The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times 1st Edition
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- New York Times Book Review
“Excellent…Mr. de Bellaigue, the finest Orientalist of his generation, does the world a great service by charting the attainments of the region’s long 19th century….Focusing on Iran, Turkey and Egypt, ‘the three intellectual and political centres of the Middle East,’ Mr. de Bellaigue tells a story that is at once new, fascinating and extraordinarily important.”
- Bartle Bull, Wall Street Journal
“A stylishly written, surprisingly moving chronicle of intellectual and political flourishing in Egypt, Turkey, and Iran ― ‘the brain of Islam’ ― in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
“Deeply researched . . . . Beginning with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 and ending with the late 20th century, De Bellaigue shows how the cultural struggles between modernity and tradition unfolded in Istanbul, Cairo, and Tehran. . . .De Bellaigue is a knowledgeable guide through huge sweeps of cultural history”
- Nick Romeo, Christian Science Monitor
“The book reads at times like a thriller―it is a tale of reform and reaction, innovation and betrayal, a struggle, as the author would put it, between faith and reason. . . . With such divisive views elevated to state policy, a book that examines the Islamic world’s liberalization process―at least until the French and the English carved up the Middle East after 1918―is welcome.”
- Francis Ghiles, Arab Weekly
“A highly original and informative survey of the clashes between Islam and modernity in Istanbul, Cairo, and Tehran in the last two hundred years. Brilliant!”
- Orhan Pamuk, author of My Name Is Red
“An eye-opening, well-written and very timely book, which can help us understand better the complex relationship between the Muslim world and modernity. While both Islamic extremists and Western bigots find it convenient to stress the incompatibility of Islam and modernity, Christopher de Bellaigue shows that Islam is whatever Muslims make of it, and that at least some Muslims have made of it something very modern.”
- Yuval Harari, author of Homo Deus
“That there has been an Islamic Enlightenment at all will come as news to many. De Bellaigue’s account of the ‘very broad church’ of Islam in the modern world is splendid and timely.”
- Anthony Gottlieb, author of The Dream of Enlightenment
“Christopher de Bellaigue has long been one of our most resourceful and stimulating interpreters of realities veiled by fear and prejudice. In The Islamic Enlightenment, he cuts through the complacent opposition of Islam-versus-modernity to reveal a fascinating world: one in which complex human beings constantly change, improvise, and adjust under the pressures of history. It is the best sort of book for our disordered days: timely, urgent, and illuminating.”
- Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire
“A brilliantly learned and entertaining study of a topic that is of far more than merely antiquarian interest: the encounter between the Islamic world and the post-Enlightenment West.”
- Tom Holland, author of In the Shadow of the Sword
About the Author
- Publisher : Liveright; 1st edition (April 4, 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0871403730
- ISBN-13 : 978-0871403735
- Item Weight : 1.7 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,041,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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But it is here that de Bellaigue is unpersuasive. True, there have been pockets of free thinkers, women who removed the headdress, cultural critics who started western-style newspapers, businessmen (yes, almost all men) and politicians eager to embrace western ideals, mores and so forth in these three cities, again and again these progressive efforts are thwarted and crushed. de Bellaigue gives little compelling evidence of a kind of successful Islamic revolutionary and persistent "Enlightenment" of the sort that flowered in 18th-century France and which slowly but inexorably spread across the west, including of course to the "New World."
So by all means read this book. But if you're hoping or expecting to be persuaded that the western pundits and scholars (and some brave Muslim scholars and thinkers) are mistaken that Islamic thought is holding back progress... well... your hopes will be unfulfilled. Read this book along with Bernard Lewis' powerful "What went wrong?: The clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East," which though shorter is more clear headed and hence persuasive.
The books characters had multiple names which made the story hard to follow (no fault of the author). Many of the political and religeous leaders were determined to resist modernity for reasons on faith and pride and they were scornful of "the West". Modernity has made inroads into the Middle East, making those opposed to modernity more resentful and radical. For atheists and those of us that see God as a benevolent being, the suffering and waste of life and property resulting from the conflict is horrible and so sad. I hope those opposing modernity will read this book and find a better way forward..
Tom in Los Angeles
Top reviews from other countries
Ironically, the introduction of the book which is a slender chapter that touches upon the plurality of Islamic thought and the advancement and inclusivity of the Islamic Empire during its golden age of from the 8th century onwards, provided a snapshot on the ingredients required for innovation and stability. This should have contributed a much bigger part of the book. Instead we were given consecutive timelines from the three aforementioned areas and the populations' response to occupation and oppression. I feel the book 'Islamic Exceptionalism' by Shadi Hamid would give a better account of Islamic enlightenment and counter enlightenment, but there is no doubt that the book under review is full of facts and well written.