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Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush Paperback – 1 Oct 2002

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"This selection of his writings reveals a genuinely liberal intellect rooted in Soroush's Iranian and Islamic culture but at home with Western thought, toward which he is neither aggressive nor apologetically defensive."―Foreign Affairs

"Penetrating and coherent."―Foreign Affairs

About the Author

About the EditorsMahmoud Sadri is Associate Professor of Sociology at Texas Women's University. Ahmad Sadri is Associate Professor of Sociology at Lake Forest College.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
The Need for a Theoretical Context 13 Sept. 2000
By Jason Alexan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Undoubtedly, this text constitutes an essential contribution to the discourse of ideological resistance within contemporary Iranian society. Soroush, as a phenomenally visible public intellectual, has commanded an unrivaled status among those more conservative participants in the revolutionary cause, although the extent to which his writings can potentially incite a tangible political movement remains to be seen. With respect to this particular compilation, the exercise of translation is certainly exceptional and the readability with which the inherent complexity of Soroush's fusion of Islamic theology and modern philosophy is conveyed throughout the course of the book proves admirable. Nevertheless, this text warrants one primary criticism in that it fails to provide a theoretical contextualization of Soroush's thoughts amidst the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. More precisely, there is a definite need for further elaboration on the relationship of Soroush's intellectual contributions to the socioeconomic and cultural state of Iran as we now confront it, the nation's stace vis a vis the project of modernity, and the global marginalization which the country has been compelled to endure at the hands of an authoritarian theocratic apparatus.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Erasmus of Islam 10 April 2006
By Kashif Hasnie - Published on
Format: Paperback
This selection of Soroush's writings reveals a genuinely liberal intellect rooted in his Iranian and Islamic culture but at home with Western thought, toward which he is neither aggressive nor apologetically defensive.

Soroush, who has gained a following among Iranian students and even a few of the mullahs, cites the likes of Jalal al-Din Rumi, Muhammad Iqbal, J?rgen Habermas, and Alexis de Tocqueville as often as the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad(SAW). That might seem a recipe for a rambling, rootless philosophy, but his statements are thoughtful, penetrating and coherent. Although some observers have dubbed him the Luther of Islam, he is perhaps better seen as Islam's Erasmus, since he is carefully working within the system.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Cogent and eloquent 29 Jan. 2009
By Amina Henriksen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Never mind the reviewer from Qom who attempted to write a critical review... He evidently never read the book.

I found Mr. Soroush's book to be well researched, cogently argued, eloquently written, and... touching comprehensively on the topics in the title. The author has spent a considerable part of his life researching not only Islamic philosophy, but also philosophy of science, and it shows. He brings rationality and science back to discussions of Islam (although he is not alone).

If you are not open to an honest discussion on these topics - particularly Islam - don't bother.
A good sampling for an introduction 15 Sept. 2014
By Matthew Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is going to be two reviews for the same book since I had two purposes for coming into this book. I have been studying Iran for a few years now, and I would find Mr. Soroush to figure prominently as a leading intellectual figure in many of the works I read. He is continually quoted and his ideas discussed in many books that I have come across, so I finally decided to engage with a work that would introduce me to this man's ideas and beliefs in a general way which would give me a better understanding of the man that has been so influential. I found this book to be exactly what I was looking for in that sense, and so I was very happy with it. It has a very good sampling of his on work as well as an interview so the reader get's to see the author answer some questions in his own words. The book gives the reader a general look into the man and his ideas which gives them a better understanding of the man and how he fits into Iranian society.

Now as to the actual ideas the author puts forth; the author's main thesis is to inject logic and reason into the theological landscape. He wants to delineate Islam into that which is sacred and sourced to Muhammad and that which is less sacred and sourcing more ambiguous. For the latter the author wants to have a more open, Western style dialogue in which all sides have logical discussion about what is best for Islam and Muslims. His vision is much like the U.S. government in which we start out with a source document and build from that original source in ways that were not foreseen at the founding of the original source. Intellectual debate and discussion using the original source to guide this discussion between religious scholars that will form a census that will give people a better life and will help to bring everyone together is his greater vision.

This is of course a very general outline of his ideas, and it is certainly a laudable goal and one in which I hope the author is able to achieve, but I also doubt it very much. The main problem is human nature. Many of these religious fanatics enjoy immense power over their own niche of people whether large or small, and the injection of a rational dialogue with these individuals who hold this power only through the vehemence and fervor of their belief can only be detrimental to their position of power and authority. Many religious leaders rely on the ignorance of their followers, and to add this degree of rational thought is the last thing they would want.

Read this book to introduce yourself to a very important figure in Iranian society and to give yourself a greater understanding of the man and his ideas. It is a very good introduction with a great sampling of material that will give the reader an idea of just who this man is and why many consider him to be so dangerous while others consider him to be great man. While I believe his ideas are a bit naive, I certainly wish him well.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not what I expected 16 April 2012
By Cameron - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was expecting a synopsis of Mr. Soroush's thoughts but this instead is a collection of his speeches apparently to an audience of university students majoring in Philosophy of Islam. The chapters are full of references to other philosophers and books which was not what I was expecting.
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