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Islam’s Intellectual Suicide—and the Threat to Us All   People are shocked and frightened by the behavior coming out the Islamic world—not only because it is violent, but also because it is seemingly inexplicable. While there are many answers to the question of “what went wrong” in the Muslim world, no one has decisively answered why it went wrong. Until now. In this eye-open Islam’s Intellectual Suicide—and the Threat to Us All   People are shocked and frightened by the behavior coming out the Islamic world—not only because it is violent, but also because it is seemingly inexplicable. While there are many answers to the question of “what went wrong” in the Muslim world, no one has decisively answered why it went wrong. Until now. In this eye-opening new book, foreign policy expert Robert R. Reilly uncovers the root of our contemporary crisis: a pivotal struggle waged within the Muslim world nearly a millennium ago. In a heated battle over the role of reason, the side of irrationality won. The deformed theology that resulted, Reilly reveals, produced the spiritual pathology of Islamism, and a deeply dysfunctional culture. Terrorism—from 9/11, to London, Madrid, and Mumbai, to the Christmas 2009 attempted airline bombing—is the most obvious manifestation of this crisis. But Reilly shows that the pathology extends much further. The Closing of the Muslim Mind solves such puzzles as:   ·        why peace is so elusive in the Middle East ·        why the Arab world stands near the bottom of every measure of human development ·        why scientific inquiry is nearly dead in the Islamic world ·        why Spain translates more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past thousand years ·        why some people in Saudi Arabia still refuse to believe man has been to the moon ·        why Muslim media frequently present natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina as God’s direct retribution   Delving deeper than previous polemics and simplistic analyses, The Closing of the Muslim Mind provides the answers the West has so desperately needed in confronting the Islamist crisis. WHAT THEY ARE SAYING "The lack of liberty within Islam is a huge problem. Robert Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind shows that a millennium ago Muslims debated whether minds should be free to explore the world—and freedom lost. The intellectual history he offers helps to explain why Muslim countries fell behind Christian-based ones in scientific inquiry, economic development, and technology. Reilly provides astonishing statistics . . . [and] also points out how theology prefigures politics." —World Magazine  "As Robert R. Reilly points out in The Closing of the Muslim Mind . . . the Islamic conception of God as pure will, unbound by reason and unknowable through the visible world, rendered any search for cause and effect in nature irrelevant to Muslim societies over centuries, resulting in slipshod, dependent cultures. Reilly notes, for example, that Pakistan, a nation which views science as automatically impious given its view that an arbitrary God did not imprint upon nature a rational order worth investigating, produces almost no patents." —American Spectator "What happened to moderate Islam and what sort of hope we may have for it in the future is the subject of Robert Reilly’s brilliant and groundbreaking new book. The Closing of the Muslim Mind is a page-turner that reads almost like an intellectual detective novel...One thing Reilly’s account makes clear: Only when we move beyond the common platitudes of our contemporary political discussion and begin to deal with Islam as it really is — rather than the fiction that it is the equivalent of our Western culture dressed up in a burqa — will we be able to help make progress in that direction." — National Review Online  


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Islam’s Intellectual Suicide—and the Threat to Us All   People are shocked and frightened by the behavior coming out the Islamic world—not only because it is violent, but also because it is seemingly inexplicable. While there are many answers to the question of “what went wrong” in the Muslim world, no one has decisively answered why it went wrong. Until now. In this eye-open Islam’s Intellectual Suicide—and the Threat to Us All   People are shocked and frightened by the behavior coming out the Islamic world—not only because it is violent, but also because it is seemingly inexplicable. While there are many answers to the question of “what went wrong” in the Muslim world, no one has decisively answered why it went wrong. Until now. In this eye-opening new book, foreign policy expert Robert R. Reilly uncovers the root of our contemporary crisis: a pivotal struggle waged within the Muslim world nearly a millennium ago. In a heated battle over the role of reason, the side of irrationality won. The deformed theology that resulted, Reilly reveals, produced the spiritual pathology of Islamism, and a deeply dysfunctional culture. Terrorism—from 9/11, to London, Madrid, and Mumbai, to the Christmas 2009 attempted airline bombing—is the most obvious manifestation of this crisis. But Reilly shows that the pathology extends much further. The Closing of the Muslim Mind solves such puzzles as:   ·        why peace is so elusive in the Middle East ·        why the Arab world stands near the bottom of every measure of human development ·        why scientific inquiry is nearly dead in the Islamic world ·        why Spain translates more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past thousand years ·        why some people in Saudi Arabia still refuse to believe man has been to the moon ·        why Muslim media frequently present natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina as God’s direct retribution   Delving deeper than previous polemics and simplistic analyses, The Closing of the Muslim Mind provides the answers the West has so desperately needed in confronting the Islamist crisis. WHAT THEY ARE SAYING "The lack of liberty within Islam is a huge problem. Robert Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind shows that a millennium ago Muslims debated whether minds should be free to explore the world—and freedom lost. The intellectual history he offers helps to explain why Muslim countries fell behind Christian-based ones in scientific inquiry, economic development, and technology. Reilly provides astonishing statistics . . . [and] also points out how theology prefigures politics." —World Magazine  "As Robert R. Reilly points out in The Closing of the Muslim Mind . . . the Islamic conception of God as pure will, unbound by reason and unknowable through the visible world, rendered any search for cause and effect in nature irrelevant to Muslim societies over centuries, resulting in slipshod, dependent cultures. Reilly notes, for example, that Pakistan, a nation which views science as automatically impious given its view that an arbitrary God did not imprint upon nature a rational order worth investigating, produces almost no patents." —American Spectator "What happened to moderate Islam and what sort of hope we may have for it in the future is the subject of Robert Reilly’s brilliant and groundbreaking new book. The Closing of the Muslim Mind is a page-turner that reads almost like an intellectual detective novel...One thing Reilly’s account makes clear: Only when we move beyond the common platitudes of our contemporary political discussion and begin to deal with Islam as it really is — rather than the fiction that it is the equivalent of our Western culture dressed up in a burqa — will we be able to help make progress in that direction." — National Review Online  

30 review for The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist

  1. 5 out of 5

    Abubakar Mehdi

    Some might find the title of this book ‘problematic’ or ‘condescending’ but I thought it was a pretty apt title for a book that discusses the evolution of theology and religious thought in Islam. There is a plethora of literature that tries to demonise Muslims without any logically or empirically valid argument. However, this book is an exception. It tries to dig deep into the theological underpinnings of fundamentalism and fanaticism to lay bare the core principles of Muslim thought that stagna Some might find the title of this book ‘problematic’ or ‘condescending’ but I thought it was a pretty apt title for a book that discusses the evolution of theology and religious thought in Islam. There is a plethora of literature that tries to demonise Muslims without any logically or empirically valid argument. However, this book is an exception. It tries to dig deep into the theological underpinnings of fundamentalism and fanaticism to lay bare the core principles of Muslim thought that stagnated the growth and liberalisation of Muslim social, political and religious thought. So if the reader is stubbornly persistent in believing that nothing is wrong with either Islam or Muslims, they are bound to be offended by the very title of the book. But those for whom the quest for truth and primacy of reason holds some value, this book will be an articulate and thought provoking analysis of Islamic philosophy. Islam and Muslims are in a state of crisis right now. Educated and liberal minded youths are deserting the faith because it simply doesn’t appeal to them anymore. Some of its tenets are incongruent with the realities of science and modern life. So while some have deserted it for a life of scepticism, many still hold on to these beliefs. And these conservative Muslims give precedence to faith over reason and modernity. Robert Reilly believes that there was a point in history when it all changed. A point where reason was defeated by faith. This book discusses that very turning point from where the Islamic Civilization started its descent from the zenith of progress and modernity to fundamentalism and intellectual stagnation. When Islam was exposed to Hellenic thought after its conquests, the role of reason became the centre of debate in philosophical circles. The traditional way of thinking was confronted by the Hellenic philosophy with its rich literature and gigantic mentors. There was a need felt by the Muslim intelligentsia to re-evaluate the role of reason in the matters of faith and God. Two groups emerged as a result of this conflict. The Mu‘tazilites believed in primacy of reason and the capacity of human faculties to understand and analyse God and nature. While the Ash’arites believed that God was ‘unknowable’ and that reason was incapable of ‘knowing’ God and reality. There are two fundamental ways to close the mind. One is to deny reason’s capability of knowing anything. The other is to dismiss reality as unknowable. Reason cannot know, or there is nothing to be known. Either approach suffices in making reality irrelevant. In Sunni Islam, elements of both were employed in the Ash‘arite school. Al-Ghazali was the most significant of the Ash’arites and his opponent Averroes (Ibn e Rushd) was the leading philosopher of the Mu’tazilite school. The debate centered around the conception of God as the sole and supreme deity posed some serious questions. Mu’tazilites perceived God as the supreme fountainhead of reason, and we as his creations are hence blessed with reason and critical faculties capable of understanding him and natural phenomena. The Ash’arites deemed this to be blasphemous. According to them God was pure will and we are a result of his will. Our duty is to follow him and not to understand him. The creation, they held, cannot claim to have anything in common with the creator. This was one of the many instances where the traditional conservatism of Ash’arites confronted Mu’tazilite liberalism with regression. For the Ash’arites, revelation was the only source of wisdom and knowledge. It was beyond our capacity to understand God or nature without the aid of revelation. The autonomy of reason was anathema to them. Revelation was primary and supreme. In Ash‘arism, as we shall see, the primacy of revelation over reason rises from the very nature of what is revealed: God as pure will and power. The response to this God is submission, not interrogation. To inquire is to blaspheme, according to the ash’arites. God and his will cannot be scrutinized by man for it is beyond his capacity to do so. Man must only submit to the divine will. This unsettled the Mu’tazilites. How could a God, so intelligent and all-knowing, create a man incapable of knowing and understanding Him? Surely God must have given man some ability to investigate and conceive natural order. But this line of questioning bought man too close to the critical question of ‘Why’ rather than ‘How’. So the only way to ensure that ‘man does not go astray’, all inquisition into this divine phenomenology must be abandoned. the introduction to his translation of Averroes’s The Incoherence of the Incoherence, Simon Van Den Bergh quipped: “One might say that, for the [Muslim] theologian, all nature is miraculous and all miracles are natural.”37 In other words, every “natural” event is the result of a particular divine act. If this is true, if divine intervention is used to explain natural phenomena, then rational explanations for them or inquiries into them become forms of impiety, if not blasphemy. Rather than accepting morality as within the reach of reason, the Ash‘arites seemed to suffer from an underlying fear that if man could autonomously reach an understanding of good and evil, perhaps he might become autonomous, as well. This possibility could not be allowed, as it would directly challenge the radically contingent status of man as totally reliant on an all-powerful God. God is not “like” anything, or comparable to anything. If man could ascertain morality through his reason, he would be, in a way, God-like or in His likeness. Such a proposition was sheer shirk. Then there was the denial of cause and effect by Ghazali. The Ash’rites viewed this Hellenic theory with great skepticism and found it inimical to the narrative of traditional religion. This complete repudiation of Greek thought lead to an absurd and illogical stance that God willed everything, everywhere all the time. So God doesn’t really cause anything to happen, but he “Wills” it to occur. To cause a thing to happen would be too humane and simple for the divine and it would make the divine irrelevant in the presence of natural order. So there is no natural order as per Ash’arites but a constant divine intervention that makes everything happen. From Sunrise to ocean tides, from gravity to rain, everything happens because God makes it happen and not because he has put in place a system that does so. God is omnipresent and omnipotent, and his Will is the prime instigator for everything. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani physicist and professor at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, said that “it was not Islamic to say that combining hydrogen and oxygen makes water. ‘You were supposed to say that when you bring hydrogen and oxygen together then by the will of Allah water was created.’” The result of this obscurantist approach has left the Muslim Mind completely numb to sciences and modern reality. Scared of transgressing, a Muslim Mind must follow the rules enshrined by the the traditionalists and enquire only as far as his conclusions are conforming to what he already knows through revelation. Adonis, the great Arab poet sarcastically remarks that, “If we are slaves, we can be content and not have to deal with anything. Just as Allah solves all our problems, the dictator will solve all our problems.” In past fourteen hundred years, Muslim civilization has utterly failed in evolving a counter narrative to confront this retardation. Today, Muslims are languishing far behind the rest of the world in Science and Philosophy. Our universities have become the new hotspots for radicalization of the youth. A cursory look at the textbooks being taught in schools would be enough to see the destructive influence that Ash’arism has had on the Muslim mind. Recently, an Arab student was awarded a PHD for his thesis that the Earth was flat. Every chapter of every science book begins with the declaration that God is the creator of the universe and all that we know for certain can only come from revelation. Then what is the point of teaching Science? Free inquiry and modern education is being sacrificed at the stake religious fanaticism. This, in Reilly’s view, a continuation of the regression that Ghazali precipitated in the Muslim Culture. Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world population and yet they have won the greatest number of Nobel prizes. The contribution of Jews to philosophy, medicine and every other field of modern sciences is too great to ignore. And yet Jews are adherents of a conservative religious culture. If they can manage to get past the obstacles of dogmatic belief, why have Muslims failed to do the same? My view is that there is a great emphasis on reason and critical inquiry in the Jewish culture that has made them the most prolific contributors to human prosperity and growth. While the same is lacking in the Islamic culture. Religious extremism also finds its roots in the belief that reason is not good enough to abide by and that morality is only what religion tells us it is. The zeitgeist of the medieval age became the code for the 21st century. And the de-humanization of those who do not follow this path, regardless of what they call themselves, has led to moral sanctification of violence. And thus begins an endless circle of violence and genocide, which is not by any means unrelated to this tradition of theology. "So long as some part of the world eludes the control of the Islamist revolutionary, conflict continues—with the dar al-harb (the abode of war)—just as perpetual revolution was proclaimed by Marxists until the complete overthrow of the bourgeois order or by the Nazis until the eradication or enslavement of inferior races. Since total control is never achieved, an excuse is always available for why the kingdom has not arrived, just as it was with the ever-receding prospects of a classless society for the Marxists. The excuse for not having achieved the utopia of God’s kingdom on earth, or of the Thousand-Year Reich, or of the classless society, is always the same, and roughly analogous: An infidel has escaped our grasp, a Jew has escaped, or a capitalist has eluded us. Thus, paradise is forever postponed, and the war continues as part of a permanent revolution. As Qutb proclaimed, “This struggle is not a temporary phase but a perpetual and permanent war.” And Hassan al-Banna said, “What I mean with jihad is the duty that will last until the Day of Resurrection.”" Reformers in the Muslim world have a monumental and almost Insurmountable task of reforming an intellectual culture that is jealously sitting on the ashes of its dubious past.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Asif

    An excellent book and tour de force to explore the closed Muslim mind and causes of that closure, Also an attempt to explain why large majority of Muslims don't believe in democracy and have strong belief in conspiracy theories of every kind circulating around without weighing them with "Logic","Reason" and in terms of "Cause and Effect" method, which are alien terms to them because of destructive Ash'arite philosophy they adopted centuries ago which destroyed their faculty of thinking rationall An excellent book and tour de force to explore the closed Muslim mind and causes of that closure, Also an attempt to explain why large majority of Muslims don't believe in democracy and have strong belief in conspiracy theories of every kind circulating around without weighing them with "Logic","Reason" and in terms of "Cause and Effect" method, which are alien terms to them because of destructive Ash'arite philosophy they adopted centuries ago which destroyed their faculty of thinking rationally and thrust them into blind alley. Muslim destruction came when it became heresy and apostasy to think rationally and in terms of logic and rational laws. This wrecking machine still continues to roll until some reformer alter the path and revive the rational thinking in the Muslim thought. Till then Muslim mind will remain "Closed".

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Connolly

    About the Author: The author is a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C. He was director of Voice of America from 2001 to 2002. He has a master’s degree in political science from Claremont Graduate School. Overview: This book is about how Islam turned away from reason and embraced religious dogmatism. The author explains at the outset that this book is a history of Sunni, and not Shia,  Islamic theology. He mentions Shia theology only briefly. Much of the history of Is About the Author: The author is a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C. He was director of Voice of America from 2001 to 2002. He has a master’s degree in political science from Claremont Graduate School. Overview: This book is about how Islam turned away from reason and embraced religious dogmatism. The author explains at the outset that this book is a history of Sunni, and not Shia,  Islamic theology. He mentions Shia theology only briefly. Much of the history of Islamic theology is about reason versus revelation. During the development of modern Christianity, Saint Thomas Aquinas was successful in reforming dogmatic Christianity by tempering it with Greek Aristotelian philosophy. Similar efforts in the Islamic world were met with greater opposition, as chronicled in this book. Free Will vs. Determinism: In the early days of Islam, there were the Qadariyya, who believed in free will, and the Jabariyya, who were determinists. The Jabariyya believed that God controls man’s actions. When Muslims say insha’ Allah (God willing), they are expressing the theological doctrine that God controls everything that happens. Metaphysics of the Quran: Another important issue in Islamic theology is whether the Qurʼan has always existed, or was created by the prophet Mohammad. The more mystical Islamic thinkers believed that the Qurʼan has always existed in Heaven, and that all the Prophet Mohammad and his disciples did was write it down in material form. The more rational Islamic thinkers believe that the Qurʼan was created by the Prophet Mohammad based upon divine inspiration. Mu’tazilite Theology: Wasil ibn ‘Ata (700 A.D. –748 A.D.) founded the Mu’tazilite school of Islamic theology, based on the earlier Qadariyya school. The Mu’tazilite school was strongly influenced by Aristotle and believed in reason. The Mu’tazilites believed that God is not only power, but is also reason and justice. On the issue of time and the Qu’ran, the Mu’tazilite teaching was that the Qur’an was created in time, and not eternal. Baghdad Caliph al-Ma’mun (813 A.D. – 833 A.D.) supported the Mu’tazilits.  We know about the Mu’tazilites from Abd al-Jabbar, who wrote Book of the Five Fundamentals. Caliph Ja’afar al-Mutawakkil and ibn Hanbal: Caliph Ja’afar al-Mutawakkil (847 A.D. – 861 A.D.) outlawed the Mu’tazilite school of Islamic philosophy. It became illegal to copy or sell Mu’tazilite books. This Caliph also freed Ahmad ibn Hanbal from jail. Ahmad ibn Hanbal was a critic of Mu’tazilite theology and the founder of the most literalist school of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanbali). Persia took in the Mu’tazilites refugees from Arab lands. Eastern Persia (which was Shia) was more tolerant of the Mu’tazilites, than was orthodox Sunni Islam. By the end of the Abbasid Age, Mu’tazilism existed only near the Caspian Sea and Yemen. Ash’arites: Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari (874 A.D. – 936 A.D.) was the founder of the Ash’arite school of Sunni theology. The Ash’arites objected to philosophy, because it implied that the human mind could understand reality without the need of scripture. The Ash’arite school eventually defeated the Mu’tazilite school. The Ash’ari believed that: • God is power and will, unknowable, arbitrary, and not teleological • There is no connection between cause and effect • There are no natural laws • Everything that happens is a miracle, because its cause is an unknowable God • There is no restraint on God’s omnipotence: God is not obligated to do good • The Qu’ran is eternal, and was not created at some point in time • God cannot be just if he allows men the free will to choose evil, therefore there must be no free will Al-Ghazali and Ibn Sina: Al-Ghazali (born in Tus in Iran in 1058 A.D.) was a Muslim theologian who wrote The Incoherence of the Philosophers, a criticism of the earlier attempts to incorporate Greek rationality into Islam. In particular, he criticized Ibn Sina (980 A.D. – 1037 A.D.) the Persian philosopher and physician, whose Westernized name is Avicenna. Al-Ghazali favored Sufi mysticism over reason, because reason sometimes made mistakes. Al-Ghazali was responsible for incorporating Sufism into Sunni orthodoxy. Al-Ghazali terminated the influence of Greek philosophy on Islam. Ibn Rushd: Ibn Rushd (Western name: Averroës) was a Spanish Andalusian Muslim who wrote a criticism of Al-Ghazali called The Incoherence of the Incoherence. In 1195 in Cordoba 108 of Averroes’s books were burned. Averroes had his main impact in Europe, not in the Arab world. Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Abd al-Wahhab: Ibn Taymiyya (1263 A.D. -1328 A.D.) feared that scholastic theology (kalam) would lead to atheism. Ibn Taymiyya was even more opposed to reason than was Al-Ghazali. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703 A.D. –1792 A.D.), the founder of Wahhabism, was a follower of Ibn Taymiyya. Four Main Sunni Legal Schools • Imam Al-Shafi’i • Abu Hanifa • Ahmad ibn Hanbal • Malik ibn Anas Jurisprudence: Current Islamic scholarship is about jurisprudence not theology. The theological issues are regarded as being settled. All that needs to be discussed is how to interpret the Qur’an’s rules regarding proper behavior and how these rules should be enforced. The jurist Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi classified human actions into five groups: • Obligatory • Recommended • Permitted • Discouraged • Forbidden Legacy • The result of rejecting reason has been the curtailment of economic development in the world of Islam. Excluding oil, the entire Arab Middle East exports less than Finland. • The main obstacle to democracy in Arab countries is not dictators but rather Islamic epistemology (opposition to reason).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    This is a book that reminds us to ignore history is folly. Recent events have proved that more so. Whenever I hear commentators talk, or opine about clearly Islamist terror; I want to holler, read the book you a**holes. History repeats itself. First, as farce then tragedy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This book is a fascinating one, and it deals with the subject matter of why it is that the Muslim world fell so fast after its enlightened early period and why it remains an intellectual backwater in the world, and how that intellectual crisis eventually led to a lot of other kinds of crisis that have continued to poison the relationships between the Muslim world and everyone else.  What makes this book particularly interesting is that it is not a political history so much as an intellectual his This book is a fascinating one, and it deals with the subject matter of why it is that the Muslim world fell so fast after its enlightened early period and why it remains an intellectual backwater in the world, and how that intellectual crisis eventually led to a lot of other kinds of crisis that have continued to poison the relationships between the Muslim world and everyone else.  What makes this book particularly interesting is that it is not a political history so much as an intellectual history, and it demonstrates the repercussions that worldview has on how it is that people think and reason and live.  We are not used to taking such matters seriously--and why be I mean contemporary people whose intellectual depth is seldom very profound and who may even have a difficulty in understanding the nature of our worldview in the first place.  Likewise, learning about the failures of the Muslim worldview can allow us to avoid making the same mistakes that they have, which is definitely for the best and allows us to better understand how it is that the life of the mind and thinking about philosophy and reason can affect the destiny of nations and peoples. This book is about 200 pages long and is divided into nine chapters.  The book begins with a foreword by Roger Scruton and then the author discusses the intellectual suicide that occurred in the middle ages in the Muslim world during a specific period just before 1000AD in the Abbasid caliphate.  The author discusses how it is that the Muslims discovered Hellenic thought during their conquest of the Middle East (1), and how it was that the overthrow of the M'tazilites led to the closing of the gates of ijtihad [1] and thus the Muslim mind (2).  The author explores the metaphysics of the will and why it matters if God's will is automatically good, or if good is simply what God wills (3).  After that the author explores the triumph of Ash'arism (4) as well as the unfortunate victory of al-Ghazali which led to the dehellenization of Isalm (5), which the author views as a very bad thing.  The author blames this loss of interest in reason and philosophy for the decline and the consequences of that decline on the Muslim world (6).  After this he explores Muslim testimonials about the fall of Muslim reasoning (7) as well as the sources of Islamism (8) and the crisis of contemporary Islam (9), after which the book ends with notes, suggestions for further reading, acknowledgements, and an index. The author's point is a deeply interesting and also somewhat troubling one for certain people.  This book posits that it was the anti-reason perspective of the Muslims after the Muslim golden age that first closed the mind of the Muslims by inoculating them against advances in reason and leading them to believe that everything at all times was a miracle and that God's will was not reasonable at all.  The author draws from this the conclusion that in order to believe in a reasonable God one must have a commitment to both faith and reason, and to a faith that was in some ways amenable to human reasoning on some level.  Although this is of the biggest importance when dealing with the Muslim world, there are certainly a great many parts of the Western world where reason and human reasoning is viewed with extreme skepticism, making the fate of those who would defend intellect in those circles as hazardous to one's safety and well-being as it has been in the Muslim world for the last millennium or so.  And that is a great shame. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Razi

    A small book but full of half-forgotten historical details bringing back memories that just would not go away. The debate between al-Ghazali and Averroes on philosophy and its place in religion shows a dynamic picture of a lively intellectual tradition. Although al-Ghazali was "declared" the winner of this debate, this did not bode good for either of the two. al Ghazali gave up on theology as a science and branch of knowledge and turned to suffism (he had been a great philosopher in his youth, a A small book but full of half-forgotten historical details bringing back memories that just would not go away. The debate between al-Ghazali and Averroes on philosophy and its place in religion shows a dynamic picture of a lively intellectual tradition. Although al-Ghazali was "declared" the winner of this debate, this did not bode good for either of the two. al Ghazali gave up on theology as a science and branch of knowledge and turned to suffism (he had been a great philosopher in his youth, a greater theologian in his middle years, the principal of the Nazamia university in Baghdad) only to renounce it all and turn to God as a suffi. Avecenna was banished from Cordoba and his books were publicly burned. His writings disappeared from the Islamic world only to resurface in the West. He brought Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas who, in turn, reconciled Christianity with the Greek philosophy and helped the West gain a perfect balance during the Renaissance. Right from the outset the distinction between 'Islam' and 'Islamism' is clearly maintained. Islamism is the worship of pure power, "God's Will" as opposed to his justice. According to author this worship of power has seeped into the very foundations of certain societies supporting totalitarian regimes at the cost of human development and contribution. Reilly's conclusion is good and balanced although he reaches it after going through alternative scenarios including a nuclear holocaust turning the whole world in a wasteland, "man into one of the living dead, a scorched land." Quite a lot of the passages (including the one just quoted) are from author's research into rationalist voices from the Islamic world. I think this is the crux of the problem: representation. Since al Ghazali's time theologists made the best use of the channels of communication available to them, the pulpit or the mosque. Soon Islamic theology ossified into Islamism of the Wahabis with its political connotations and thirst for and access to power (started in Saudi Arabia, now they are everywhere). Reason (philosophy) was totally side-lined. Mongol invasion, the sack of Baghdad and Kharasan and the Reconquista of al Andalusia did not help either. While theology without reason degenerated into mullashism that we see running riots everywhere, philosophy and rationalism just curled up and fell dormant in the absence of any channel of communication and representation. About Reilly's conclusion: he calls for a "recovery of reason" thoroughly grounded in revelation. "Reason raises questions that it cannot answer, and revelation's answers cannot be understood without reason. Divorcing reason from faith (the current crisis of the West) or faith from reason (the crisis of Islam) leads to catastrophe; they should be in partnership."

  7. 5 out of 5

    John Sharp

    This book is an awesome read. I lays out the 9th to 12th Century dispute in Islamic intellectualism where the side of reason lost. He explains how the dominate philosophy in the Arab/Muslim world rejects cause and effect. He shows how the Muslim understanding of God, excludes reason, and embraces power. How they understand God as willing everything to happen in real time. That they see God as not being bound by the laws of nature as we understand in the West. How they believe the Koran existed f This book is an awesome read. I lays out the 9th to 12th Century dispute in Islamic intellectualism where the side of reason lost. He explains how the dominate philosophy in the Arab/Muslim world rejects cause and effect. He shows how the Muslim understanding of God, excludes reason, and embraces power. How they understand God as willing everything to happen in real time. That they see God as not being bound by the laws of nature as we understand in the West. How they believe the Koran existed from the beginning of time co-existing with God and that the Koran was not created by man. From the 12th Century onward, because the primacy of reason lost, you see a perpetual downward spiral in human achievement in the Arab world. The concept for me was hard to grasp, the difference between the Muslim world view and the world view of the West. The Muslim world view because they reject reason, does not allow any room for scientific discovery or philosophic discourse. Have fun with this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hany

    I think the author presented a strong argument and analysis on what went wrong with the Islamic civilization. As far as I understood, the summary of his argument is that the Islamic civilization underwent a moral and intellectual crisis from the ninth century to the eleventh century when the majority of Msulims turned their back on philosophy and took refuge in dogma and the supremacy of power and force. Ibn Rushd launched a recovery but wasn't successful and the Islamic civilization in the Middl I think the author presented a strong argument and analysis on what went wrong with the Islamic civilization. As far as I understood, the summary of his argument is that the Islamic civilization underwent a moral and intellectual crisis from the ninth century to the eleventh century when the majority of Msulims turned their back on philosophy and took refuge in dogma and the supremacy of power and force. Ibn Rushd launched a recovery but wasn't successful and the Islamic civilization in the Middle East has been suffering from a chronic intellectual crisis ever since.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Talal

    The book pushes an antiquated narrative which paints the Mutazilites as the "good" side and the Asharites as the "bad" side. I wouldn't have known unless I had talked to my friend who majors in Theology. It's a biased account masquerading as an objective non-fiction historical book and deserves a one-star rating. If you want to read better works, please refer to "What is Islam" by Shahab Ahmed and "Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology" by Frank Griffel. The book pushes an antiquated narrative which paints the Mutazilites as the "good" side and the Asharites as the "bad" side. I wouldn't have known unless I had talked to my friend who majors in Theology. It's a biased account masquerading as an objective non-fiction historical book and deserves a one-star rating. If you want to read better works, please refer to "What is Islam" by Shahab Ahmed and "Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology" by Frank Griffel.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book is a serious page turner; I can't recommend it enough. Reilly argues that a defected view of God, as articulated by the Ash'erites during the medieval times, has won the day. Two deadly doctrines concern a radical voluntarism and occasionalism. Reilly traces the pernicious effects these doctrines have had on the Muslim world to the present day. This book is a serious page turner; I can't recommend it enough. Reilly argues that a defected view of God, as articulated by the Ash'erites during the medieval times, has won the day. Two deadly doctrines concern a radical voluntarism and occasionalism. Reilly traces the pernicious effects these doctrines have had on the Muslim world to the present day.

  11. 4 out of 5

    James

    Robert Reilly's book, "The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist" is an immensely helpful guide to how and why the Islamic religion rejected Aristotelian philosophy and reason as a basis for its theology. This rejection is at the root of why Islamic countries suffer from so much dysfunction and why they are at the very bottom of nearly every measure of cultural and economic advancement. The focus of this book is not the Islamic faith per se. Reilly, a d Robert Reilly's book, "The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist" is an immensely helpful guide to how and why the Islamic religion rejected Aristotelian philosophy and reason as a basis for its theology. This rejection is at the root of why Islamic countries suffer from so much dysfunction and why they are at the very bottom of nearly every measure of cultural and economic advancement. The focus of this book is not the Islamic faith per se. Reilly, a devout Catholic, does not enter in apologetics against the religious teachings of the Koran or Hadith. Rather, he explains how in the 11th century AD the Islamic world found itself engaged in a great internal debate. On one side were the Mu'tazilites, who embraced the ancient Greek philosophers (especially Aristotle) and tried to harmonize the Koran and Islamic teachings with human reason. The Arabs, in fact, were the ones who first encountered Aristotle and introduced his writings to Europe. Catholic theologians like Saint Thomas Aquinas adopted and Christianized Aristotle as well as other Greek philosophers. The Catholic Church has always taught and still teaches that Faith is entirely compatible with reason. Faith is built upon reason and is also superior to it. The Mu'Tazilites tried to do the same. On the other side were the Ash'arites, who believed that human reason, free will, and Aristotelian concepts were blasphemies against Allah. They taught that philosophy is pride; it is nothing but an attempt to put limits on Allah's almighty power. Nothing can limit Allah, not even himself. He can contradict himself such as making a square a circle. His moral laws are arbitrary. Actions are right or wrong not because they are right or wrong in themselves, but because Allah arbitrarily decreed them so. They also deny secondary causes, such as the laws of nature. For an Ash'arite, an apple falls from the tree not because of the law of gravity, but because Allah at that moment ordered it to fall. We can not know if any other apple in the future will fall from a tree because Allah may not will it to happen. Man also has no free will. If a man decides to reach over and grab a glass of water, it is Allah that puts the idea and movement in his arm to do it. Reality is irrational and everything is a direct "miracle" of Allah. Nothing can be understood rationally; man must simply submit to Allah. By the 12th century AD, the Ash'arites had won the battle, and Islam slowly but surely purged all Hellenic philosophy from its religion and culture. In part, as a result, the Islamic world today suffers from a terrible intellectual barrenness and internal dysfunction. For example, there are more books published in Spain every year than have been published in the whole Middle East for 1000 years. In Pakistan, the government banned weather forecasting for a brief time because they considered it blasphemy to "constrain" Allah's power over the weather by natural laws. Conspiracy theories are everywhere, even when refuted with concrete facts. Reilly quotes several Islamic scholars who lament this intellectual suicide and who hope for some kind of "enlightenment" that will harmonize Islamic teachings with Aristotelian philosophy. He believes that Ash'arite anti-philosophy is at the root not only of Islamic backwardness but also Islamic terrorism. Such a momentous shift towards reason will, Reilly hopes, allow Islam to embrace democracy and coexist peacefully with Christianity. In this, I disagree with the author. I don't believe Islam can be reconciled with reason simply because it is inherently irrational. The Koran is full of contradictions and even scientific errors that make it impossible to reconcile with reason. If a man is truly reasonable, he will find out that Islam is in error. If Islam adopted Aristotelian reason, it would just become more efficient at waging war against the Christian West. Mohammed could not have been clearer that a good Muslim must kill or enslave all "infidels." Nevertheless, this book is a unique and valuable contribution to understanding the Islamic threat.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joel Zartman

    This book sets out to answer the question: what happened to Islam to make it such an enormous problem today? The author’s strategy is to explain what happened so that we can go on to make a correct diagnosis. Islam has been voided of reason (dehellenized) and as a result turned into an ideology: Islamism. “Islamism is grounded in a spiritual pathology based upon a theological deformation that has produced a dysfunctional culture. Therefore the problem must be addressed at the level at which it e This book sets out to answer the question: what happened to Islam to make it such an enormous problem today? The author’s strategy is to explain what happened so that we can go on to make a correct diagnosis. Islam has been voided of reason (dehellenized) and as a result turned into an ideology: Islamism. “Islamism is grounded in a spiritual pathology based upon a theological deformation that has produced a dysfunctional culture. Therefore the problem must be addressed at the level at which it exists.” Roger Scruton says in the Foreword: “In his celebrated treatise The Incoherence of the Philosophers, al-Ghazali set out to show that reason, as enshrined in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and their followers, leads to nothing save darkness and contradiction, and that the only light that shines in the mind of man is the light of revelation.” The result was incoherence. If you drive out good philosophy, your only alternative is bad philosophy. If you decide that God is not on the side of reason, the you have to be irrational. The spiritual pathology is to ratchet up a high view of God by degrading man excessively. No man can think. Man is not made to think, but to obey. Man must submit to God even by refusing to reason. The theological deformation is Voluntarism and philosophical occasionalism. There is no such thing as cause and effect: things follow because God arbitrarily wills them at every moment. We cannot know him, we cannot understand him, we can only submit. The dysfunctional culture is one in which power and authority are one, all inquiry into anything is discouraged, and the resulting degradation of life is resented. It can’t be blamed on God, it must be blamed on incomplete submission. To me, al-Ghazali sounds like presuppositionalism, which is why I read the book. It is far more interesting than reading stuff by presuppositionalists.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hull

    How much do we know about Islam? Do we always associate Middle Eastern terrorism with radical Islam? What about those who say Islam is not in itself inhumane and violent? They claim that a few radicals give Islam a bad name because they use religion as an excuse for the violent subjugation of others. They have politicized and warped Islam for their own purposes. In Closing of the Muslim Mind, Robert Reilly claims that the foundation of today’s radical Islam is religious and was established betwe How much do we know about Islam? Do we always associate Middle Eastern terrorism with radical Islam? What about those who say Islam is not in itself inhumane and violent? They claim that a few radicals give Islam a bad name because they use religion as an excuse for the violent subjugation of others. They have politicized and warped Islam for their own purposes. In Closing of the Muslim Mind, Robert Reilly claims that the foundation of today’s radical Islam is religious and was established between the 9th and 12th centuries. During the course of this three-century long struggle, an inherently anti-western, aggressive, violent brand of Islam, Sunni Islam, triumphed. This victory insured incompatibility with western religious and intellectual thought and is the foundation, today, for the life and death struggle between what Reilly calls Islamism and the west. Much of the book is a journey through the development of Islam from the 8th century onward. Those that most influenced the creation of belief systems and the translation of those systems into the economic, legal, and political foundations of the ancient and modern Arab world are discussed. We are introduced to the Mu’tazilites or rationalists. The Mu’tazilite religious scholars believed in a God and religion markedly influenced by Hellenic philosophy and rationalist thought. They believed God had revealed the Qur’an to man. He was a knowable, rational God that created a world governed by reason that man could know and discover. This was also a loving God that would not deceive or trick man, one whose actions were for the most part rational. Faith was important, but so was reason. For three centuries, tension existed between these scholars and the traditionalists known as the Ash’arites. The Ash’arites believed in a much different God. He was not knowable by man because to believe this was to challenge His omnipotence. His governing of the world did not have to make sense and could be arbitrary. Every thing was predestined. He revealed things to man, man discovered nothing, and rationalist thought was discarded. His will was absolute. Mysticism and myth replaced reason. Every moment for everything in the world was governed by the will of God. A man did not throw a rock. Rather, God willing, a man would throw a rock. Hellenic thought was rejected and along with it rationalism, western philosophy, and modern scientific thought. By the end of the 12th century, this reactionary, conservative branch of Islam came to dominate the Arab world. It still does today and is known as Sunni Islam. What did this turn of events lead to? As the western world increasingly embraced rationalism, science, and technology the Sunni Arab world remained mired in the ways of the 12th century. Sunni Islam’s jurisprudential scholars, or ulema, became dominant. In a chaotic world governed by God’s will, they developed the moral codes governing daily life. There was zero tolerance for deviation from God’s will, ensuring a religious reign of absolutism and totalitarianism; and aggressive intolerance was shown towards non-Sunni religions and belief systems. In Chapter 7 Reilly describes the world created by radical Sunni Islam as ‘The Wreckage” and in it and the subsequent two chapters chronicles the incompatibility of this brand of Islam and the modern world. For example, Pakistan has had eight patents in the last forty-three years—single individuals in the west have more. Spain and Italy each produce more of the world’s annual scientific literature than forty-six Muslim countries. The decline of Islam, from being one of the world’s leading civilizations, is seen as God’s punishment for the loss of faith. The answer? Purge all that is new and firmly reestablish the old ways of life in a new Caliphate. Any country or individuals that disagree must be destroyed. Force and brutality are acceptable means to accomplish this end. There is no compromise, no reasoning out of differences, and no co-existence with infidels. If Reilly is right and religion governs all that is evil in today’s Islam, a battle of extinction between Islam and the west is inevitable. Yet, is this the only context for understanding Islam? Others claim radical Islam or Islamism is religious veneer for many radical groups. Their motivation is power, control, and wealth, not religion. The most obvious example is ISIS. With money and weapons a small number of Islamists may create chaos that camouflages their true size in relation to the rest of the Islamic world. The west must be careful to distinguish Islamism from Islam. Every Islamic person is not a jihadist. Many are trying to modernize Islam. Hatred of the west is a well-publicized attribute of the Islamists, but the reality is they will never invade or control western countries. Reilly’s book provides a framework for understanding this centuries old brand of radical Islam, which has proven it can disrupt and kill. It is important for westerner’s to understand how radical and extreme Islamism is, but also acknowledge it is a movement of small numbers that is containable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim Fountain

    Don't let the title fool you. This is not some predictable anti-Muslim screed. It is a scholarly book about the history of Islamic thought. In fact, the author dedicates the book to "courageous men and women throughout the Muslim world." He is well read and the quotes are mainly primary Muslim sources, both classical and contemporary. Reilly also knows and defines key terms from Arabic. What the book shows is Western ignorance of and blindness toward the forces driving what Reilly terms "Islamism" Don't let the title fool you. This is not some predictable anti-Muslim screed. It is a scholarly book about the history of Islamic thought. In fact, the author dedicates the book to "courageous men and women throughout the Muslim world." He is well read and the quotes are mainly primary Muslim sources, both classical and contemporary. Reilly also knows and defines key terms from Arabic. What the book shows is Western ignorance of and blindness toward the forces driving what Reilly terms "Islamism" today. By the 1oth century, forms of Islam that were able to engage and even incorporate the insights of other cultures - Greek philosophy in particular - were suppressed by those who (my summary on my terms, not necessarily Reilly's) limited God to their experience of the desert. Their god was a pure will, not mindful of people, doing whatever and not accountable to any reasonable expectations. Because this god was pure will with no reasonable or moral attributes, Islamism sees violence as normal and necessary to forcing people (including large segments of the Muslim population) to submit to... there's the rub. To sharia, the law which God supposedly revealed to Mohammed and his "companions," because God is unknowable and only blind submission to the law imposed by his Prophet and the Prophet's successors will do. The upshot is that many of our Western assumptions about how to respond to Islamism are flawed. Liberal assumptions about "improving the material conditions" of Muslim countries ignore the core theological imperatives driving the violence. Neo-conservative ideas about "building democracies" fly in the face of deeply embedded religious assumptions that man-made institutions are inherently blasphemous and must be destroyed. And reactionary calls to ban Muslim immigration wind up sacrificing the safety of many Muslims who hold to the older, broader forms of thought and might be agents of moderation. Reilly writes with great clarity, considering the depth of the subject matter. But have your thinking cap on. This is a book of big ideas from philosophy, theology and history.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Darius

    Well documented study of the treatment of reason by Islamic intellectuals Religions and intellectuals who say that faith is supreme, must nevertheless take a position on reason. What is the interplay between reason and faith? Are they opposites? Do they address separate spheres of life? Is reason efficacious, and -- if so -- to what extent? This book documents the debates of two key Islamic intellectuals -- Ibn Rushd and Al-Ghazali -- supporting and denying a role for reason. Unfortunately, Ibn R Well documented study of the treatment of reason by Islamic intellectuals Religions and intellectuals who say that faith is supreme, must nevertheless take a position on reason. What is the interplay between reason and faith? Are they opposites? Do they address separate spheres of life? Is reason efficacious, and -- if so -- to what extent? This book documents the debates of two key Islamic intellectuals -- Ibn Rushd and Al-Ghazali -- supporting and denying a role for reason. Unfortunately, Ibn Rushd, the Aristotelean, lost the intellectual battle and his teachings became heresy. (It is ironic that Ibn Rushd played a role in bringing Aristotle to the attention of Christians, and thus a role in the opening of the Christian mind to reason, but failed to do so for his own religion.) Muslim scholars who echo Ibn Rushd's views are still at risk of persecution and exile. The author draws a line from the anti-reason ideas and the notion of "God a pure will" to modern resurgence of Islamic extremists who seek to impose their will upon the world. He shows how the intellectuals of Al Queda and similar groups explicitly echo the anti-reason philosophy of Al-Ghazali (and of the even more anti-reason Hanbali school) I'd have been happy with a book that was half the length, but I don't fault the author. He has done a thorough job of quoting a variety of Muslim sources and other scholars of Islam, to back his views. The topic of the book is pretty specific, but if the topic interests you this author has done a good job of taking an abstract topic and making it live.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Luftmensch

    "Human reason teaches us to question things, to discover things, and to make new laws for our better governance. Hence reason was— for al-Ghazali—the enemy of Islam, which requires absolute and unquestioning submission to the will of Allah" "The great fourteenth-century historian Ibn Khaldun wrote that, when the Muslims conquered Persia, general Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas petitioned Caliph Omar for permission to distribute the huge quantity of captured books and scientific papers as booty. Caliph Omar w "Human reason teaches us to question things, to discover things, and to make new laws for our better governance. Hence reason was— for al-Ghazali—the enemy of Islam, which requires absolute and unquestioning submission to the will of Allah" "The great fourteenth-century historian Ibn Khaldun wrote that, when the Muslims conquered Persia, general Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas petitioned Caliph Omar for permission to distribute the huge quantity of captured books and scientific papers as booty. Caliph Omar wrote back: “Throw them in the water. If what they contain is right guidance, God has given us better guidance. If it is error, God has protected us against it" "large portion of mainstream Sunni Islam, the majority expression of the faith, has shut the door to reality in a profound way" "The roots of Western civilization lie in the religion of Israel, the culture of Greece, and the law of Rome" "the rise of the Ash‘arite sect in the tenth century and the defeat of the rival sect of the Mu’tazalites" "twentieth-century Muslim scholar Fazlur Rahman said, “A people that deprives itself of philosophy necessarily exposes itself to starvation in terms of fresh ideas—in fact, it commits intellectual suicide.” "This is an account of Sunni Islam’s intellectual suicide—in Fazlur Rahman’s meaning of the term—and the reasons for it. This book will relate not so much how it happened, but why it happened; not so much what went wrong, but why it went wrong" "One cannot address the closing of the Muslim mind unless one is aware of its opening" "The Ka’ba in Mecca contained a pantheon of some 360 tribal gods and goddesses in its precincts" "Thus Islam was naturally suspicious of anything outside of itself. The Qur’an, it was thought, contained everything needed, and non-Qur’anic things were either against it or superfluous" "This intellectual quarantine could not, however, be maintained outside of Islam’s peninsular homeland. In the conquered Sassanid and Byzantine territories, Islam encountered civilizations superior to itself by any measure. When the capital of the Islamic empire moved from Medina to Damascus under the Umayyad dynasty (660–750), the Muslim rulers were surrounded by an alien culture. How should Islam react to what it now ruled? How much could it absorb and what should it reject, and why? What should its attitude be toward the beliefs and teachings of those whom it had conquered" "Islam encountered Greek thought in its new Byzantine and Sassanid possessions" "There were also centers of Hellenistic learning in Alexandria (which moved to Antioch, Syria, around A.D. 718" "The initial Muslim interest in the Greek sciences was in practical matters such as medicine, mathematics, natural science, alchemy, and astrology" "After Islam encountered Hellenic thought, the most challenging issue it faced involved the status of reason. What is reason’s ability to apprehend reality? Can God be known rationally" "Can reason comprehend moral principles outside of the Qur’an" "What if something in the Qur’an appears to be unreasonable? Is it legitimate even to ask these questions? Is Islam compatible with anything other than itself" "Mu‘tazilite school, composed of the Muslim rationalist theologians" "The pre-Mu‘tazilites were called Qadarites, or Qadariyya, after the Arabic word qadar, which can mean divine decree or predestination, or power. They stood for the opposite of predestination: man’s free will and consequent responsibility for his actions. Man has power (qadar) over his own actions. If men were not able to control their behavior, said the Qadarites, the moral obligation to do good and avoid evil, enjoined by the Qur’an, would be meaningless" "Contrary to this view, the Jabariyya (determinists; from jabr, meaning blind compulsion) embraced the doctrine that divine omnipotence requires the absolute determination of man’s actions by God" "Hudhayfa bin Asid reported that the Prophet said, “Two angels visit every foetus in the womb upon the completion of forty or forty-five nights and say, ‘O Lord! Is it misguided or righteous?’ Then they write [the answer]. Then they ask, ‘O lord! Is it male or female?’ Then they write [the answer]. They also write its deed, wealth and means of livelihood, and death. Then they roll off the parchment to which nothing is added nor detracted afterwards" "The Umayyad caliphs ruling in Damascus enjoyed the sanction provided by the Jabariyya doctrine because it excused them from responsibility for any unjust acts. How could they be blamed for their foreordained brutality" "In 750, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads, along with their doctrine of predestination. The Abbasids had cause to embrace the Mu‘tazilites, who succeeded to the Qadariyya position" "without man’s freedom, God’s justice is unintelligible. To be held justly accountable for his acts, man must be free" "The freedom to interpret revelation was based upon the Mu‘tazilite teaching, shocking to the traditionalists, that the Qur’an was created in time. The standard orthodox belief was that the Qur’an is uncreated and exits coeternally with Allah" "If the Qur’an was created, it is subject to rational criteria. If it is subject to rational criteria, it is not the exclusive domain of the ulema. An uncreated Qur’an would not allow for this interpretive freedom. Caliph al-Ma’mun knew that the teaching of a created Qur’an and of man’s free will would enhance his authority and undermine that of the traditionalist ulema" "The Second Struggle: ‘Aql (Reason) versus Naql (Traditional Faith" "The Mu‘tazilites, who created the first fully developed theological school in Islam, championed the primary role of reason; reason’s ability to know morality; the goodness and justice of God as required by reason; the unity of God; and the necessity of man’s free will" "and its practitioners as mutakallimun (though this term is sometimes used to signify the opponents of the Mu‘tazilites). At a very basic Socratic and Aristotelian level, they embraced the propositions that the mind can know things"

  17. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    A very interesting theological analysis of mainstream Sunni Islam. Having little direct experience of Sunni Islam, I cannot speak as to its practical accuracy, however, it does appear to at least partially explain the seeming prevalence of retrogressive and strongly anti-intellectual currents in modern Sunni Islam, as well as violent Islamism. It should be noted that the author is obviously a Roman Catholic, who is strongly influenced by that brand of theology. I would have wished for the author A very interesting theological analysis of mainstream Sunni Islam. Having little direct experience of Sunni Islam, I cannot speak as to its practical accuracy, however, it does appear to at least partially explain the seeming prevalence of retrogressive and strongly anti-intellectual currents in modern Sunni Islam, as well as violent Islamism. It should be noted that the author is obviously a Roman Catholic, who is strongly influenced by that brand of theology. I would have wished for the author to have disclosed and discussed this before embarking on this theological analysis, as his honesty was in question by not doing so. In my opinion, coming at this topic from a non-relativistic point of view is a strength, even if I do not 100% agree with the point of view of the author. I felt that he weakened his position by not honestly addressing it. Nonetheless, I found this book to be very interesting and thought-provoking.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Dotolo

    Great philosophical and theological explanation for the decline of rationality in the Muslim world. Rejection of individual agency in human activity, for a view of God that is deterministic and autocratic, and the willful refusal to apply critical thought to causality, led Sunni Islam into an unending jihad against Modernity and Democracy. Book should put to bed the nonsense that Sharia is compatible with US Constitutional principles (see the Victory Mosque in NYC.) However, Reilly's work does p Great philosophical and theological explanation for the decline of rationality in the Muslim world. Rejection of individual agency in human activity, for a view of God that is deterministic and autocratic, and the willful refusal to apply critical thought to causality, led Sunni Islam into an unending jihad against Modernity and Democracy. Book should put to bed the nonsense that Sharia is compatible with US Constitutional principles (see the Victory Mosque in NYC.) However, Reilly's work does point out the possibility for a reform within Islam- not a "moderate" Islam that would leave the pathologies in place- based on critical analysis and thinking of theological principles (and one that is definitely within Islamic history.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Doug Peters

    The large historical portion of this book is excellent, and should be required reading for anyone wanting to have an educated opinion concerning Islam. Only the relatively weak analysis/prognosis portion toward the end brings the rating down. But that doesn't mean that the author is wrong... The large historical portion of this book is excellent, and should be required reading for anyone wanting to have an educated opinion concerning Islam. Only the relatively weak analysis/prognosis portion toward the end brings the rating down. But that doesn't mean that the author is wrong...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan Haley

    Must read for anyone who has ever tried to understand the cultural gulf between the Middle East and the rest of the world. Very readable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mollie

    Brilliant! Made my really appreciate the strong philosophy core of my time at Christendom.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    A noteworthy study that's well-articulated, even if somewhat polemically at times. First, two things from judging the cover: 1) The title is a misnomer because the narrative detailed describes a particular sect and school of Islam and cannot speak to the experience of all Muslims. It should be mentioned that the author does note this to some extent, but the title remains incorrect and polemical. 2) The fact that the author has served in the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a A noteworthy study that's well-articulated, even if somewhat polemically at times. First, two things from judging the cover: 1) The title is a misnomer because the narrative detailed describes a particular sect and school of Islam and cannot speak to the experience of all Muslims. It should be mentioned that the author does note this to some extent, but the title remains incorrect and polemical. 2) The fact that the author has served in the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and that there is praise on the back from the National Security Advisor to Reagan, gives a good sense of the ideological bent and purpose of the book, which is visible enough from the content. I merely draw attention to this to illustrate a particular point. Many of the points raised by the author are likely to be accurate observations. I'm afraid I'm not adequately steeped in the history and literature of the trend/s and narrative/s in the book in order to offer a well-rounded critique, but there are certain movements and arguments within the book that seem questionable to even someone as uneducated in the subject as myself. For posterity's sake, I'll allude to only two: 1) While it's admirable how much attention the author gives to the theological debate at the centre of the book (between the Mutazzali and the Ashari), I believe it's not entirely fair to treat Ghazzali as the scapegoat for the death blow to reason or the intellectual suicide which, according to the author, 'created the modern "Islamist" crisis'. Yes, the 11th and 12th Century teacher did revolt against the Hellenic-inspired Muslim philosophers, but he himself underwent a massive existential crisis and change of heart later in his career, and thus turned towards tasawwuf (Sufism). If his words gained so much traction in the death blow to reason, it might also be because neo-Platonic thought was not accessible to the experience of the 12th century muslims. I am merely a student of Philosophy, but I believe that it has to be grown organically in the intellectual garden of a civilization. It cannot merely be taken from another time and space and expected to grow in seemingly alien soil. It might, but it might also not. 2) The author speaks much too slightingly of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence, who was tortured at the hands of Caliph al-Ma'mun - a devoted Mutazalite rationalist - when ibn Hanbal refused to accede to the Caliph's theology. Not only is this incident very briefly mentioned, almost in passing, but it seems imprudent. After alluding to that torture, the author says, in parentheses: "The force employed on behalf of the Mu'tazilites is sometimes used to discredit them. But an argument can be made that the use of force to defend rationality is in itself reasonable -- in fact required under certain circumstances. Obviously, the enemies of reason cannot be opposed by reason alone" (39) Is it really that "obvious" that torture, even if in the name of almighty reason, can be condoned? Can the ends justify the means that way? Because this question, and the author's nod of consent to the incident, dismantles, at least for me, his later critique of the triumph of the will in Islamic intellectual history where, instead of reason, the author says Muslims adopt a Nietzschean-style will-to-power. I am not a Hanbalite, not even a Muslim, nor do I care much for the simplistic Mu'tazzali-Ashari binary, but for me torture is not "obvious". And the author fails to see how deep that scar runs in the Muslim experience and how ibn Hanbal emerged as the hero primarily because of this incident. The rationalists shot themselves in the foot with this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    PolicemanPrawn

    This book describes why Islam has gone wrong intellectually, and the consequences of it. The author argues that much of the 'why' boiled down to a battle between two competing Islamic philosophies that took place at the end of the 1st millennium: the Mu’tazilities, who used human reasoning in their understanding of Islam, and the Ash’arites, who stripped reasoning and philosophy of any role within Islam, believing God’s will is the only thing that mattered. The Ash'arites won, and the Islamic wo This book describes why Islam has gone wrong intellectually, and the consequences of it. The author argues that much of the 'why' boiled down to a battle between two competing Islamic philosophies that took place at the end of the 1st millennium: the Mu’tazilities, who used human reasoning in their understanding of Islam, and the Ash’arites, who stripped reasoning and philosophy of any role within Islam, believing God’s will is the only thing that mattered. The Ash'arites won, and the Islamic world and the rest of us are suffering the consequences. Attempts at moderating the religion have largely failed. If only God’s will matters, then there is no need for reason, philosophy, human rights, democracy, even theology, only Islamic jurisprudence; the only thing left to do is to interpret and apply God’s will. The Ash'arite philosophy, the author argues, also tends to lead to a rule by violence, terrorism, and totalitarianism. If we are ruled by God’s will (and not reason), then that tends to lead to a rule by human will (and not reason). There is no recourse to reason, so force tends to be used, resulting in violence and terrorism. Overall, this gives an excellent explanation of why Islam is in the state that it is, and why it is such a threat to the rest of the world. Most of the book is spent dealing with the philosophical work, with only the latter sections dealing with the consequences. The author seemed reluctant to really expand on the consequences of the intellectual suicide, no doubt from fear of the headchop. There are a lot of Arabic words, so a glossary would have been handy. The writing is also a little dense and contorted at times.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mustafa Muftuoglu

    When I first saw the title of the book, immediately decided to read but didn't expect to read a concrete anatomy of the reasons why Sunni and Shia are in thousand years of darkness. Robert Reilly investigates how Muslims, the bright torch of science, in 8th to 10th centuries have closed their doors to science and philosophy and delivered itself to darkness. This book will make you understand whatever you believe, if it does not contain rationalist attitude and critical thinking, it will end up wi When I first saw the title of the book, immediately decided to read but didn't expect to read a concrete anatomy of the reasons why Sunni and Shia are in thousand years of darkness. Robert Reilly investigates how Muslims, the bright torch of science, in 8th to 10th centuries have closed their doors to science and philosophy and delivered itself to darkness. This book will make you understand whatever you believe, if it does not contain rationalist attitude and critical thinking, it will end up with being the major enemy of freedom, equality, Western democracy, and reasoning. It clearly shows the importance of secularism and accepting the freedom of speech in every condition. - Whoever considers critical thinking, asking questions and reasoning as sins from the devil, they are on a hiding to nothing. Therefore sunni, shia and other made-up religions pretending to represent Islam will never find its way into the modern world.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rick Sam

    An excellent book, it might be difficult for someone within this faith to take and read this book. The author talks about the roots of problems/issues in the Islamic world. Basically, differences in theology, convictions and not having rationality in their theology. I learned about the two sects within Islamic theology if you're familiar with Philosophy. This would be interesting and easier read, learned also about Al-Ghazali and Averroes. You'll enjoy this book if you are into theology, philoso An excellent book, it might be difficult for someone within this faith to take and read this book. The author talks about the roots of problems/issues in the Islamic world. Basically, differences in theology, convictions and not having rationality in their theology. I learned about the two sects within Islamic theology if you're familiar with Philosophy. This would be interesting and easier read, learned also about Al-Ghazali and Averroes. You'll enjoy this book if you are into theology, philosophy, and history. Deus Vult, Gottfried

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anjar Priandoyo

    The book is just too long for this topics, and too short to address the complexity of the Islamic world. The author gives a good example in Indonesia and Pakistan, but to solve this complex problem need a lot of perspectives. However, its good to give a balanced perspective on liberal Islam movement.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarhang Brifkany

    it’s so exaggerating unfortunately

  28. 5 out of 5

    Fasih Zulfiqar

    Enlightening, something every Muslim should read. It's gonna break one's belief barriers and put any Muslim under great cognitive dissonance—but it's worth it. Enlightening, something every Muslim should read. It's gonna break one's belief barriers and put any Muslim under great cognitive dissonance—but it's worth it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Older white males who make a good living out of the death of the others, preferably brown skinned people.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Isaac

    This book is a bit of a mixed bag. It provides some fascinating information of medieval Islamic debates on theology and Greek philosophy, and highlights the wide range of attitudes toward reason within the Medieval Islamic world. So we have (1) the Hanbalites, who are literalists and not open to a more rational interpretation of their faith, (2) Mutalizites, who adopt a rational theology somewhat akin to Scholasticism in Medieval Christian theology, and (3) Asharites, who sit somewhere in betwee This book is a bit of a mixed bag. It provides some fascinating information of medieval Islamic debates on theology and Greek philosophy, and highlights the wide range of attitudes toward reason within the Medieval Islamic world. So we have (1) the Hanbalites, who are literalists and not open to a more rational interpretation of their faith, (2) Mutalizites, who adopt a rational theology somewhat akin to Scholasticism in Medieval Christian theology, and (3) Asharites, who sit somewhere in between. Reilly's thesis is that the triumph of the Asharites (and to a lesser extent the Hanbalites) lead to the decline of reason in the Islamic world and to the present problems with Islamic attitudes toward the west. There are a number of problems with this thesis, however. Firstly, the links between these theological debates and the problems in the Middle East today seem rather forced. Also, Reilly's putting the alleged 'suicide' (not a good choice of words - pejorative) on Al-Ghazali, as though one man can bring down an entire culture, is a big stretch. I know, al-Ghazali is supposed to be representative of the broader Islamic reaction to Greek philosophy, but that's the problem: to focus too much on al-Ghazali and not look at the broader culture of the day is not a good historical approach. Secondly, Reilly focuses solely on al-Ghazali's attitudes toward Greek and Arabic philosophy and seems not to notice that his views on other disciplines, e.g. mathematics, astronomy, logic, were much less severe. (Well, Reilly does mention that al-Ghazali used logic against 'the philosophers' [mainly Avicenna and his followers], but the other two are not mentioned.) It would seem that the negative reaction to Greek philosophy within Asharite thought might not have extended to other areas of Greek learning. Finally, this book's primary problem is that is does not give a broad enough overview of the late Medieval Islamic world, and its intellectual culture, to make its case that the crucial moment in the decline of Islamic culture was the 11th-12th centuries. There is evidence, as has been pointed out by historian George Saliba, author of 'A History of Arabic Astronomy', that astronomy continued to be studied in the Islamic world for centuries after al-Ghazali. Mathematics also continued to be studied and medicine, as well - to the extent that medicine really was 'scientific' at the time. So, whatever negative effect al-Ghazali might have had (which according to Frank Griffel, an expert of al-Ghazali's thought, is debatable), it does not appear to have strongly influenced Arabic astronomy. What seems to have happened is that certain ideas were (somewhat unconsciously) absorbed into Islamic thought, while others were (consciously) rejected as incompatible with Islamic thought. So, a kind of distinctive 'Islamic philosophy', consciously different from Greek and early Arabic philosophy, emerged. To what extent this development created a climate hostile to freedom of thought in the Islamic world is debatable, thought plausible, I think. Ultimately, Reilly fails to make his case, as there are big holes in his narrative.

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