cover image Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance

Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance

Mustafa Akyol. St. Martin’s Essentials, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-25606-5

In this thoroughly researched and fervently argued book, Turkish journalist Akyol (The Islamic Jesus) follows the development of Islamic thought from its golden age of philosophy and science to today’s strains of conservative orthodoxy. Akyol surveys prominent thinkers (particularly 12th-century Andalusian polymath Ibn Rushd), writers (among them 11th-century Persian philosopher Al-Ghazali), and even important fictional characters such as Hayy ibn Yaqzan, the protagonist of a popular 12th-century tale. He also challenges the idea that “Islam, right from its core, has been an unusually dogmatic religion” and “an exceptionally rigid and absolutist version of monotheism.” The reality, he argues, is that restrictions on intellectual freedom within Islam were a result of political expedience—specifically medieval sultans interested in preserving their own authority—rather than any features inherent in the religion. Akyol’s analysis serves as a theology as well as a history, advocating for a more tolerant and open Islam based on the primary teachings of the Koran, though readers unfamiliar with Islam will have a hard time following the author’s theological reasoning. Scholars of Islam, and especially Muslims interested in the faith’s future, will find Akyol’s take trenchant and satisfying. [em](Apr.) [/em]