provide a solution to the problem of extremism.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was honored to borrow the author's mind & learn from a lifetime's worth of dedication to his cause.Read more