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Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook [Paperback]

Charles Kurzman
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 27.50
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Book Description

1 Nov 1998
Demonstrating that "liberal Islam" is not a contradiction in terms, this anthology presents the translated work of 33 Muslims concerned with the separation of church and state, democracy, the condition of women, the rights of minorities, freedom of thought, and the future of human progress.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195116224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195116229
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 17.6 x 25.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 816,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Kurzman does an examplary job of selection-the excerpts are both interesting and important-and of finding writings from across the Muslim world./Middle East Quaterly June 1999.

From the Author

Don't think that "Liberal Islam" is a contradiction in terms
As I worked to put together this anthology, friends would sometimes joke with me, "Liberal Islam? That ought to be a short book." Well, it isn't. Despite popular misperceptions in the West, liberalism is a thriving tradition within the Islamic world, and it was not easy to narrow down my selections for the anthology to 32 authors (many of them published here for the first time in English). These are Muslims from all over the Islamic world who share parallel concerns with Western liberalism, such as separation of church and state, democracy, the condition of women, the rights of minorities, freedom of thought, and the future of human progress. However, these are not mere parrots of Western themes; they express their concerns using an Islamic discourse that most Westerners are unfamiliar with. I hope that this book, by not being short, will show that Islam does not match the negative Western stereotypes. If it can accomplish this, it will have contributed in some small way to mutual understanding between the West and the Islamic world.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I saw then that there exist obstacles that are not easily overcome by those who are of the opinion that the Prophet, peace be upon him, in addition to the Message [which he carried], was also a political king and a founder of a political state. Read the first page
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Concordance
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb collection 1 May 2004
Format:Paperback
This volume brings together a superb collection of some of the most interesting work produced by Muslim thinkers in recent years. It accomplishes well what the editor set out to do: show the strength and depth of reformist islamic thinking. That the collection includes a few who might be viewed by some Muslims as on the fringe, or 'too secular', is merely a further indication of the multiplicity of perspectives currently finding expression among Muslims worldwide - whether on social or political questions. Such multiplicity is not, of course, new. Contrary to the shrill accusation of one reviewer on this forum, that "Islam cannot be reformed as it is the word of God (as set down in the Qur'an)!", these authors do not claim to reform the Quran, but to interpret it - just like generations of Islamic scholars have done for centuries. Fundamentalist critics such as the reviewer in question would do well to note the legitimate and age-old distinction in Islamic law between the so-called 'fixed' matters of worship ("al-thabit", relating to "al-asl"), on the one hand, and, on the other, those matters of practice and implementation that are open to interpretation: "al-mutaghayyir," (literally "the changing") relating to "al-mu'amalat". The authors in this collection follow in an honourable tradition in making the best use of the room for the latter: not in order to 'water down' the requirements of their faith, but precisely to make them more relevant and, as they would see it, the best possible reflection in today's world of the fundamentals of Islam. Read more ›
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting perspective 24 Oct 2002
Format:Paperback
This book sets out to debunk the idea that islam is purely radical and rigid, with no capacity for different opinions different to those proposed by hardliner, to manifest in an islamic frame work. It indeed does that. The lectures it contains, are from eminent muslim scholars. Ali Shariati, Muhammed Iqbal, with an excellent refutation of extremism by Yusuf-al Qaradawi, a prominent muslim jurist who regularly appears now on the arabic Al-Jazeera channel.
However, it isn't perfect! Some of the thinkers in this book seem to be playing some sort of apologetic role for western thought ( i.e. Ali abd-al-raziq, and egyptian jurist actually arguing for secularism, and Mamadou Dia, a Senegalese politician), whereas some are highly unorthodox (Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a sudanese engineer executed for heresy by the Sudanese government). But by and large this book accomplishes its purpose, with an interesting array of topics discussed. I heartily recommend it, if not for the information contained within.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Islam and modernity 20 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
"Liberal Islam" is a collection of writings by real or perceived Muslim reformers who argue that Islam is compatible with democracy, secularism, universal human rights and women's emancipation. With the exception of Benazir Bhutto, none of the authors in the collection are widely known in the Western world.

The book contains writings from almost all parts of the Muslim world: North Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia. There is also a contribution from Bosnia, and a text written by an African-American Muslim.

The most interesting texts are the ones dealing with women's rights, especially Muslim feminist Fatima Mernissi's attempt to deconstruct a popular anti-woman hadith (saying of the Prophet). Benazir Bhutto's arguments for a progressive interpretation of Islam are also interesting. Bhutto, of course, was the prime minister of Pakistan for two terms, becoming the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state. (Unless you count Aisha!) Another interesting contribution is Ali Bulac's analysis of the Medina Constitution.

A problem with "Liberal Islam" is that the editor's introductions to each text are very short. This makes the volume difficult to use for people unacquainted with the various authors. For instance, one wishes to learn more about the writer from Bosnia, who quotes both Plato and René Guenon, and sometimes sounds like Leo Strauss! One also wonders have much influence the respective writers really have. For instance, how important is "the reform group" in the Philippines?

For rather obvious reasons, I prefer modernist or secularist Islam to traditionalist or fundamentalist versions. Hopefully, ideas such as the ones in this book will one day become the dominant interpretation of this particular world religion!
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1 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly Educated 21 Oct 2003
By A. Khan
Format:Paperback
This book has an agenda!! It claims to be from within Islamic thinking yet the concepts it creates are completely unIslamic. Islam cannot be reformed as that is a contradiction. If Muslims believe the Quran to be the exact word of God then how can they reform the Quran or Islam without the approval of the God who originally wrote them? The so called scholars used here are therefore non muslims or hypocrites. The fact that the editor is Jewish doesn't help many Muslims when questioning reliability of said book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening 24 Sep 2000
By Tron Honto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The title "Liberal" appeals to the Western audience who may be curious enough to buy this book. Though the multifarious writers in this collection are not often liberal in the occidental sense of the word, they are surely progressive. Many are heterodox, many are key in intellectual and social revolutions, and overall, this is a wonderfully diverse and important sampling of a variety of Muslim thinkers. This book shows well the diversity and upheavel occuring in the rethinking of Islam in these times.
If you believe Islam to be a backward, anti-progressive religion, this book will shatter your mistaken stereotype.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly & Representative of the Silent Majority of Muslims 16 Mar 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a fabulous book! It illustrates the views of millions of Muslims that are never covered in the media or even by academicians. The "Orientalist" view of Islam has been promoted with tiresome frequency in the media and in scholarship as though it represents all of Islam -- it doesn't. This book gives a modern interpretation of Islam (that has nothing to do with terrorism) in a series of a short essays by Muslims and non-Muslims. These are scholarly essays -- not just the unreasoned opinions of journalists who have been cashing in on 9/11 to spin out their own books as fast as they can -- but liberal interpretations of Islam based on original Islamic texts, by renowned academicians. The interpretations of Islam in this book, though prevalent throughout the Islamic world, are usually neglected in the spotlight, eclipsed by juicier portrayals of extremists as representative of all Islam. Thanks to Kurzman, these interpretations receive attention here, and show us that Islam is a modern, equitable religion -- one advocating religious tolerance, women's rights, and democracy --and practiced peacefully by millions.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Islam and modernity 8 Mar 2009
By Ashtar Command - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Liberal Islam" is a collection of writings by real or perceived Muslim reformers who argue that Islam is compatible with democracy, secularism, universal human rights and women's emancipation. With the exception of Benazir Bhutto, none of the authors in the collection are widely known in the Western world.

The book contains writings from almost all parts of the Muslim world: North Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia. There is also a contribution from Bosnia, and a text written by an African-American Muslim.

The most interesting texts are the ones dealing with women's rights, especially Muslim feminist Fatima Mernissi's attempt to deconstruct a popular anti-woman hadith (saying of the Prophet). Benazir Bhutto's arguments for a progressive interpretation of Islam are also interesting. Bhutto, of course, was the prime minister of Pakistan for two terms, becoming the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state. (Unless you count Aisha!) Another interesting contribution is Ali Bulac's analysis of the Medina Constitution.

A problem with "Liberal Islam" is that the editor's introductions to each text are very short. This makes the volume difficult to use for people unacquainted with the various authors. For instance, one wishes to learn more about the writer from Bosnia, who quotes both Plato and René Guenon, and sometimes sounds like Leo Strauss! One also wonders have much influence the respective writers really have. For instance, how important is "the reform group" in the Philippines?

For rather obvious reasons, I prefer modernist or secularist Islam to traditionalist or fundamentalist versions. Hopefully, ideas such as the ones in this book will one day become the dominant interpretation of this particular world religion!
4.0 out of 5 stars A good antidote to all the islamist writing out there 1 Jun 2013
By Anonymous rviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A nice selection of moderate islamic writers. If only there were some way to know whether their views or the views of Sayyid Qutb hold moremsway.
12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberal Islam ... A Perspective Most of Us Fail to View 21 Jun 2000
By Adnan Mukhtar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was a dream come true. A thought put into words. A confusion clarified. A definite must read. Dear Muslims; look a little deeper into what your duties are as a Muslim, for Islam. You might find that most of what you do is "tradition" and not "religion". This book will help you dig even deeper into the controversies that arise in your mind and other Muslims. You will discover a "brand new religion:" Islam. The way it should be.
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