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2011-11-20 Home Front: Culture Wars
Review: "The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Islamist Movement"
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Posted by  2011-11-20 00:00|| E-Mail|| Front Page|| [1127 views ]  Top

#1 "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science - the science against which it had vainly struggled - the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."
-- Winston Churchill, "The River War", in which he describes Muslims he observed during Kitchener's campaign in the Sudan
Posted by gromky 2011-11-20 00:06||   2011-11-20 00:06|| Front Page Top

#2  If you look up this title on, in the upper right hand corner of the results there is a link to Kindle and another link to 'read the first chapter'. If you have the Kindle utility installed, clicking on that button will give you a look at Chapter 1.

From the book:
It may seem outrageous to say in the title of this book that the Muslim mind has closed--that a whole civilization has mentally shut down and abandoned reason and philosophy. I do not mean that the minds of every individual Muslim are closed, or that there are not varieties of Islam in which the Muslim mind is still open. I do mean, however, that a large portion of mainstream Sunni Islam, the majority expression of the faith, has shut the door to reality in a profound way. The evidence attesting to this embrace of unreality is unfortunately abundant and has been offered by Muslims themselves. This closure is especially true of, and due to, a particular current of Muslim theology, the Ash'arite school of Islam, which predominates in the Arab Middle East (and is heavily present in other areas such as Pakistan and south Asia)....I do not include Shi'a Islam in this book except tangentially, because it is different enough from Sunni Islam as to require a separate work...Shi'a Islam's relations to philosophy was and is entirely different, for reasons that will be alluded to in Chapter 2.
Posted by Anguper Hupomosing9418 2011-11-20 01:16||   2011-11-20 01:16|| Front Page Top

#3 Personally, I think that Muslims follow Islam because it allows them to survive and prosper in competition against non-Muslims. A competition that kept pre-Islamic Arabs as a fringe group, surviving only because no one else wanted their habitat.
Posted by g(r)omgoru 2011-11-20 02:35||   2011-11-20 02:35|| Front Page Top

#4 I thought >Logos were like...building blocks.
Posted by Skidmark 2011-11-20 02:45||   2011-11-20 02:45|| Front Page Top

#5 AH1418, yes - the book is primarily about the dominant Sunni school, with some examination of e.g. al-Ghazali's Sufism.
Posted by lotp 2011-11-20 07:47||   2011-11-20 07:47|| Front Page Top

#6 Kudos to L. Sprague de Camp, who decades ago strongly cursed Al-Ghazali for having killed any efforts at intellectual evolution in Islam.

Though it is *very* wisely avoiding any press, there are efforts now to essentially rewrite the doctrines and interpretations of Islam to the equivalent of a "Protestant" form, stripping away much of its repulsive character.

Granted it is hypocritical, but then again, so was the revisionism that has been done to the (old testament) Christian Bible. It mostly just changes the emphasis from the violent parts to the non-violent parts.

Once it is created, the hard part will be the sales pitch, which they will try to get through the less radical Islamic scholars.
Posted by Anonymoose 2011-11-20 09:54||   2011-11-20 09:54|| Front Page Top

#7 Problem is as I understand it, where the Bible is inspired by God and written by men.

The Crayon however is considered to hve been literally written by Allah and not subject to interpretation or revision.
Posted by CrazyFool 2011-11-20 11:16||   2011-11-20 11:16|| Front Page Top

#8 The Crayon however is considered to have been literally written by Allah and not subject to interpretation or revision.

Which is quite useful when you're aspiring to meld various nomadic tribes into a theocratic empire.
Posted by Pappy 2011-11-20 12:42||   2011-11-20 12:42|| Front Page Top

#9 However, they have an intellectual dodge. While the Koran is "correct in all times and places", changing interpretations are based on there having been human error in interpretation in the past.

This is pretty much the same scheme used to explain Papal infallibility. "It is not that the current Pope disagrees with a previous Pope, it is that those who interpreted what the previous Pope said got it wrong. The two Popes are in agreement, because they are both infallible."
Posted by Anonymoose 2011-11-20 13:32||   2011-11-20 13:32|| Front Page Top

#10 Anonymoose, historically, Papal Infallibility is both much more recent and more limited than is commonly thought.
Posted by Thing From Snowy Mountain 2011-11-20 13:37||   2011-11-20 13:37|| Front Page Top

#11 Sufism is not definable, despite all those who claim to have defined it. It predates Islam yet claims to be compatible with it. AFAICT much of al-Ghazali's work was to defend Sufism & strengthen its claim to be compatible with Islam, efforts which still continue. I suspect he was merely stating that human intellect and reason have limitations, just as much as ideas of cause & effect do. Certainly any philosophical writing can be distorted and interpreted badly.
I think the greater cause of the closing of the Muslim mind was the destruction of the heart of Muslim territory by the Mongols in the 13th century.
Idries Shah d. 1996 was reputed to be a Sufi and also an observant Muslim. Once he visited a South American country, and publicly bought a single lottery ticket, something strictly forbidden to an observant Muslim. He won the grand prize. So, was he gambling or not?
Posted by Anguper Hupomosing9418 2011-11-20 15:56||   2011-11-20 15:56|| Front Page Top

#12 Reilly quotes extensively to show that al-Ghazali was taking a much stronger stance than simply saying reason has limits.

For instance, in referring to reason's awareness of Allah's habits (only habits which could change at any time, not natural laws he has embued creation with), al-Ghazil writes "there is no unity in the world, moral or physical or metaphysical; all hangs from the individual will of Allah."

By the 15th century, Muhammed Yusuf al-Sanusi quotes Ghazali and then writes of

the impossibility of anything in the world producing any effect whatsoever, because that entails the removal of that effect from the power and will of our majestic Protector .... food has no effect on saiety, nor water on moistening the land ... nor fire on burning. Know that it is from God from the start, without the other accompanying things having any intermediacy or effect ...

(As for the appearance of causes), God has created them as signs and indications of the things he wishes to create without any logical connection between them and that of which they are the indications.

Thus the recent attempts by Jemaat-e-Islami to Islamicize Pakistani textbooks includes the stern admonition that effect must not be related to physical cause. To do so causes atheism.

This is the legacy of al-Ghazali and more broadly of the Ash`arite victory over early Mu`tazilites in Islam.

Re: Sufism, which he adopted mid-life after having already established a strong reputation as a theologian in the Ash`arite tradition, al-Ghazali wrote approvingly that "Sufism consists in experiences rather than in definitions". Since he taught that God's creation was unmediated by any intermediate causes, and that every moment was created there and then by Allah's potentially changeable will, it is no surprise that al-Ghazali was left only with direct experience of God on which to base religion.

While the Mongols no doubt influenced many things, the Ash`arite position that al-Ghazali articulated had been well established several centuries prior to their arrival on the scene. FWIW
Posted by lotp 2011-11-20 17:48||   2011-11-20 17:48|| Front Page Top

#13 The 'philosophical' position may have been articulated, but Muslim minds acted pretty open for whatever theoretical reason for some centuries afterward. The real constriction seemed to come after the Mongol destruction. Afhanistan for example never recovered.
al-Ghazali's principal emphasis was the unity of God, with no holds barred. So there is no other unity, not even in the created world, separate from God. Neither is logic. Yet Sufis adhere to the principle that the phenomenal is the bridge to the real. Direct experience of God, if that is what Sufism aims at, is a result of a very long evolution in any given adherent. Over-reaching one's capabilities, they would hold, simply leads to disaster.
recent attempts by Jemaat-e-Islami to Islamicize Pakistani textbooks includes the stern admonition that effect must not be related to physical cause. To do so causes atheism. A good example of destructive arrogance and overreaching by 'Muslims' who get their rocks off by imposing their will on others and lording it over them. If they really wanted to be fundamentalists, they would (of course) ban any book outside the Koran. Of course the Koran used can NOT be a translation. The true believer-fanatics of Jemaat-e-Islami only worship themselves and their limited ideas and goals.
Posted by Anguper Hupomosing9418 2011-11-20 18:07||   2011-11-20 18:07|| Front Page Top

#14 Thanks, Anguper Hupomosing9418.

And also thanks to all our readers and commenters on this new feature at Rantburg. This has been an experiment in several ways: first, adding book reviews in a short space for an audience with a wide variety of interests, and second, the coincidence that the first two reviews were on a related (and as it happened, a religious) subject. That's not intended to set a pattern ... it just reflected what I was reading and discussing when the mods thought an occasional book review might be of interest.

If you have any suggestions or feedback, feel free to add it here or in the Club. Were the books or the reviews interesting? Boring? Too long? Too short? Wrong? (smile) Are there other books you'd like to discuss?

Let us know!
Posted by lotp 2011-11-20 21:40||   2011-11-20 21:40|| Front Page Top

#15 Suggestion: Schedule each review a few days ahead of time so we can perhaps get a look at Ch. 1.
Posted by Anguper Hupomosing9418 2011-11-20 22:24||   2011-11-20 22:24|| Front Page Top

#16 Islam has been popular only because it gave women a safe way to have enough children. Western culture provides an alternative through medicine, education, and liberty, which any woman possessing a modicum of rationality and freewill would prefer.

The historic struggle here is not between the west and the rest, it is between the women of the rest and their men, who are lashing out at the unfairness of a future that will not include children of their making.
Posted by rammer 2011-11-20 22:36||   2011-11-20 22:36|| Front Page Top

23:55 rjschwarz
23:41 Redneck Jim
23:29 JosephMendiola
23:23 JosephMendiola
23:19 JosephMendiola
23:10 JosephMendiola
23:06 gorb
23:05 gorb
23:04 JosephMendiola
22:42 JosephMendiola
22:37 Anonymoose
22:36 rammer
22:34 tipover
22:29 Angoper Smith4384
22:24 Anguper Hupomosing9418
22:19 whatadeal
22:01 gorb
21:40 lotp
21:28 Procopius2k
21:14 Barbara
21:08 Barbara
19:27 Iblis
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18:50 Dale

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