The Islamic Enlightenment

The Islamic Enlightenment

The Struggle Between Faith and Reason : 1798 to Modern Times

Book - 2017
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A revelatory and game-changing narrative that rewrites everything we thought we knew about the modern history of the Islamic world. With majestic prose, Christopher de Bellaigue presents an absorbing account of the political and social reformations that transformed the lands of Islam in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Flying in the face of everything we thought we knew, The Islamic Enlightenment becomes an astonishing and revelatory history that offers a game-changing assessment of the Middle East since the Napoleonic Wars. Beginning his account in 1798, de Bellaigue demonstrates how Middle Eastern heartlands have long welcomed modern ideals and practices, including the adoption of modern medicine, the emergence of women from seclusion, and the development of democracy. With trenchant political and historical insight, de Bellaigue further shows how the violence of an infinitesimally small minority is in fact the tragic blowback from these modernizing processes. What makes The Islamic Enlightenment particularly germane is that non-Muslim pundits in the post-9/11 era have repeatedly called for Islam to subject itself to the transformations that the West has already achieved since the Enlightenment--the absurd implication being that if Muslims do not stop reading or following the tenets of the Qur'an and other holy books, they will never emerge from a benighted state of backwardness. The Islamic Enlightenment, with its revolutionary argument, completely refutes this view and, in the process, reveals the folly of Westerners demanding modernity from those whose lives are already drenched in it.
Publisher: New York :, Liveright Publishing Corporation,, 2017
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780871403735
Branch Call Number: 909.09767 DeB
Characteristics: xxxiv, 398 pages : illustrations (some colour)


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Nov 04, 2019

The book as a whole is well structured and well written; the first three chapters - the ones I found to be the best - were about intellectuals in Cairo, Istambul, and Tehran in the nineteenth century trying to incorporate ideas of secularism, capitalism, representative government and political equality into their respective societies. Later chapters, dealing with more interesting intellectual personages (especially al-Din Afghani) in the twentieth century, more relevant to today are discussed. The social-political-economic milieu of the societies is the main theatre of the ideas being discussed and disputed. The notes are awkward to read, since one has to then flip to the bibliography to actually read the reference. The ultimate impression is one that militates against tv-induced images, and shows the diversity and dynamism of Islamic intellectual life.

Jul 05, 2017

Interesting history but I think the "Enlightenment" in the title is misnomer. More like reluctant attempts at modernization by a few people followed by the big reaction we see today with ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood and other attempts to return to a medieval theocracy.

The European Enlightenment generated ideas internally. The Muslim world even in its Golden period mostly took ideas from other places like Greece and India and build on them. In the period described in the book the stagnant Muslim world adopted Western military methods and some political reorganization in self defence.

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