With majestic prose, Christopher de Bellaigue presents an absorbing account of the political and social reformations that transformed the lands of Islam in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Flying in the face of everything we thought we knew, The Islamic Enlightenment becomes an astonishing and revelatory history that offers a game-changing assessment of the Middle East since the Napoleonic Wars.Read more...
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Publisher: Dreamscape Media$39.99
With majestic prose, Christopher de Bellaigue presents an absorbing account of the political and social reformations that transformed the lands of Islam in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Flying in the face of everything we thought we knew, The Islamic Enlightenment becomes an astonishing and revelatory history that offers a game-changing assessment of the Middle East since the Napoleonic Wars.
Beginning his account in 1798, de Bellaigue demonstrates how Middle Eastern heartlands have long welcomed modern ideals and practices, including the adoption of modern medicine, the emergence of women from seclusion, and the development of democracy. With trenchant political and historical insight, de Bellaigue further shows how the violence of an infinitesimally small minority is in fact the tragic blowback from these modernizing processes.
Structuring his groundbreaking history around Istanbul, Cairo, and Tehran, the three main loci of Islamic culture, de Bellaigue directly challenges ossified perceptions of a supposedly benighted Muslim world through the forgotten, and inspiring, stories of philosophers, anti-clerics, journalists, and feminists who opened up their societies to political and intellectual emancipation. His sweeping and vivid account includes remarkable men and women from across the Muslim world, including Ibrahim Sinasi, who brought newspapers to Istanbul; Mirza Saleh Shirzi, whose Persian memoirs describe how the Turkish harems were finally shuttered; and Qurrat al-Ayn, an Iranian noble woman, who defied her husband to become a charismatic prophet.
What makes The Islamic Enlightenment particularly germane is that non-Muslim pundits in the post-9/11 era have repeatedly called for Islam to subject itself to the transformations that the West has already achieved since the Enlightenment--the absurd implication being that if Muslims do not stop reading or following the tenets of the Qur'an and other holy books, they will never emerge from a benighted state of backwardness. The Islamic Enlightenment, with its revolutionary argument, completely refutes this view and, in the process, reveals the folly of Westerners demanding modernity from those whose lives are already drenched in it.
- ISBN-13: 9780871403735
- ISBN-10: 0871403730
- Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
- Publish Date: April 2017
- Page Count: 432
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-02-13
- Reviewer: Staff
In this expansive historical account and commentary, de Bellaigue (In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs) recounts Islams painful encounter with modernity through the history of Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. The text is broad in scope and bold in its aims, attempting to chart the sometimes contradictory and manifold contours of this Islamic Enlightenment and disturb paternalistic notions of the Muslim world on the part of imprudent Western observers. De Bellaigue does well to manage a wide swathe of political, economic, religious, and cultural historical personages in the vortex among Istanbul, Cairo, and Tehran, but his tone can be condescending, and his treatment of Islamic theologies of reform is overly simplistic. Even so, this is a text that demands attention for its splendid prose, command of an entire treasury of history, and ability to undermine the misplaced patronization of Middle Eastern Muslim nations over the last 300 years. (Apr.)