Bertrand Russell's "Why I'm not a Christian" was a short set of essays, starting with a rather civilized debate about proving the existence of God. Though taken from that title, Warraq's book is an altogether larger exposition that is hardly a tea time discussion given that thousands of people have been killed and continue to be killed in the name of Islam, and that there are serious issues to explore including layers of history and the growth of learning and the intellect in the Islamic world, up until today. The book describes several historical schools of the faith and also chronicles the lives of several poets, free thinkers and philosophers from the Islamic world. It culminates in the thorny issue of what Islam represents in the West as well as in its heartlands such as Pakistan, where a woman is raped every three hours. Warraq himself originated in Pakistan and has had enough exposure to an Islamic education to tease out what is effectively a polemic against dogmatic religion of any form, monotheism in particular, with his ire focussed against Islam. The book is often a literature review with passages from several authors, mostly from sources that are out of copyright. Not all the sources are unimpeachable, though there is enough material to create a body of evidence to make his points. The book indicates that the word Islam is complex and one ought to distinguish between what Muslims are and do as against the set of teachings they are expected to practice. This book is not an attack on Muslims but a treatise that investigates the origins of Islam, the creation of a politicized empire building creed and its consequences in history.
This book is suitable for Muslims to understand their history and faith and non-Muslims alike. So long and comprehensive was the book (c.Read more ›
This is a long and detailed book. It goes through everything from the origins of the Qur'an to the life of Mohammed to the effect of Islam on other conquered countries. He is not a polemicist; unlike Ali Sina, Robert Spencer or Salman Rushdie, Warraq does not ridicule people or their beliefs. Warraq admits that there are differing opinions on wife-beating; whilst Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes out that Islam always allows it, Warraq points out a contradiction between the Qur'an and the Hadith, which has been resolved in various ways. The worst that he says about Mohammed is that he finds the heroes of other religions to be better role models. The book could do with a bit of humour sometimes; the only bit that I picked up on was when he said that Muslim countries are probably better off without Winnie the Pooh. [No argument was giving for this anti-Pooh stance]. The final words in the book state that the next battle is more likely to be between those who favour freedom and those who do not rather than between Islam and the West. This illustrates that his aim was to safeguard free enquiry and liberty against fundamentalists rather than to simply insult religious faith.
This was written almost fifteen years ago now, but is enjoying a revivial due to its being quoted by lots of atheists. His argument may even have been vindicated by the actions of those last fifteen years.
Some of the other reviews in this section appear to be by people who have not read the book. This can be shown by how they just pick insults out of the sky.
Despite the fact it was written in the 1990s, this books is still very actual; in fact I think it has become even more relevant and more essential today, where the freedom of speech on the topic of Islam is severely restricted due to global threat of violence as the cases of the Danish Cartoons, 'The Innocence of Muslims' and self-censorship of Channel 4 on Tom Holland's documentary clearly show. This book exhaustively debunks some myths around Islam which inhibit an open and much needed debate about the subject and pander to the will of those who recur to violence in order to prevent any criticism of their faith.
Ibn Warraq is a brave man and an honest intellectual; those who criticize him have to engage in mental gymnastics, weasel words, double standards and intellectual dishonesty (cultural relativism) in order to defend the indefensible.
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I have studied most of the work by Ibn Warraq and his effort must be admired though it is impossible for muslims to do so. He is bluntly honest with facts and knows well what he writes. There is a feeling of repetition which could be forgiven due to the reason that originally all the stuff was in the form of articles. I wish if i could sit with him and talk about some points where i have difference of opinion. I would recommend this book to every muslim, if they could digest truth.
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Brave, learned, interesting, surprisingly calm and objective and wide ranging book, if more intellectual than populist.
To develop only a few points amongst many in this book:
Some Muslim countries ban The Muppet Show, Winnie the Pooh and Orwell's Animal Farm because they contain fictional characters who are pigs, an unclean animal in Islam.
The author differentiates (as western commentators often fail to do) between on the one hand the religion itself and on the other hand the achievements of "Islamic" Art, Architecture, Calligraphy and (in former centuries) Science and Philosophy. These cultural achievements were not necessarily the result of Islam or to its credit. They developed after Mohammed's day and we do not know if he would have approved of them. They may owe as much to the heritage of the previous civilizations conquered by the Arabs as to Islam itself. Many of the leading "Muslim" poets, scientists and philosophers of the period were open or suspected heretics, unbelievers or Arabic speaking Christians living a sometimes only precariously tolerated existance within Muslim societies.
Although some would have us believe that Wahhabisim, the austere and intolerant form of Islam that forcibly conquered what is now Saudi Arabia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and and still dominates Saudi society, is an extreme aberration, compared to the milder forms of Islam such as Ismailis and Sufis, I am left believing that the opposite is the case. Mohammed himself and his armed followers in Medina had much more in common with the Saudi Wahhabis.
Yes, more desirable things such as charity and desire for peace have always had their place in Islam, and no, most Muslims do not go around planting bombs or beheading people.Read more ›