The Crisis of Islamic Civilization by Ali A. Allawi

Book overview

Islam as a religion is central to the lives of over a billion people, but its outer expression as a distinctive civilization has been undergoing a monumental crisis. Buffeted by powerful adverse currents, Islamic civilization today is a shadow of its former self. The most disturbing and possibly fatal of these currents—the imperial expansion of the West into Muslim lands and the blast of modernity that accompanied it—are now compounded by a third giant wave, globalization.

These forces have increasingly tested Islam and Islamic civilization for validity, adaptability, and the ability to hold on to the loyalty of Muslims, says Ali A. Allawi in his provocative new book. While the faith has proved resilient in the face of these challenges, other aspects of Islamic civilization have atrophied or died, Allawi contends, and Islamic civilization is now undergoing its last crisis.

The book explores how Islamic civilization began to unravel under colonial rule, as its institutions, laws, and economies were often replaced by inadequate modern equivalents. Allawi also examines the backlash expressed through the increasing religiosity of Muslim societies and the spectacular rise of political Islam and its terrorist offshoots. Assessing the status of each of the building blocks of Islamic civilization, the author concludes that Islamic civilization cannot survive without the vital spirituality that underpinned it in the past. He identifies a key set of principles for moving forward, principles that will surprise some and anger others, yet clearly must be considered.

REVIEWS

“Ali Allawi provides a rare and a wide-ranging survey which seeks to make the Islamic way of life not only compatible but also relevant to modern times. His analysis is relentlessly critical and his approach is watertight. This is an excellent book, demolishing many of the stereotypes of Muslim assumptions about their faith and concepts of Islamic civilisation.” – Dr Abbas Kelidar, formerly professor of politics and history, SOAS, University of London

“Ali Allawi offers both a nuanced analysis of the present crisis in Islamic civilization, and a way forward. This book provides an insider’s map of what has gone wrong across the Muslim world, and what is necessary for Islam to rediscover a route to modernity respecting its distinctive wisdom. Allawi writes with characteristic elegance and incisive reflection – the western world badly needs such interpreters of Islam.” – Philip Lewis, Department of Peace Studies, Bradford University

“Ali Allawi engages in a crucial discussion that is too often missed or misunderstood, as he explores how Islamic civilization appears to him in the early part of the 21st century. His clear and sympathetic arguments make sense of what is happening in the Muslim world today. Rich in detail and full of insights, disturbing yet stimulating, The Crisis of Islamic Civilization is a cry from the heart.” – Ambassador Akbar S. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, Washington, DC, and Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies, United States Naval Academy

“Is there still anything like some preserved seeds of true Islamic civilisation? Or has Islamic civilisation been totally absorbed and eradicated by Westernization? This book answers these questions and many more.” – Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, National President of the Canadian Islamic Congress

“The writing is erudite and the conclusions fascinating.”—Publishers Weekly

“. . . [with] intimate knowledge of both Islam and the West, and his unflinching honesty . . . Mr Allawi calmly and methodically deconstructs an Islamic revival which has failed to live up to its promises.” — The Economist

“. . . a challenging and ambitious effort . . . thoughtful, pertinent and informative . . . I have no hesitation in recommending [The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation] to others, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”— Muhammad Khan, Muslim News

“This is an intelligent, erudite work on the travails of Islamic civilisation as it has encountered the expansion of Western power … at once an exposition, a lament … a prescription … and a salutary blast of cultural self-criticism … Allawi’s work is a searing indictment of Islamic societies but not of Islam itself … his expositions of the ideas of Muslim thinkers are exemplary in their lucidity … I learnt a lot from this book.”—Literary Review

“Like many other disappointed politicians, Ali Allawi turned to the consolations of philosophy and religion. The result is a remarkably thoughtful and engaging assessment of the current state and future prospects of the world of Islam.”—Martin Walker, Wilson Quarterly

“A take no doubt burdened by the horrors he’s witnessed on the ground, not to mention the frustration of creating a truly functioning government in Baghdad.”–The Washington Post Political Bookworm

‘Allawi’s contribution remains interesting, thought-provoking and worthy of careful reading.’—Abdelwahab El-Affendi, International Affairs

Winner of the Silver Prize in the 2009 Book Prize competition, presented by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

One of The Globalist’s Top Books of 2009.

CONTENTS
Preface vii
Prologue: The Axes of Islamic Civilization 1
1 Tearing the Fabric 22
2 The Break with the Past 41
3 The Counter-Revolt of Islam 63
4 De-Sacralising Islam 85
5 The Reformations of Islam 109
6 Territory and Power 137
7 Where next for the Islamic State? 157
8 Human Rights and Human Duties 186
9 Wealth and Poverty 206
10 The Decline of Creativity 228
11 The Last Crisis 248
Notes

Ali A. Allawi has served as Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance in the Iraqi postwar governments. The author of the highly praised Occupation of Iraq, he is senior visiting fellow at Princeton University.

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