Synopses & Reviews
From furious reactions to the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to the suppression of women, news from the Muslim world begs the question: is Islam incompatible with freedom? With an eye sympathetic to Western liberalism and Islamic theology, Mustafa Akyol traces the ideological and historical roots of political Islam. The years following Muhammad's passing in 632 AD saw an intellectual "war of ideas" rage between rationalist, flexible schools of Islam and the more dogmatic, rigid ones. The traditionalist school won out, fostering perceptions of Islam as antithetical to modernity. However, through his careful reexamination of the currents of Muslim thought, Akyol discovers a flourishing of liberalism in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire and the unique "Islamo-liberal synthesis" of present-day Turkey. Only by accepting a secular state, he powerfully asserts, can Islamic societies thrive. Persuasive and inspiring, offers a desperately needed intellectual basis for the reconcilability of Islam and religious, political, economic, and social freedoms.
"Turkish journalist Akyol clarifies the complexities and contradictions of Islam in this indispensable book. He demonstrates how the harsh tribal cultures of the Arabian desert in the 7th century shaped Islam for centuries since their traditions evolved into unquestioned rules that were often at odds with the Qur'an. The Qur'an stresses family, rights for women, protection of the weak, the use of reason, and the freedom to choose-teachings similar to Jewish and Christian writings of the time. After Muhammad's death, opposing forces (adhering to tradition or the employment of reason as guides for life) clashed bitterly for centuries, their tribal harshness creating a political Islam. Yet Akyol argues that the Qur'an doesn't even include a definition of government. The resulting Islamic political systems are the products of men attempting to recreate the caliphate of 7th century Arabia, a goal that Akyol argues is impractical. This even-handed scholarly work, which also helps explain the rise of the Taliban and other extremists, makes Islam accessible to Western readers.
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A provocative manifesto for an interpretation of Islam that synthesizes liberal ideas and respect for the Islamic tradition.
About the Author
Mustafa Akyol lives in Istanbul and is a columnist for the Turkish newspapers Hürriyet Daily News and Star. He has written opinion pieces for the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, and Newsweek.