The Crisis Of Islamic Civilization, by Ali A. Allawi
This book has a quite interesting focus, and that is the way that Islamic society has faced and largely failed to deal with the crisis of modernity. Whether one looks at ideological Islam (itself a violent child of the Enlightenment) or efforts for various reforming traditions to make Islam into the image of Western society, so far Islam has failed to address the challenges that modernity has given it, which allowed the West to gain an advantage in terms of material wealth as well as the attainment of power. This particular author writes from the point of view of Islam, not being someone who appears to be fond of Western culture or very knowledgeable about Judeo-Christian civilization, but if one wants to read about the crisis of Islam from the point of view of a Muslim there is much to appreciate here. Where the author’s goals of encouraging a view of the world that has some sort of enchantment and some sort of recognition of the importance of the sacred, I have some agreement with the author (although my own worldview would view such things in a Christian light in accordance with the full Biblical record), but even as someone who does not think highly of the Muslim agenda, there is a great deal to appreciate here in terms of letting people speak for themselves about their view of their culture and its potential for improvement and restoration.
This book is almost 300 pages long and begins with a preface and a discussion of the various axes of Islamic Civilization that the author views as being rejected and neglected over the past couple centuries by increasing strength in the West. The author talks about the tear in the fabric that modernity and its adherents has caused to Islamic culture (1) as well as the decisive break with the past that modernity encourages with all religious worldviews (2). After that the author talks about the counter-revolt of militant Islam (3) as well as the problem of the disenchantment of the world (4) that results from modernity. The author discusses various failed attempts at reforming Islam (5) that have come from various modernizers as well as the questions of territory and power (6) that have to be dealt with by Muslims. There is a discussion of what is next for the Islamic state (7) as well as the relationship between human rights and human duties (8). The book then ends with a look at the issue of wealth and poverty (9), a discussion of Islam’s decline of creativity (10), and the feeling that this is the last crisis (11) Islam will face, after which the book ends with notes and an index.
Ultimately, this book is an interesting antidote to what a lot of people write about Islam from the point of view of someone who has a great deal of hostility to Western civilization and who longs for Islam to respond to the challenge with a recommitment to its own cultural heritage. If the author had been more broad-minded about seeking an alliance of people of faith as a whole, this book would have been even easier to appreciate. As it is, this is the sort of book that is easiest to read and appreciate as an insider’s account of her own background and her own resentment about the way her culture has been viewed as backward and pressured into various changes and responses that only make her culture more widely derided and less able to meet the material as well as spiritual promises that is has made to its adherents who expected the world to become Islam and did not expect the outside world to increasingly minimize and overcome the rule of Islam in key parts of the world like India, Europe, and Israel.