cover image Islam and the Challenge of Civilization

Islam and the Challenge of Civilization

Abdelwahab Meddeb, trans. from the French by Jane Kuntz. Oxford Univ., $35 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8232-5123-0

Meddeb (The Malady of Islam), who teaches comparative literature at Paris West University Nanterre and is also a novelist and poet, takes a high-level look at the need for changes to Islamic interpretation. Meddeb's thesis%E2%80%94that Muslims need to turn towards Sufism more%E2%80%94is not new; many of his founda-tional arguments, however, are bold and fresh. He argues that much of the material most Muslims rely on as default interpretive tools are actually fundamentalist, simplistic, and Wahhabi. Furthermore, vio-lence is inherent to the monotheistic religions; after all, most violence that appears in the Qur'an ap-peared in the Bible first. The term dhimmi%E2%80%94used to describe minority communities in Islamic states%E2%80%94was a concept that actually worked but has since been unfairly denigrated. Meddeb also argues that Sufism is an optimal next step for Islam because it is built on previous spiritual traditions. Much of this commentary%E2%80%94delivered in fragments%E2%80%94may surprise many Muslims and even some Islamic schol-ars. Those well-versed in Islamic Studies will enjoy the erudite read, masterfully rendered into English by Kuntz, a seasoned translator. (June)