Islam and the Challenge of Civilization By Abdulwahab Meddeb (translated Jane Kuntz) (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. 175 pages.)

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Saheed Ahmad Rufai



Abdelwahab Meddeb’s Islam and the Challenge of Civilization offers new
perspectives on and fresh associations among historical events in a way that
draws the curtain and adjusts the view among Muslim public intellectuals.
Situated within the broad scholarship of Islamic thought, it engages critically
and creatively with various doctrinal issues that are being manipulated by
some Muslim opinion leaders to support their own bellicose positions. The
author reveals the linkages between Islam and other revealed faiths, especially
during the former’s “golden age,” which witnessed productive encounters between
theologians and philosophers of diverse religious orientations.
The book comprises six chapters in addition to a prologue, an epilogue,
notes, and two appendices. In his prologue, the author argues that “violence
produced by belief is not unique to Islam but finds virulent expression even
among beliefs issuing from the Indian subcontinent” (p. viii) and emphasizes
the need for a “check on violence via the return to context” (p. ix). He seeks
to awaken Muslims “to the fact that times have changed” (p. x) and that “the
world is a different place” (p. x), which is why “when it comes to religious
identity” (p. x), Islam cannot continue to “perceive Christianity as if it were
still its medieval antagonist, despite modern notions of nations and peoples
that have circumscribed the religion” (p. x). The following statement sums up
the author’s thesis: “In short, if Islam is to be cured of its current affliction, it
must get to that post-Islamic, post-religious place where Christianity and Judaism
have managed to arrive” (p. x). This sounds interesting and prompts a
meticulous reader to watch out for an elaboration thereof. Unfortunately, such
an elaboration never appears ...

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