A clarion call to restore long-diminished traditions in Islamic thought.



A cogent appeal for an Islamic enlightenment based in Islamic values.

Akyol, author of Islam Without Extremes and The Islamic Jesus, presents a well-prepared argument for “finding Enlightenment values—reason, freedom and tolerance—within the Islamic tradition itself.” The author explains that early Islamic history spawned two broad ethical schools, one of which he characterizes as “ethical objectivism theory,” the other as “divine command theory.” The latter rose to prominence in the form of Ash'arism, a Sunni school of theology that stresses the role of scriptural and clerical authority. Ash’arism, writes Akyol, “won the day not because of its merits, but because of the support of the states that ruled the medieval Muslim world.” The author shows how authoritarian states have dominated Islamic history, using the divine command theory of ethics to uphold their power. According to Akyol, this trend has continued into the modern day, supporting authoritarianism and its attendant lack of freedoms. The author, who has spent much of his career studying and clarifying many aspects of Islam, calls on readers to ponder the early Islamic scholars who championed reason, science, personal liberties, and self-determinism, showing the importance of implementing these values in a modern Islamic enlightenment. Akyol especially highlights the 12th-century philosopher Ibn Rushd, known to the West as Averroes. He also calls on believers to mine the Quran for lessons in peace and personal freedoms that Ash’arism has suppressed through the centuries. “The big remedy we need…is really having ‘no compulsion in religion.’ It is, in other words, giving up coercive power in the name of Islam,” writes the author. “This means no more religious and moral policing, no threats to apostates and ‘innovators,’ no blasphemy laws, no public flogging or stoning, and no violence or intimidation in the family.” An exchange of liberalism for legalism, he maintains, will solve this dilemma.

A clarion call to restore long-diminished traditions in Islamic thought.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-25606-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's Essentials

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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