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A fascinating journey into Islam's diverse history of ideas, making an argument for an Islamic Enlightenment today In Reopening Muslim Minds, Mustafa Akyol, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and opinion writer for The New York Times, both diagnoses "the crisis of Islam" in the modern world, and offers a way forward. Diving deeply into Islamic theology, and also sharing le A fascinating journey into Islam's diverse history of ideas, making an argument for an Islamic Enlightenment today In Reopening Muslim Minds, Mustafa Akyol, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and opinion writer for The New York Times, both diagnoses "the crisis of Islam" in the modern world, and offers a way forward. Diving deeply into Islamic theology, and also sharing lessons from his own life story, he reveals how Muslims lost the universalism that made them a great civilization in their earlier centuries. He especially demonstrates how values often associated with Western Enlightenment -- freedom, reason, tolerance, and an appreciation of science -- had Islamic counterparts, which sadly were cast aside in favor of more dogmatic views, often for political ends. Elucidating complex ideas with engaging prose and storytelling, Reopening Muslim Minds borrows lost visions from medieval Muslim thinkers such as Ibn Rushd (aka Averroes), to offer a new Muslim worldview on a range of sensitive issues: human rights, equality for women, freedom of religion, or freedom from religion. While frankly acknowledging the problems in the world of Islam today, Akyol offers a clear and hopeful vision for its future.


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A fascinating journey into Islam's diverse history of ideas, making an argument for an Islamic Enlightenment today In Reopening Muslim Minds, Mustafa Akyol, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and opinion writer for The New York Times, both diagnoses "the crisis of Islam" in the modern world, and offers a way forward. Diving deeply into Islamic theology, and also sharing le A fascinating journey into Islam's diverse history of ideas, making an argument for an Islamic Enlightenment today In Reopening Muslim Minds, Mustafa Akyol, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and opinion writer for The New York Times, both diagnoses "the crisis of Islam" in the modern world, and offers a way forward. Diving deeply into Islamic theology, and also sharing lessons from his own life story, he reveals how Muslims lost the universalism that made them a great civilization in their earlier centuries. He especially demonstrates how values often associated with Western Enlightenment -- freedom, reason, tolerance, and an appreciation of science -- had Islamic counterparts, which sadly were cast aside in favor of more dogmatic views, often for political ends. Elucidating complex ideas with engaging prose and storytelling, Reopening Muslim Minds borrows lost visions from medieval Muslim thinkers such as Ibn Rushd (aka Averroes), to offer a new Muslim worldview on a range of sensitive issues: human rights, equality for women, freedom of religion, or freedom from religion. While frankly acknowledging the problems in the world of Islam today, Akyol offers a clear and hopeful vision for its future.

30 review for Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    I read the Qur’an for the first time nearly twenty years ago, and its message of compassion, generosity, and practicing good action has guided me many times since. Before my first reading, I had studied world religions, and my studies led me to having a great affinity for Islam and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Although I grew up in the Christian tradition, my admiration for Islam has continued to grow over the last twenty years, and many verses in the Qur’an are important in my life wi I read the Qur’an for the first time nearly twenty years ago, and its message of compassion, generosity, and practicing good action has guided me many times since. Before my first reading, I had studied world religions, and my studies led me to having a great affinity for Islam and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Although I grew up in the Christian tradition, my admiration for Islam has continued to grow over the last twenty years, and many verses in the Qur’an are important in my life with guiding me in understanding God and our diverse world. Some of the verses that resonate most with me are revealed in the fifth Surah. These verses are among those that Mustafa Akyol also cites towards the end of his remarkably thoughtful and enlightening new book Reopening Muslim Minds: “We have assigned a law and path to each of you. If God had so willed, He would have made you one community, but He wanted to test you through that which He has given you, so compete in doing good. You will all return to God and He will make clear to you the matters you differed about” (Qur’an 5:45-48). This message the Qur’an delivers to us has enlightened me with an understanding of how God acknowledges differences among religions, beliefs, ideas, and peoples because it is God who intended these differences. God did this so that we would have to learn from each other and coexist as many nations in seeking peace and understanding among each other, and in the end God will explain why He tested us with these differences. This type of universalism is what makes me so fond of Islam, and it is this universal open-mindedness that Akyol’s book explores in guiding us to see how Islam has always had at the heart of its scripture an emphasis on reason, freedom, and tolerance. With impressive research and fascinating insight, Akyol explains how the vibrant intellectualism of early Islam sadly eroded into a legal culture of countless laws and codes that sought to regulate every aspect of life at the expense of universal human rights. However, he also documents how those who followed the Mu’tazila way of thinking embraced the need to maintain freedom and reason within their theology. They adopted a worldview whereby they saw a synchronicity between faith and rationalism with both ways serving as valuable sources of knowledge. In addition, the Mu’tazila saw the world as having a “natural moral code” that enables humans to understand values apart from revelation. They also believed that the attainment of morality is possible without absolute compliance to traditions and customs of religion. In opposition to the open-mindedness of the Mu’tazila were those who adhered to Ash’arism. Akyol examines how Ash’arites believed in strict commitment to faith without need for any rational justification. They denied “ethical objectivism” and also rejected embracing the fairness of God’s benefaction. Instead, they chose to place exclusive reliance on what is good/bad and right/wrong based on the exactitude in Holy Scripture. Akyol shows how this “soliderlike obedience to religious texts reflects the mainstream religious mindset in broad parts of the Muslim world.” This has emboldened Ash’arism scholars to declare their allegiance to texts only, regardless of understanding context, time period, intention, or interpretation. Contrary to what Ash’arism espouses, Akyol steers us in understanding how the Qur’an guides us to practice justice and goodness and refrain from transgression and evil. He makes clear how the Qur’an entrusts us to innately understand ethical values of sensible morality. In fact, Akyol explains how the Qur’an emphasizes great positivity towards reason while also warning us against “whimsical desires.” Akyol’s extraordinary chronicle of Islamic history identifies the detriment of how the “divine command theory” of Ash’arism wrested the upper-hand away from the reason of the Mu’tazila open-mindedness. He then explains how after reason and ethics became marginalized, immoral acts became justified by conservatives who relied strictly on religious commandments. Even when modernity offered new and exciting knowledge, Islamic jurisprudence kept pushing for the same archaic rules and codes to be enacted. I agree with Akyol that we must harmonize religious rules that link believers with “universal principles” because he embraces how we can “learn from other cultures who may have cultivated the same values in their own traditions.” He goes on to explain how the “majesty of the early Islamic civilization” existed with a cosmopolitanism open to learning from the diverse knowledge of other cultures. In addition, he sees how regaining universalism requires re-acknowledging how Islam—the same as all religions—developed precisely because it embraced justice and compassion. He recognizes the challenge that universalism faces against extremists who demand subservience to divine commands by trying to crush rationalism, liberalism, feminism, and human rights as somehow evil forms of interacting with the world. I like how Akyol suggests we delve deeper into God’s commandments and connect with the intentions that can be gained therein from God’s Word. Akyol addresses how if the Sharia is about having a path to God and leading a righteous life the way God wants us to, then we must remember how the way of God is about wisdom, welfare, justice, and mercy. To the contrary, the Sharia is not about injustice and harm. Furthermore, if we are to embrace God’s way of knowledge and wisdom, we must understand how God put science and laws in motion within nature. One of the most interesting aspects of Akyol’s study is his showing how Islam’s history has always had a capacity to embrace science. He’s right when he observes, “The Qur’an repeatedly calls on humans to reflect on the created world and to realize the majesty of God.” The enormous challenge is to redirect popular Muslim culture, which too often places God as the sole arbiter of rewards and punishments. This narrow way of thinking prevents understanding the dynamics of the complex world and it dismisses hard work, technology, and creativity as irrelevant in producing results. Such irrational thinking perceives natural disasters as divine wrath, and likewise any human achievement as a divine reward. The hypocrisy rampant in this way of thinking is glaringly obvious in the fact that these individuals doubt science yet they want iPhones and war technology, and yet they show utter disdain for the science that created these modern advancements. I’m with Akyol when he suggests we seek intuition alongside religion to help us embrace the truth of how to lead better lives. He shows how the Qur’an asks us to reflect on creation and created things and also to pursue knowledge because the truth of philosophy and science do not negate the truth of faith. I love how he embraces both faith and science to believe in “a more principled and intelligible God.” Furthermore, reason leads us to understand that in order for the Qur’an to be eternal, it needs to work for all people in every generation and it needs, as Akyol says, to work in accordance with “universal ethical values, and the changing circumstances of the human reality.” Akyol goes on to point out that another challenge Islam has faced since its advent has been the ambitions of powerful states to make Islam into what they want it to be for everyone. To attain that narrow reality, they suppress valid approaches to learning and to human rights by installing the narrowness of their own draconian beliefs. Judaism and Christianity, he points out, have fared somewhat better throughout history with distancing themselves from state politics. What Akyol ultimately advocates is “going back to the context of the Qur’an in order to understand the divine intentions behind laws, and then coming back to the modern context to formulate new laws to serve those intentions.” By doing this, we embrace the origins of how Islam has always preached monotheism, and it is Muhammad, as the final messenger, who served God as a great teacher, leader, reformer, and also, as Akyol points out, a “warner” in guiding people to do good by God. However, if some choose not to listen to the way of God’s goodness, it should not be in our human capacity to judge and punish them, for the Qur’an instructs us that everything is in God’s hands. Therefore, it is His job to decide, and it is our job to seek our own inner freedom and our own sincerity in connecting with God. Therefore, Akyol advises us against overstepping our human capacity, and he uses reason to confront oppression: “Any attempt at religious policing is nothing other than imposition of the Islam of whomever has power in any given territory. What is imposed is not ‘God’s will,’ in other words, but the law of Wahhabi clerics, Shiite ayatollahs, or Shafi’i jurists.” He believes the embrace of reason, freedom, and tolerance is possible if we “let all Muslims follow their own traditions and persuasions, ‘postpone’ their unresolved disputes to the afterlife, and respect each as Ahl al-Qibla.” If we can reach this level of acceptance, Akyol reminds us that Islam will again resonate with “a liberating force” that has always been an eternal quality of its humane message and teachings. Reopening Muslim Minds offers us a brilliant piece of historical scholarship and an equally compassionate and inspiring exploration of faith and the human capacity for embracing universal ethics. As someone who grew up as a Christian in America, I have also found a natural affinity for Islam’s teachings because of the universalism, humanity, and ingenuity essential within its message. Akyol’s remarkable book enables us to reconnect with the timelessness of Islam’s universalism, and his work represents the ethical approach we need to open our hearts and expand our minds. Akyol’s book may be speaking to Muslims, but whether we are Jews, Christians, Muslims, or another faith, his advocacy for recognizing the value in diverse beliefs and for promoting the power of learning is something we can all embrace. Muhammad guided the ummah with universal ethics, and so Islam has always had an acceptance of others and their beliefs. For those who love the message of Islam that Muhammad shared with us, Akyol reminds us how we must be willing to see reason, freedom, and tolerance as forever resonant within the faith. We must also be willing to accept open-mindedness as a worthy path to fulfilling God’s goodness. If anyone has a few extra minutes, check out my essay “Believing in the Prophethoods of Jesus and Muhammad: A Christian’s Deeper Understanding of God Through Islam” posted to my blog on 1/15/21: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Frederic Kerr

    I thank St. Martin's Press/Macmillan Publishers for providing me with an advance copy of this book via NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review but received the book free of charge. Islam's global reputation has suffered since 2001. Decades ago, my mother observed that in the Middle Ages, the Muslim world's mathematics were ahead of Europe's. My kids attended school with many moderate, very liberal-minded Ismaili Muslims (Shia) and I worked with moderate Sunni Muslims. In medieval, Islami I thank St. Martin's Press/Macmillan Publishers for providing me with an advance copy of this book via NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review but received the book free of charge. Islam's global reputation has suffered since 2001. Decades ago, my mother observed that in the Middle Ages, the Muslim world's mathematics were ahead of Europe's. My kids attended school with many moderate, very liberal-minded Ismaili Muslims (Shia) and I worked with moderate Sunni Muslims. In medieval, Islamic Spain, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in relative harmony, which they might not have done so easily in Christian countries of the time. Author and Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, himself a Muslim, asks what happened to that tolerant, advanced, more liberal Islam. Why, he asks, are so many Muslim majority countries today among the world's worst governed, least economically advanced, least tolerant and least democratic? It is fascinating to read Akyol's account of how the scriptures of Islam were created. The Qu'ran is supplemented by the Hadith, stories of Muhammed's life and teachings. Like the Bible, much of the Qu'ran and Hadith were written down long after the life of the Prophet. Various leaders in the war-torn, medieval Arabian Peninsula edited and redacted the Qu'ran and especially the Hadith to suit their political purposes, which led to many liberal, tolerant ideas being de-emphasized or removed. Islamic political leaders tended to be religious leaders, a conflict of interest that persists to this day. Islam is an integrated faith and political system. There's been no Islamic reformation to separate mosque and state, as Akyol and other authors like Ayaan Hirsi Ali point out. Akyol notes that the historical pattern of Islamic censorship and repression continued for most of the next 14 centuries, as the forces of coercion and literalism triumphed both politically and spiritually over moderate voices. He describes a brilliant, 12th century Muslim scholar, physician and jurist named Ibn Rushd, who lived in Córdoba, Spain at the same time as a noted Jewish scholar named Moses ben Maimon. Rushd was famous for his insightful commentaries on the works of Aristotle, which inspired scholars across Europe, but Rushd fell out of favour with Islamic rulers of Spain and his books were burned. Rushd is still known and admired thanks to translations to Latin and Hebrew, but his own faith and the Islamic caliphate then ruling Spain cancelled him, mostly for being too liberal. He is sometimes called the last Muslim philosopher. Meanwhile, ben Maimon, despite being a Jew living under that same Islamic government in Spain, became a celebrated Talmudic scholar, jurist and philosopher. In fact , ben Maimon was the physician to the sultan Saladin. Multi-talented ben Maimon was eventually driven into exile by Muslim leaders, but nobody burned his works and he is revered to this day. Having just read several books on the rise of Postmodernist/Wokeness/Critical Theory/Identity politics to its current dominance of Western, non-Muslim culture, I was struck by similarities between today's Woke philosophy and Akyol's description of Islam, which many might perceive as the opposite of Woke. Both Wokeness and Islam subordinate the individual to the group identity, defend a rules based doctrine that discourages reflection, show intense hostility to debate and demonstrate willingness to cancel opponents until all are either converted or cancelled. This is relevant because criticism of powerful institutions, including governments and all religions, is absolutely vital to keep them in check. Oppression by groups, governments and religions who censor criticism is a huge and rising threat to human freedom. Authors like Mustafa Akyol, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Flemming Rose, Douglas Murray, Dr. Gad Saad and Helen Pluckrose are doing a huge service to us all by highlighting the dangers of illiberalism in media, government, academia and religion. We know from Akyol, from other authors and from current events that Islam can be hard on its adherents, especially women and LGBTQ people. Some branches of Islam condone brutal treatment of non-Muslims. Akyol appeals to the universal humanity of Muslims, suggesting they reconsider literal interpretations of medieval texts. He urges Muslims instead to follow their human instincts, treating others as they would wish to be treated and steering the faith back to its more tolerant, less dogmatic roots. That seems a long shot, because while the literalist approach within the faith is not universal, it remains entrenched, as global opinion polls demonstrate. It's vital and very brave of Muslim authors like Akyol and Hirsi Ali to call for an Islamic reformation and risk being leaders of change. This is an important book, which everyone should read. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, some of whom share Akyol's thirst for renewal. Many more will need to speak out for reform, if the reformers' vision is to become a reality. Let us hope that those with the most to gain from positive change, like the hundreds of millions of Muslim women, will find their voices.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chaunceton Bird

    What an eye-opening book. I was learning new information on every page, much of which was unsettling. This book is a shocking reminder of how lacking the Islamic world (defined loosely as countries where Islam is widespread, and is affecting the law of the land in some material way) lacks ideological freedom. As an American, I sometimes take for granted our ability to believe what we want, express those beliefs openly, and face absolutely no retribution or consequence for doing so. This is not s What an eye-opening book. I was learning new information on every page, much of which was unsettling. This book is a shocking reminder of how lacking the Islamic world (defined loosely as countries where Islam is widespread, and is affecting the law of the land in some material way) lacks ideological freedom. As an American, I sometimes take for granted our ability to believe what we want, express those beliefs openly, and face absolutely no retribution or consequence for doing so. This is not so in the Islamic world. Mustafa Akyol shares an inside perspective on what it means to live in the Islamic world, and how one's mind becomes rigid with a set of ideals shared by all. Those ideals, stated simply, are that a god exists, and that that god has created strict, tedious rules for humans, and that if all humans do not exercise absolute obedience to those rules, other humans are justified in subjecting the disobedient humans to violence, imprisonment, and even death. Mr. Akyol also demonstrates throughout the book how convincing large populations of people to adhere to the Quran works to the benefit of rulers and leaders in those lands. Upsetting stuff. Ultimately, the author encourages Muslims to accept values like free-thinking, tolerance, equality, and rationality by arguing that those values are already present in Islam's underlying texts. It is disturbing that over one billion members of humanity need convincing that freedom of thought and equality for all is something to be embraced instead of punished with death. But by meeting the Muslim world with their own beliefs and teachings, and encouraging more progressive ideals, that is exactly what Mr. Akyol attempts to do. I received a courtesy copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. The means by which I came into possession of this book has not affected my opinion of the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary & Tom

    A very interesting read. This text explores the different views that have arisen in the Muslim religion concerning various interpretations of the Quran throughout history. The author, Mustafa Akyol, has carefully researched and documented the information presented in his book. Since I am not familiar with Islam and have not studied the history of religion, I did feel a bit overwhelmed by all the numerous religious authorities, religious leaders, and scholars’ names in the discussion and argument A very interesting read. This text explores the different views that have arisen in the Muslim religion concerning various interpretations of the Quran throughout history. The author, Mustafa Akyol, has carefully researched and documented the information presented in his book. Since I am not familiar with Islam and have not studied the history of religion, I did feel a bit overwhelmed by all the numerous religious authorities, religious leaders, and scholars’ names in the discussion and arguments presented in the book. However, this does not hinder Akyol from making his point clear and that is that not all interpretations of the Quran require Muslins to hate and wish to destroy all those who do not practice their faith. Akyol argues that some interpretations support an ideal of religious tolerance and understanding. Akyol’s message is not just for western Christians but also for Jews and Muslims. He wants to remove the hatred from this faith and encourage a climate of understanding, and his research, presented in this text, demonstrates that his view is soundly based on the idea of religious tolerance set forth in many readings of the Quran. I received a free electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sanae B.

    In a world torn between the fear of Muslims and the coercive practice of Islam, the book “Reopening Muslim minds” leads the way to enlightenment. The latter highlights the major dilemmas in the practice of Islam in Muslim-majority countries. Islam happens to be coercive and imposed upon people in certain countries. Examples of such coercion would reside in the punishment of Muslims caught eating during Ramadan, the forced veiling of women or the sanction of Alcohol drinking. Needless, to say tha In a world torn between the fear of Muslims and the coercive practice of Islam, the book “Reopening Muslim minds” leads the way to enlightenment. The latter highlights the major dilemmas in the practice of Islam in Muslim-majority countries. Islam happens to be coercive and imposed upon people in certain countries. Examples of such coercion would reside in the punishment of Muslims caught eating during Ramadan, the forced veiling of women or the sanction of Alcohol drinking. Needless, to say that this medieval coercion goes against the very core of Islam: religious freedom. The Qur'anic verse “there is no compulsion in religion” not only frees non-Muslims from reverting, but also Muslims in their practice, or not at all, of Islam. Indeed, it also goes against the very human right to freedom, choice and self-expression. Another issue tackled is the cancellation of some Islamic school of thoughts and philosophers for their reading of the Quran, found to be liberal, western-oriented and at worse heretical. The Mu’tazila, for instance, is an Islamic school of theology based around three fundamental principles: the oneness and justice of God, human freedom of action and the creation of the Quran. This current has been developed around logic, rationalism and inspired by Greek philosophers. Last but not least, the Mu’tazila defends the free-will given the existence of evil in a world where God is omnipotent. This opens an interesting door as far as predestination in Islam is concerned. As of today, in Muslim-majority countries, Islam is reduced to a bench of rules revealed in the Qur’an or the Sharia Laws that are, most of the time, blindly followed, deprived from the context of their release and their meaning. For instance, the hand cutting of the thief may have made more sense in a nomad civilization that can’t afford a mobile imprisonment and in an age where alms, help and food were giving to poor and needy people. Besides, the spiritual aspect of Islam and the importance in bearing its values are too often put aside. This shows in the high level of corruption in Muslim-majority countries, for instance. The two issues raised above, are all the more emphasized because to the decay of the Qur’an interpretation and research in the light of the current age. #2ndBookReview #OnePerspective #Religion #Enlightenment #Tolerance #Openness #Reason #Freedom #ReopeningMuslimMinds

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hassan Ahmed

    A good read for muslims who have felt, lived, observed, seen much of what Muslim world has become and who think about it. For those who are not conviced to renounce the truth and essence of Islam because of the current outer state of the nations and peoples who claim it, this book is a refreshing read. "Reopening Muslim Minds" answers theoretically the central question of what factors contributed to the current state of the Islamic world and what is needed to be done in order to progress from t A good read for muslims who have felt, lived, observed, seen much of what Muslim world has become and who think about it. For those who are not conviced to renounce the truth and essence of Islam because of the current outer state of the nations and peoples who claim it, this book is a refreshing read. "Reopening Muslim Minds" answers theoretically the central question of what factors contributed to the current state of the Islamic world and what is needed to be done in order to progress from this point, in a readable and easy-to-understand but academically sound manner. What is the "current state" of the Islamic world that so much requires change. The author starts the book with a personal anecdote that illustrates the problem, and discusses (especially in chapters 4-7) the "current state" in depth: lack of ethical behavior, Isolationism and exceptionalism, stagnation of sharia and lack of knowledge and scientific output. Lack of critical and creative thinking, subservience to authoritarian power, and lack of curiosity to learn and adapt. These are the results of a theological stance that permeated what later became the orthodoxy, a stance which apparently denies reason, discourages tolerance and denounces freedom. And also of politically-motivated interference in the religion and religiously-motivated politics which was common in the Islamic world in its early ages. But it was never the only theology, or even the only accepted theology of Islam. This is the thing that the author explores throughout the book, that there clearly are resources within Islamic tradition that support reason, tolerance and freedom (Mutazilite Theology, Islamic Philosophy, Maqasidi Sharia, Raye, "Irja", to name a few) and various individual scholars that advocated these. Muslims must revisit these and relearn the assumptions, beliefs and behaviours that once made Islamic civilization great. The book's arguments, or its discussion of alternative but also actually Islamic paths is not exhaustive. There is room for more discussion in every chapter, but what's written is sufficient to make the point clear. The aims of the author are noble and respectable. In short, a good case for Islamic Enlightenment.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donald Grant

    Too bad this will fall on deaf ears.... My first reaction to this book is that the Muslims that need to read it will probably never see it. The second reaction is the title could have just as well been, with a few adjustments, "Reopening Christian Minds." Akyol lays out a well researched discussion of just how Islam went from a religion of peace and tolerance to the current state of war and intolerance. The evolution of how fundamentalist can take over and control the mindset of believers is bad e Too bad this will fall on deaf ears.... My first reaction to this book is that the Muslims that need to read it will probably never see it. The second reaction is the title could have just as well been, with a few adjustments, "Reopening Christian Minds." Akyol lays out a well researched discussion of just how Islam went from a religion of peace and tolerance to the current state of war and intolerance. The evolution of how fundamentalist can take over and control the mindset of believers is bad enough, but when they become the political power the progress of a once great nation moves backward. Akyol's reasoning can be applied to any religion. When open discussion is shutdown, when questioning becomes heresy, when fundamentalist stifle theological studies, any religion can become pharisee like. The current Muslim regimes, for the most part, take all of this to the extreme. Any time the Quran or the Bible or any religions "scripture" is used as a rulebook as opposed to a love letter from God, the situation Akyol describes for Muslims can become the reality for any belief system. This book is a warning for all religions. This one gets five stars

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed Saidi

    10/5 AMAZING. If you are a Muslim this is a must! if you re not it should still be a very worthwhile read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Israa

    Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy. This book reads as a historical or political textbook, but at least it has some interesting personal connections and understandable real-life examples. Those who have watched the "Imam Ahmed" series (available on YouTube with English subtitles) would appreciate this book, as it explains the different theological discussions from the time period. The author discusses theology, politics, and history from a balanced lens. I appreciate the discussion of how Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy. This book reads as a historical or political textbook, but at least it has some interesting personal connections and understandable real-life examples. Those who have watched the "Imam Ahmed" series (available on YouTube with English subtitles) would appreciate this book, as it explains the different theological discussions from the time period. The author discusses theology, politics, and history from a balanced lens. I appreciate the discussion of how Muslim societies need to "revive objective ethical values," "reconnect with the rest of humanity" and go back to being universal. The author clearly dispels misconceptions, misinterpretations, and strict mis-constructs of Islam and its teachings. I think including a graphic timeline would provide a good tool for scholars or teachers. The resources and references are well researched and cited, without being overly reliant on quoting scripture or preaching. It is easy to read without too many unexplained foreign words, and it does not need a glossary. I would recommend this book for older adults, but I don't see the younger generations being interested due to its heavy content. Those in authority to influence and make changes should definitely read this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Singer

    This is an informative book. However, it does not carry its argument. The author traces the persistent presence through the ages of those who seek to bring Islam to a tolerant, reason based, point of view. And the author describes his own legal and critical analysis that provides that Islam at its roots is tolerant and reason based. Yet, the author does not provide any explanation as to why Islam and its followers have repeatedly chosen to reject the tolerant/reason based approach; nor does the This is an informative book. However, it does not carry its argument. The author traces the persistent presence through the ages of those who seek to bring Islam to a tolerant, reason based, point of view. And the author describes his own legal and critical analysis that provides that Islam at its roots is tolerant and reason based. Yet, the author does not provide any explanation as to why Islam and its followers have repeatedly chosen to reject the tolerant/reason based approach; nor does the author tell us why official Islam and its followers would be persuaded to accept his arguments. While, in a very brief discussion, the author argues that moderation has been adopted, his lack of factual detail to support that assertion does not override his own citation that there are approximately 30 countries that, as a matter of law, follow the most intolerant and rigid Islamic doctrines.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Duane Miller

    I live in Spain where everyone knows about Don Quixote. Don Quixote took upon himself the role of a knight errant, searching out the damsel in distress and the unjustly oppressed to free them from the powers of sorcery and corruption. He was dreaming the impossible dream. I wonder if Akyol is doing the same thing here. In this excellent and readable book he outlines his vision of a tolerant vision of te sharia, identifying where things went wrong in the history of Islamic jurisprudence. (Chief am I live in Spain where everyone knows about Don Quixote. Don Quixote took upon himself the role of a knight errant, searching out the damsel in distress and the unjustly oppressed to free them from the powers of sorcery and corruption. He was dreaming the impossible dream. I wonder if Akyol is doing the same thing here. In this excellent and readable book he outlines his vision of a tolerant vision of te sharia, identifying where things went wrong in the history of Islamic jurisprudence. (Chief among them are the defeat of the Mu'tazila and the later victory of Al Ghazali over Islamic philosophy.) Well, as a Christian who has lived many years in the Middle East, all I can say is, "Best wishes." I do hope that this vision of a more tolerant and pluralistic Islam will gain steam an succeed. But even if it doesn't happen, I suspect he'll be viewed like the hero Don Quixote, who was more remembered for his beautiful dream than for his ultimate lack of success.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed Lary

    Some really grand claims are introduced in the book .. pretty interesting but not supported by solid evidence and discussion .. an easy read but I believe in order to have these ideas get penetrated in hard core Muslim societies it should be based on some deeper discussions .. To be honest I enjoyed reading a Muslim Turkish-secular point of view on Islam .. it really deals with Islam with an honest intention rather than the so-called secular writings and articles in the Gulf region that we face e Some really grand claims are introduced in the book .. pretty interesting but not supported by solid evidence and discussion .. an easy read but I believe in order to have these ideas get penetrated in hard core Muslim societies it should be based on some deeper discussions .. To be honest I enjoyed reading a Muslim Turkish-secular point of view on Islam .. it really deals with Islam with an honest intention rather than the so-called secular writings and articles in the Gulf region that we face everyday here ..

  13. 4 out of 5

    Othman Abdul Rahim

    A very good book, well written and researched. However, I doubt the mainstream Muslims can open up their minds (at least not in my life time) as most of them rely so much on the religious scholars and institutions which have been so ingrained in their blood. Being different from the mainstream is a taboo to most of them. Keep up the good work, Mustafa Akyol. Islam, as a Deen, needs people like you to open up our minds.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cathleen

    A detailed, well-researched text on how Islam shifted from a religion that encouraged thought, science, and universalism to the spectrum of sects that exist today, from extremists, to those who literally interpret the Qu’ran, to those who call for a more liberal exchange of ideas, mixing modern situations, secular law, and new considerations, and those who fall elsewhere.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sabeeha Rehman

    Remarkable book. True to its title, it not only opened my mind, but validated my approach towards #islam What was based on my common sense, he establishes with evidence & the power of reason. He clearly explains why Muslim nations have fallen behind. A Must-Read, particularly for Muslims. I have added this book to my gift list.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This was such an incredible book. It was compellingly written, and I learned so much. Although I am not a Muslim, I appreciated the overall message of this book and do not think it is one only relevant to Muslims. I would recommend this book to anyone.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    Thought-provoking and convincingly argued.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Koloze

    A lucid appeal to use reason, this book can be a tool for freeing Muslims from a despotic Islam. While the author’s intent in writing this book was not to steer Muslims away from Islamic rules, my reading of this scholarly yet readable work concludes that Catholic evangelists have a magnificent opportunity to share the Faith with people who have suffered for 1,400 years under an aggressive and irrational system which purports to be a religion. Akyol believes that intellectual reform is needed in I A lucid appeal to use reason, this book can be a tool for freeing Muslims from a despotic Islam. While the author’s intent in writing this book was not to steer Muslims away from Islamic rules, my reading of this scholarly yet readable work concludes that Catholic evangelists have a magnificent opportunity to share the Faith with people who have suffered for 1,400 years under an aggressive and irrational system which purports to be a religion. Akyol believes that intellectual reform is needed in Islam because it has “come to a dead end” (232) and because Islam “connotes aggression, intolerance, or patriarchy” (233). It is not surprising, therefore, that the book discusses Islam in stunningly negative terms. Islam has committed “intellectual suicide” over the past 1,000 years by rejecting rational thought from some of its major philosophers, including ibn Rushd and Averroes (xviii and 130). Even though Averroes, like St. Thomas Aquinas in the Christian West, “argued that the findings of philosophy would not contradict the teaching of revelation” (112), al-Ghazali recommended death for philosophers (110). Muslims are instructed to abide by rules established by Quranic jurisprudence, not, as in the Jewish and Christian West, by faith informed by reason (12). The result, Akyol argues, is that, “in a long historical process, Islamic jurisprudence had become ‘a pile of rules,’ among which morality had ‘evaporated’” (46). Moreover, Akyol’s discussion of Islam’s idea of “God” should leave rational people dumbfounded. He asserts that Islam created a god who “was not really ‘lovable’” (34). Muslims view God like a despotic ruler (152) because “God is always invisible and unreadable” (154). These ideas are difficult for Westerners to understand since we know God as personal and worthy of our intellectual effort. With such an impersonal and quixotic view of God, it is no wonder, then, that Akyol concludes that Islam “connotes aggression, intolerance, or patriarchy.” I would replace “patriarchy”, an idea not elaborated as thoroughly beyond a few mentions of gender equality (13, 65, and 121), with “backwardness”, an idea which can be supported by numerous examples from the book. Islamic militarism has been obvious for the past 1,400 years; one wonders if Islam’s billion or so “followers” would remain Muslim if they were freed from an Islam—which is deeply connected with the notion of adherence to the political state—if they were given the choice. Akyol’s discussions of the “Compulsionists” vs. those who believed in free will (14) and Islam’s hold on forcing people to remain Muslim lest they be executed for apostasy ([195ff]) are particularly enlightening. What I found most memorable are the numerous instances of Islam’s backwardness and intolerance, both of ideas and people who disagree with the Sharia-sanctioned edicts of those who wield power in the system. Islam’s backwardness is remarkable and makes one appreciate living in the Western world, informed by Jewish and Christian values. Unlike the West, where monasteries saved manuscripts from barbarian destroyers and where philosophical ideas are argued thoroughly, the rejection of philosophical debate is suggested by several accounts where manuscripts discussing the question of reason were neglected or, worse, destroyed; one manuscript lay dormant from the late fifteenth century to the 2010s (41). Similarly, Islam’s backwardness is evident in that the printing press arrived in the Ottoman Muslim world three centuries after Gutenberg (102). “’Political science’ would remain almost nonexistent in the Islamic world until the modern era”, Akyol claims, all because a political leader must be obeyed (145 and 152; internal quotes in original). As a final example, while the West abolished it in the nineteenth century, Saudi Arabia and Yemen abolished slavery in 1962, and Mauritania abolished it in 1981; Islamic scholars, however, support slavery as consistent with the Quran (63-4). Islam’s intolerance through the centuries is common knowledge; what might not be common knowledge is that its intolerance continues in our century. Unlike the West, where divergent views are tolerated, those who espouse views which conflict with the autocratic interpretation of Quranic suras can be executed for apostasy, as in the case of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a 75-year-old Muslim scholar, who was hanged in 1985 in Sudan for his ideas (179). The case of Asia Bibi documents how free speech is impossible in Islam because “repeating blasphemy is also blasphemy” (204). These instances particularly illustrate what Akyol calls Muslims’ “tolerance deficit” (212). Despite the numerous negatives which he summarizes about Islam’s irrationality, intolerance, and backwardness, Akyol hopes that Islam will adopt reason as a foundation principle. I suggest, however, that the hope is not contained either in a trust that reason will succeed or in the author’s idea that Islam needs “a new genre of art and literature” (54). Akyol hints at a better solution to the intellectual suicide of Islam when he reports that the hypocrisy of Islamic fundamentalists in Iran led to “many Iranians [who] left the religion, converting to Christianity or atheism” (193). Leaving Islam is a good thing. Doing so enables one to think freely and to see that Christianity is not the hostile force claimed by those who hold Islamic theological power. Promoting the work of St. Thomas Aquinas may help since that thirteenth-century saint developed important ideas in Western Christianity which shaped the modern world. For example, we in the West have internalized St. Thomas Aquinas’ conclusion that “behind God’s commandments there are objective moral values”, a conclusion which “led to the concept of ‘natural law’” (30-1), a concept which Akyol says is largely ignored in Islamic thinking. Another idea familiar to Western readers, which is missing in Islam, is the importance of individual conscience; unlike the West, where countries have ancient Greek and Christian roots, “The truth is that, in mainstream classical Islam, there really was no well-defined concept of conscience” (52). Finally, while Akyol anticipates “a brighter future” (230) for Islam, I argue it would be better for Muslims to abandon Islam and become Catholic Christians. Doing so will modernize them not only intellectually with ideas which have been around for millennia, but also spiritually with God who is not merely a lawgiver (as in Islam), but just, personal, and loving. Note: Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, I recommend not buying this book on Amazon. (Why give your hard-earned dollars to a company that censors books?) Instead, buy this book directly from the publisher.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Umar Lee

    Anyone who needs to read this book isn't going to read it and anyone who is reading this book probably agrees with the central thesis. I'm in agreement with many of Akyol's arguments and suggestions; but bolstering his points by cherry picking Islamic opinions and precedents is not a wise methodology in my opinion. This book is also another case of too popular to be academic and too academic to be popular. Anyone who needs to read this book isn't going to read it and anyone who is reading this book probably agrees with the central thesis. I'm in agreement with many of Akyol's arguments and suggestions; but bolstering his points by cherry picking Islamic opinions and precedents is not a wise methodology in my opinion. This book is also another case of too popular to be academic and too academic to be popular.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Islamic philosophical/political theology and reflections on how islam can relate to liberalism. Interesting thoughts. Want to see this in relation to other perspectives at this intersection

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    A great book to learn about the Muslim culture.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ronald J.

    The Introduction is titled: “A Night with the Religion Police.” If that doesn’t draw you in to this book, you’re not curious. I found this book enlightening, and historically fascinating. There’s a lot of caricatures surrounding Islam, and Mustafa corrects the record. He writes that about a dozen Islamic states punish apostates with the death penalty. This despite the Quran’s phrase: “There is no compulsion in religion.” Faith is not something you can police, he says. He describes the two brands The Introduction is titled: “A Night with the Religion Police.” If that doesn’t draw you in to this book, you’re not curious. I found this book enlightening, and historically fascinating. There’s a lot of caricatures surrounding Islam, and Mustafa corrects the record. He writes that about a dozen Islamic states punish apostates with the death penalty. This despite the Quran’s phrase: “There is no compulsion in religion.” Faith is not something you can police, he says. He describes the two brands of Islam: Sunni” and “S’’hiite, 90% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunni. Where they differ is in which is rightful heir to Muhammad, his first caliph (successors). He explains how Muhammad was a merchant. When he was asked to lower prices, he responded: “Fixing prices is an injustice to the merchants.” In some respects, Islam was the center of capitalism 1,000 years ago—it was the most advanced in the world. It was the leader in astronomy, physics, mathematics, medicine, optics, philosophy, law, economy, architecture, urban planning, and music. Mustafa explains its “exceptional absorptive quality”—synthesizing knowledge from many cultures. “It’s common for Muslims to long for this golden age of Islam. But there’s not enough introspection about how it came to be and why it faded away.” He explains why there’s not enough introspection. He explains the difference between voluntarism and intellectualism. The former believes God doesn’t command good actions or prohibit evil. To the contrary, these are good and evil because they are commanded by God. Alternatively, intellectualism believe there are objective moral values behind God’s commandments, which men are forced to give their assent, which led to Natural Law. He explains in one chapter, “Why We Lost Reason, Really.” He says the real difference with Judaism and Christianity: their association with the state has not been as permanent and definitive as it was in Islam. He profiles the Towering Muslim thinker: Ibn Khaldun, born in Tunisia in 1332. He essentially explained the Laffer Curve (without drawing it on a napkin). Laffer cites Ibn as an inspiration for the Curve (see https://www.heritage.org/taxes/report...). Even Ronald Reagan, first in a press conference in 1981, and later in New York Times op-ed in 1993, quoted from Ibn: “At the beginning of the empire, the tax rates were low and the revenues were high. At the end of the empire, the tax rates were high and the revenues were low.” Here is how Ibn explained it: "When tax assessments and imposts upon the subjects are low, the latter have the energy and desire to do things. Cultural enterprises grow and increase, because the low taxes bring satisfaction. When cultural enterprises grow, the number of individual imposts and assessments mounts. In consequence, the tax revenue, which is the sum total of (the individual assessments), increases." Chapter 11 is titled, “Freedom Matters,” where Mustafa asks, What is freedom? And What does it mean? I asked him in our interview he agreed with these definitions: Liberty is the absence of coercion, while freedom is a choice (it my choice to follow religious edicts, diet, marriage vows, etc.). He agreed. And as Bernard Lewis wrote: “The medieval Islamic world offered vastly more freedom than any of its predecessors” Mustafa writes: “The big remedy we need—call it a great “reform” or “renewal”—is really having “no compulsion in religion. We would not be the first major world religion to have this transformation—although we may be the last.” He also describe the Irja, which allows Muslims to tolerate things that they disapprove, so they leave the judgment to God. He cites Abraham Lincoln response to one of his supporters who said to him about the Civil War: “God is on our side.” Lincoln replied: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.” He also cites a key passage from the Qur’anic sura Ma’ida: Jews follow the Torah, Christians the Gospel. Let us compete in doing good and “You will all return to God and He will make clear to you the matters you differed about.” He also explains the famous play: Nathan the Wise, and parable of three rings, which represent the three great Abrahamic religions. Of the three valuable rings, only one was authentic. People wore them, and wouldn’t be told until the afterlife. Absolute truth was the prerogative of God alone …unattainable by man. Rose Wilder Lane, an American libertarian writer, saw the birth of Islam as a major step forward in “man’s struggle against authority.” Islam, she wrote back in 1943, saved Arabs from “pagan gods,” only to declare, “men are equal and free.” Islam also built a “tolerant” and “humane” civilization, she added, with unmatched “religious freedom.” This is a fantastic book from a Muslim who loves liberty. Well worth the read. We had the honor of interviewing Mustafa Akyol on The Soul of Enterprise: https://www.thesoulofenterprise.com/t... Mustafa wrote an article about China’s gulag for Muslims over two years ago. Here is the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/op...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    I would like to thank the people at Macmillan Press for providing an advance review copy of this book. One of the many concepts we hear regarding modern Islam and its adherents is that what we fundamentally need to do is empower the reformers. That is, rather than have relentless critique from outside the religion and culture, engage in a system of support for those who wish to evoke change from within. Mustafa Akyol is just that type of person and in this wonderful volume he makes a compelling I would like to thank the people at Macmillan Press for providing an advance review copy of this book. One of the many concepts we hear regarding modern Islam and its adherents is that what we fundamentally need to do is empower the reformers. That is, rather than have relentless critique from outside the religion and culture, engage in a system of support for those who wish to evoke change from within. Mustafa Akyol is just that type of person and in this wonderful volume he makes a compelling case for exactly that type of reform. The other main issue with discussing this problem is that in our current knee-jerk, reductionist modes of discourse we rarely actually are allowed to speak honestly about nearly every issue since we have to be on guard in our language for even the slightest possibility of "upsetting" even the most irrational and unlettered, anonymous, and perpetually outraged figure on social media. Many times when this discussion is brought up it takes less than a second for the epithet, "Islamophobe," to be bandied about as if it were the clincher to the end of the discussion. Or we are sidetracked into every other possible current conflict, i.e. the rise of white nationalism, the overwhelming volumes of genuinely fake news, the alliance of evangelicals with racist and political extremism, cancel culture, or the nauseating purity tests engaged in by the leftist woke brigades against people with whom they actually agree 99% of the time. While it is true those are all legitimate issues, we should not abandon the idea that there is a scale to how severe an issue is and that to relativize into obscurity any discussion of current Muslim social and political thought for fear of offending literally anyone is a philosophical absurdity. Erudite, passionate, and dedicated authors from within the Muslim faith like Mustafa Akyol are exactly the remedy to these scenarios. However, Akyol does this not by bringing a bunch of new westernized ideas into the faith, he brings an enormous wealth of historical context from the earliest history of Islam and its earliest divisions. Marshaling his facts in clear and concise language, he is a deft guide through the numerous key figures, eras, and most importantly the key philosophical movements that have been suppressed by the force of history, war, and inter-cultural strife. Many of the concepts that he details as being necessary later in the book are actually millennium-old ideas that unfortunately, were on the losing side of history and conquest. The resurgence of Muʿtazila and Falasifah Muslim philosophy as well as the concept of Irja from the early Murjiʾah sect would not be anything more than retracing the steps of the best thinkers Muslim history and to learn why their suppression was the undoing of the future potential of the faith. Also a particularly great feature of this work is the constant referencing as to precisely what the Quran and Hadith have to say on many issues that Muslims find central to their faith today. The answers in many cases are surprising. I do believe that the best way to work with any group going through existential strife due to extremism is to empower the reformers and I certainly hope the success of this book allows for at least a modicum of that on the part of Mustafa Akyol. Highly Recommended

  24. 5 out of 5

    Zenubia Arsalan

    As we look back at the past and marvel at the works of Muslim polymaths, we wonder how it came to a screeching halt. Perhaps it was something more insidious than marauding barbarians, something more slow and sinister. The author explains what's ailing us, how it all went awry and the original pluralistic message of the Quran got sidelined by an increasingly dogmatic, literalist, anti-reason and downright fatalistic beliefs. How did innovation become a negative word? Why were the philosophers den As we look back at the past and marvel at the works of Muslim polymaths, we wonder how it came to a screeching halt. Perhaps it was something more insidious than marauding barbarians, something more slow and sinister. The author explains what's ailing us, how it all went awry and the original pluralistic message of the Quran got sidelined by an increasingly dogmatic, literalist, anti-reason and downright fatalistic beliefs. How did innovation become a negative word? Why were the philosophers denounced? Why is there an eerie silence on just why the Mutazalites are considered heretics? Why are we asked to leave the thinking about beliefs to the theologians? Why are we asked to suspend reason and put a lock on logic, despite Quran’s call to the contrary? We are quite uneducated on the topic of Islamic history past the first few generations and even more so in the dark about the evolution of Islamic theology. Quite clueless as to how socio-political upheavals led to the mainstreaming of doctrines and theology that we now consider normative Islam. The authors shares anecdotes from history, and explains key concepts of theology in a simple to understand manner and more importantly explains how these doctrines affect us today. Scattered through the book are quotes from scholars old and new. The author leads us to a greater understanding of freedom, tolerance and makes a much-delayed case for return to reason. It’s an easy read as the author keeps the theological explanation and historical details pertinent to current times. Highly recommended especially for Muslims to want a better understanding of the deen that's passed down to us over the centuries.

  25. 5 out of 5

    “The Contented”

    I don’t disagree with the idea behind the book, but I wonder if it could have found better expression? Many of us live amongst Muslim societies that are unlike Afghanistan or an imagined ultra-Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Some of us even live in London and have friends from all backgrounds and beliefs - quite easily. Without needing to overhaul our own faith to live pretty happily anywhere. I suspect this is the case for the vast majority of all Muslims. So a little bit more on my own lived experience I don’t disagree with the idea behind the book, but I wonder if it could have found better expression? Many of us live amongst Muslim societies that are unlike Afghanistan or an imagined ultra-Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Some of us even live in London and have friends from all backgrounds and beliefs - quite easily. Without needing to overhaul our own faith to live pretty happily anywhere. I suspect this is the case for the vast majority of all Muslims. So a little bit more on my own lived experience would have been good. Then - the reason I was tempted to take stars off - at the best of times, I dislike audio books. But this one was especially hard going. The narrator had, let’s call it a ‘different’ accent in English. But also in Arabic. My pronunciation of words like Qur’an (c’mon! That’s hardly a stretch) or aql is very different. It was a minor additional annoyance. Also, did I mention how much I dislike audio books? Hours and hours and hours to get through any book The only genre that sort of works as an audio book is a) biography narrated in the original voice (think Obama) or self help

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by St. Martin's Press. My review is my own; however I am deeply thankful that this book was brought to my attention. Mr. Akyol is a gifted writer and thinker. He is able to walk his reader through a complex history while laying out carefully thought-out/crafted reason. I know far less than I would like about Islam, but the amount of information/history he conveys to support his suppositions is as close to perfect as I've encountered in a book like this. Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by St. Martin's Press. My review is my own; however I am deeply thankful that this book was brought to my attention. Mr. Akyol is a gifted writer and thinker. He is able to walk his reader through a complex history while laying out carefully thought-out/crafted reason. I know far less than I would like about Islam, but the amount of information/history he conveys to support his suppositions is as close to perfect as I've encountered in a book like this. The book was thoroughly engaging and I feel I have a much deeper understanding of the "hows" and the "whys" of the current state of things. He mixes personal stories with facts, and the notes/references are robust. His arguments are well supported, but it never felt biased or preachy. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim. You don't have to be a believer to gain an understanding of something, and the world most definitely needs a lot more understanding.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    This essential book details the history of Islam from AD 610 to 2020. With copious references and intriguing tales it explains the evolution of the religion that sparks high feelings around the world. Like other religions, politics and power came into play and the author shows where changes and different interpretations took hold. More scholarly than I am accustomed to reading, I felt I gained knowledge of the world where state and religion are one and what that means to those who live there. His This essential book details the history of Islam from AD 610 to 2020. With copious references and intriguing tales it explains the evolution of the religion that sparks high feelings around the world. Like other religions, politics and power came into play and the author shows where changes and different interpretations took hold. More scholarly than I am accustomed to reading, I felt I gained knowledge of the world where state and religion are one and what that means to those who live there. His aim is just and seems necessary. To re-open Muslim minds and return to reason, freedom and tolerance. I hope his message carries to those whose influence can effect change and that it is not regarded as blasphemy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leena El-Ali

    This is an important contribution by one of the clearest and most compelling contemporary voices on the state of Islam today. Understanding how things played out historically is both an interesting read and, I think, a necessary one for those who don’t trust themselves enough to give their own conscience the upper hand. The author connects a number of important dots quite effectively, whether through logic, keen observation or wit. The end-result, one hopes, is that Muslim readers in particular This is an important contribution by one of the clearest and most compelling contemporary voices on the state of Islam today. Understanding how things played out historically is both an interesting read and, I think, a necessary one for those who don’t trust themselves enough to give their own conscience the upper hand. The author connects a number of important dots quite effectively, whether through logic, keen observation or wit. The end-result, one hopes, is that Muslim readers in particular will be emboldened to listen to their hearts - and God-given minds - more.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ellison

    Author shares that while visiting a country of believers he was detained by the Faith Police and only some well-placed phone calls got him out! He goes into a deep dive about doctrine mentioning that many believers do not know because when they ask they are told to say, "Go is god," and to not ask any questions. Shares that originally the position may not have been so violent and that certain groups have ramped up violence which causes believers and non-believers to not trust the faith. Insightfu Author shares that while visiting a country of believers he was detained by the Faith Police and only some well-placed phone calls got him out! He goes into a deep dive about doctrine mentioning that many believers do not know because when they ask they are told to say, "Go is god," and to not ask any questions. Shares that originally the position may not have been so violent and that certain groups have ramped up violence which causes believers and non-believers to not trust the faith. Insightful, any hope? He is thankful that he is safe in D.C. to write!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aeromatic

    As a (Sunni, Hanafi madhab if you want to know) muslim, I find it vital that we reflect on these various theological and political issues and adapt. Mustafa Akyol does a fantastic job at dissecting these issues and showing how the versions of Islam presented by Wahhabis/Salafists and other Ultraconservative groups are often quite incorrect historically, religiously and even morally. I cannot understate that EVERY muslim needs to read this in a modern context.

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