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Islam and the Challenge of Civilization

Abdelwahab Meddeb

Publication Year: 2013

Abdelwahab Meddeb makes an urgent case for an Islamic reformation, located squarely in Western Europe, now home to millions of Muslims, where Christianity and Judaism have come to coexist with secular humanism and positivist law. He is not advocating "moderate" Islam, which he characterizes as thinly disguised Wahabism, but rather an Islam inspired by the great Sufi thinkers, whose practice of religion was not bound by doctrine. To accomplish this, Meddeb returns to the doctrinal question of the text as transcription of the uncreated word of God and calls upon Muslims to distinguish between Islam's spiritual message and the temporal, material, and historically grounded origins of its founding scriptures. He contrasts periods of Islamic history--when philosophers and theologians engaged in lively dialogue with other faiths and civilizations, and contributed to transmitting the Hellenistic tradition to early modern Europe--with modern Islam's collective amnesia of this past. Meddeb wages a war of interpretations in this book, in his attempt to demonstrate that Muslims cannot join the concert of nations unless they set aside outmoded notions such as jihad and realize that feuding among the monotheisms must give way to the more important issue of what it means to be a citizen in today's post-religious global setting.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Prologue: Religion and Violence

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pp. vii-xiv

All is not well with Islam. In fact, it is seriously ailing. I have ventured to diagnose this ailment and to prescribe the cure in four previous books written since the horrendous attacks of September 11, 2001.1 This new work is an extension of the scrutiny undertaken in those earlier ones. I open with a reminder ...

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Chapter 1 The Koran as Myth

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pp. 1-12

My relationship to Arabic, particularly Koranic Arabic, is at the core of who I am as a person. As a child, my experience of Arabic diglossia was a very physical one. My mother tongue was the Tunis vulgate, used by my mother and the women in my family home. Next, at the age of four, I was inducted into...

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Chapter 2 The Clash of Interpretations

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pp. 13-37

In order to understand the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism and to devise the best means of resisting it, we need to go back to the founding text, in all its ambivalence, and to engage the conflict, if not the war, of interpretation. Fundamentalism concerns first and foremost the way Islam relates to the two ...

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Chapter 3 On the Arab Decline

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pp. 38-47

To be Arab today is first of all a source of pride, to descend from an immense intellectual and creative tradition. But it also denotes a sadness linked to a feeling of decline, uneasiness, and monumental failure. One cannot but be struck by the gap between what was once Arab civilization at its height and today’s cultural desert. ...

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Chapter 4 Civilization or Extinction

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pp. 48-85

Islam is a civilization and a religion, but with political ambitions. Today, the first two attributes have been eclipsed by the violence of seditious factions that perpetrate their crimes in Islam’s name. The shocking attacks of September 11, 2001, were committed in the name of jihād, sometimes translated as “holy ...

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Chapter 5 Enlightenment between High and Low Voltage

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pp. 86-102

Two distinct periods in Islamic history can be described as doubly infused with an Enlightenment spirit: the early participation in the surge of civilization from the ninth century onward, and the desire to join the civilizing movements of the nineteenth century. Upstream, so to speak, as early as the mid–eighth century, ...

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Chapter 6 The Physics and Metaphysics of Nature

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pp. 103-118

The notion of nature does not exist in the Bible, any more than it does in the Koran, where it is assimilated to creation. Thus perceived, Nature is a divine gift bestowed upon Man to have dominion over and enjoy. Humans forever marvel before the spectacle of divine Creation, a boundless work founded upon...

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Epilogue: Religion and Cosmopolitics

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pp. 119-130

Andalusia, with its three cultures, has often been evoked as a moment when Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were able to live and thrive together. Without falling into the vision of a golden age of history that filters out violence and conflict, I must acknowledge that this entente did take place and that it produced recognizable vestiges, a few examples of which we have brought to mind here. ...

Appendix A: The Veil Unveiled: Dialogue with Christian Jambet

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pp. 131-150

Appendix B: Obama in Cairo

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pp. 151-156


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pp. 157-178

E-ISBN-13: 9780823251247
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823251230
Print-ISBN-10: 0823251233

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth