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Why do Muslim-majority countries exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socio-economic development in comparison to world averages? Ahmet Kuru criticizes explanations which point to Islam as the cause of this disparity, because Muslims were philosophically and socio-economically more developed than Western Europeans between the ninth and twelfth centurie Why do Muslim-majority countries exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socio-economic development in comparison to world averages? Ahmet Kuru criticizes explanations which point to Islam as the cause of this disparity, because Muslims were philosophically and socio-economically more developed than Western Europeans between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Nor was Western colonialism the cause: Muslims had already suffered political and socio-economic problems when colonization began. Kuru argues that Muslims had influential thinkers and merchants in their early history, when religious orthodoxy and military rule were prevalent in Europe. However, in the eleventh century, an alliance between orthodox Islamic scholars (the ulema) and military states began to emerge. This alliance gradually hindered intellectual and economic creativity by marginalizing intellectual and bourgeois classes in the Muslim world. This important study links its historical explanation to contemporary politics by showing that, to this day, the ulema-state alliance still prevents creativity and competition in Muslim countries. === TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction Part I. Present: 1. Violence and Peace 2. Authoritarianism and Democracy 3. Socio-Economic Underdevelopment and Development Part II. History: 4. Progress: Scholars and Merchants (Seventh to Eleventh Centuries) 5. Crisis: The Invaders (Twelfth to Fourteenth Centuries) 6. Power: Three Muslim Empires (Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries) 7. Collapse: Western Colonialism and Muslim Reformists (Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries) Conclusion === ENDORSEMENTS 'In these pages can be found a grand solution to a grand problem - nothing less than The Islam Question, that is, why one religion is prone to violence, authoritarianism, and economic underdevelopment. Kuru sets out to refute the two most publicly prominent positions on this question, essentialism and post-colonialism, by unearthing centuries of political and economic development in Islam and discovering that its contemporary problems result from shifts in religious and political authority of many centuries past. In this courageous and compelling piece of scholarship, Kuru does for religion what great historical sociologists like Barrington Moore and Theda Skocpol did for democracy, dictatorship, and social revolution.' Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame 'Generations of thinkers have puzzled over why the Muslim world, once intellectually creative and commercially vibrant, fell behind economically and came to symbolize repressive governance. In this meticulously researched, insightful, and provocative book, Ahmet T. Kuru attributes these interlinked transformations to complex alliances between religious officials and states. "Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment" will captivate scholars in many disciplines, and also the broader public interested in Islam’s intellectual, political, and economic roles through the ages.' Timur Kuran, Duke University, North Carolina 'In this far-ranging and original book, Ahmet T. Kuru explores just how it came to pass that the Muslim Middle East in the modern period experienced a dramatic decline in cultural and political dynamism relative to the societies of Western Europe. The question is one that has preoccupied comparative politics and historiography for more than a century. But no scholar has explored the issue with the sociological richness, comparative erudition, or depth of insight Kuru achieves in this book. This is one of the most important works in years on the politics and culture of Muslim modernity, and one that literally transforms the state of our knowledge.' Robert W. Hefner, Boston University


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Why do Muslim-majority countries exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socio-economic development in comparison to world averages? Ahmet Kuru criticizes explanations which point to Islam as the cause of this disparity, because Muslims were philosophically and socio-economically more developed than Western Europeans between the ninth and twelfth centurie Why do Muslim-majority countries exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socio-economic development in comparison to world averages? Ahmet Kuru criticizes explanations which point to Islam as the cause of this disparity, because Muslims were philosophically and socio-economically more developed than Western Europeans between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Nor was Western colonialism the cause: Muslims had already suffered political and socio-economic problems when colonization began. Kuru argues that Muslims had influential thinkers and merchants in their early history, when religious orthodoxy and military rule were prevalent in Europe. However, in the eleventh century, an alliance between orthodox Islamic scholars (the ulema) and military states began to emerge. This alliance gradually hindered intellectual and economic creativity by marginalizing intellectual and bourgeois classes in the Muslim world. This important study links its historical explanation to contemporary politics by showing that, to this day, the ulema-state alliance still prevents creativity and competition in Muslim countries. === TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction Part I. Present: 1. Violence and Peace 2. Authoritarianism and Democracy 3. Socio-Economic Underdevelopment and Development Part II. History: 4. Progress: Scholars and Merchants (Seventh to Eleventh Centuries) 5. Crisis: The Invaders (Twelfth to Fourteenth Centuries) 6. Power: Three Muslim Empires (Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries) 7. Collapse: Western Colonialism and Muslim Reformists (Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries) Conclusion === ENDORSEMENTS 'In these pages can be found a grand solution to a grand problem - nothing less than The Islam Question, that is, why one religion is prone to violence, authoritarianism, and economic underdevelopment. Kuru sets out to refute the two most publicly prominent positions on this question, essentialism and post-colonialism, by unearthing centuries of political and economic development in Islam and discovering that its contemporary problems result from shifts in religious and political authority of many centuries past. In this courageous and compelling piece of scholarship, Kuru does for religion what great historical sociologists like Barrington Moore and Theda Skocpol did for democracy, dictatorship, and social revolution.' Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame 'Generations of thinkers have puzzled over why the Muslim world, once intellectually creative and commercially vibrant, fell behind economically and came to symbolize repressive governance. In this meticulously researched, insightful, and provocative book, Ahmet T. Kuru attributes these interlinked transformations to complex alliances between religious officials and states. "Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment" will captivate scholars in many disciplines, and also the broader public interested in Islam’s intellectual, political, and economic roles through the ages.' Timur Kuran, Duke University, North Carolina 'In this far-ranging and original book, Ahmet T. Kuru explores just how it came to pass that the Muslim Middle East in the modern period experienced a dramatic decline in cultural and political dynamism relative to the societies of Western Europe. The question is one that has preoccupied comparative politics and historiography for more than a century. But no scholar has explored the issue with the sociological richness, comparative erudition, or depth of insight Kuru achieves in this book. This is one of the most important works in years on the politics and culture of Muslim modernity, and one that literally transforms the state of our knowledge.' Robert W. Hefner, Boston University

30 review for Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    Why are contemporary Muslim countries backwards? Why do they lag behind on almost every measure of economic and political development, while collapsing into violence at similarly disproportionate rates? This is a question that looms over every thinking person concerned with the fate of these countries. The usual explanations tend to fall back on some familiar cliche: blaming either Western colonialism as the sole cause worth mentioning, or attributing the problems to the inherent nature of the r Why are contemporary Muslim countries backwards? Why do they lag behind on almost every measure of economic and political development, while collapsing into violence at similarly disproportionate rates? This is a question that looms over every thinking person concerned with the fate of these countries. The usual explanations tend to fall back on some familiar cliche: blaming either Western colonialism as the sole cause worth mentioning, or attributing the problems to the inherent nature of the religion of Islam itself. Having tired of these cliched and self-serving explanations I found this book by Ahmet Kuru to be a refreshing attempt at offering a substantively new thesis. For several centuries the Islamic world was the most culturally, intellectually and economically developed civilization extant. The driver of this dynamism was the existence of independent intellectuals, supported by an independent mercantile bourgeois. Several centuries after Islam was created, an alliance began to form between the establishment clergy (ulema) and governing military elites. This alliance worked to shut down the mercantile bourgeois and snuff out the space for independent intellectuals. This fostered a stultifying atmosphere in which the authority to create legitimate knowledge was monopolized by a small elite, in league with the military state. The interest of this alliance has been maintaining their prerogatives and defending tradition, as well as preventing any potentially disruptive independent power structures (like independent merchants and intellectuals) from arising in society. As the saying goes, “no bourgeois, no democracy.” Democracy in this case can also refer to development, free civil society and political stability — all of which Muslims lack. It is worth reflecting that a disproportionate number of the greatest Islamic philosophers, like Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd and al-Farabi, arose before the ulema-military elite alliance coalesced. This argument could be thoroughly summed up in a few dozen pages. In a sense, then, a lot of the book was filler to give added context to what decline and rise really meant for Muslim countries, as well as the European societies they are often contrasted with. I was interested to see the rather harsh appraisal of the role of Mohammad al-Ghazali, who is often blamed for helping solidify the “Sunni orthodoxy” that became the governing ideology of the ulema-military elite alliance. Kuru emphasizes that a lot of what we consider Islam today is really highly-contingent and could easily have not been part of the religion. Many of the rules and practices that people consider sacred today (particularly vis a vis political theory) are in fact the accreted decision-making of people trying to govern a society in their interest at a certain period in history. Much of Islamic political theory is in fact adapted from Sassanid Persia, which exerted a strong influence over its Arab conquerors. The famous hadith about religion and the state being twins — supposedly emphasizing Islam’s inherently political character — was in fact a Sassanid maxim that was later laundered into Muslim political discourse by those who found it useful at the time. Even the notorious edict about executing apostates derives from Zoroastrianism. It is too bad that critical knowledge of Islam and Islamic history is so sparse, both among laypeople and so-called extremists. Nothing as complex of civilizational decline can ever be monocausal. Having said that I found Kuru's explanation to be a plausible explanation for the decline and continued stagnation of Muslim countries. Even in the 20th century when many Muslim countries putatively secularized, the same authoritarian practices continued, with secular bureaucrats replacing the ulema of the past. The secularists have been just as hostile to independent intellectual life and the independent bourgeois as the clerics. With the powers of the modern state they have created an unbearably repressive atmosphere that has led to the compounding tragedy of wasted generations. I am often deeply impressed by the highly-intelligent and autodidactic people I meet in Muslim countries and wonder how different things could be were they operating under a governing structure that valued their abilities. No one who lives in a country which allows freedom of speech and intellectual pursuit, especially as it relates to Islamic issues, should take this for granted. If there is a solution, it is to lift the heavy hand of the state enough to allow a powerful independent merchant class to form, which will then begin patronizing independent intellectuals as it did during the heydey of the Islamicate. Independent Muslim intellectuals still arise today, though they often find themselves hounded by repressive states and clerical establishments. Allowing a free intellectual environment and greater contestation over the legitimate goals and purposes of Islam can also help clarify that much of what we consider “Islamic” today (particularly in political theory) is in fact highly-contingent and not vital. In other words, Muslims need meritocracy and independence in order to rediscover their past dynamism. This explanation makes intuitive sense to me and I hope that the book is read carefully in Muslim countries.

  2. 4 out of 5

    عبدالرحمن عقاب

    في بلاد المسلمين على امتدادها عنفٌ واضح؛ داخلي بين طوائفها وخارجي ضد الآخرين. و يحكم في تلك البلاد استبداد عنيف وقح ظاهر؛ لا يهلك مستبد حتى يخلفه غيره، ولا ينقشع ظلم حتى يحلّ ظلام ظلم لاحق. وتعيش تلك البلاد تخلّفًا فكريًا وحضاريًا لا يحتاج إلى برهان. يسأل هذا الكتاب سؤال "لماذا" عن السبب الكامن وراء هذا العنف والسلطوية والتخلّف، ويزيد إلحاح سؤاله بعقد المقارنة مع الغرب الذي سطع نجمه في حين أفول نجم الكيان الإسلامي الغابر. يرفض الكاتب النظرية التي تنسب هذا الخلل إلى الإسلام كدين. ويرفض أيضًا نسبة في بلاد المسلمين على امتدادها عنفٌ واضح؛ داخلي بين طوائفها وخارجي ضد الآخرين. و يحكم في تلك البلاد استبداد عنيف وقح ظاهر؛ لا يهلك مستبد حتى يخلفه غيره، ولا ينقشع ظلم حتى يحلّ ظلام ظلم لاحق. وتعيش تلك البلاد تخلّفًا فكريًا وحضاريًا لا يحتاج إلى برهان. يسأل هذا الكتاب سؤال "لماذا" عن السبب الكامن وراء هذا العنف والسلطوية والتخلّف، ويزيد إلحاح سؤاله بعقد المقارنة مع الغرب الذي سطع نجمه في حين أفول نجم الكيان الإسلامي الغابر. يرفض الكاتب النظرية التي تنسب هذا الخلل إلى الإسلام كدين. ويرفض أيضًا نسبة الخلل إلى الأثر الاستعماري المباشر وغير المباشر. وهو في رفضه غير منحاز ولا جازم. وإنما يرفض النسبة المطلقة والاختزال المخلّ بسبب أو اثنين. ومع ذلك، فهو يطرح سببًا يدير عليه تلك الظواهر كلها، ألا وهو تقارب علماء الدين مع السلطة، وما نتج عن ذلك من تغييب وإقصاء متعمّد للطبقة المفكرة الباحثة، من فلاسفة ومجددين وتنويريين. كما أنّ النهج الاقتصادي للسلطة الحاكمة أقصى الطبقة البرجوازية الفاعلة في الشأن الاقتصادي والاجتماعي والعلمي. يبدأ ذلك كله، حسب الكاتب، في زمن الحكم السلجوقي الذي عزّز الإقطاع من جهة، و قرّب واستعمل علماء الدين من جهة أخرى. واستمر الحال على ذلك حتى في ظلّ الانقلابات "العلمانية" في العالم الإسلامي في عالم ما بعد انتهاء الاستعمار. ويجعل الكاتب من السيرة الحضارية للغرب مقارنةً توضح مقصده، وتدعم طرحه. يطرح الكاتب أفكاره من خلال استعراض تاريخي موجز جميل وشامل، كما يطرح فكرته بعد طرح التفسيرات الأخرى ونقاشها وذكر وجوه اتفاقه معها واعتراضه عليها. وهذا طرح فكري عادل ومثمر. هل تغاضى الكاتب عن الأثر الكبير للتدخّل الإستعماري غير المباشر في عالمنا الإسلامي في عالمنا اليوم؟ أظنه فعل ذلك، إغضاءً لا إغفالاً ولا تجاهلاً تامًا! وإن كان يمكن التسامح مع هذا التغاضي من حيث إصرار الكاتب –المبرر والصحيح- على الابتعاد عن اتهام الغير قبل اتهام النفس، إلا أنّ إغفال أثر مثل هذا الاستعمار الجاثم في الشأن المحلي للدول الإسلامية يخفي جزءًا غير يسير من الحقيقة؛ حقيقة ما نحن فيه، وسبب عدم قدرة الشعوب على إحداث التغيير. ختامًا، فالكتاب غني بالمراجع والهوامش، ولغته سلسة، وأفكاره واضحة مباشرة. يستحقّ القراءة والنقاش الجماعي.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Happy Dwi Wardhana

    Mengapa negara-negara Islam otoriter dan tertinggal? Salah agama, ulama, atau pemerintahnya? Islam, Otoritarianisme, dan Ketertinggalan (IOK) melacak sebab musabab pertanyaan di atas dari abad ke-7 saat Islam dalam masa gemilang hingga keruntuhannya di abad ke-11. Buku ini terdiri atas 2 bagian. Bagian 1 membeberkan data keadan negara-negara Islam di masa kini, dan bab 2 menulusuri sejarah kemunduran negara-negara tersebut. Fokus pembahasan IOK adalah negara Timur Tengah yang jelas-jelas adalah ne Mengapa negara-negara Islam otoriter dan tertinggal? Salah agama, ulama, atau pemerintahnya? Islam, Otoritarianisme, dan Ketertinggalan (IOK) melacak sebab musabab pertanyaan di atas dari abad ke-7 saat Islam dalam masa gemilang hingga keruntuhannya di abad ke-11. Buku ini terdiri atas 2 bagian. Bagian 1 membeberkan data keadan negara-negara Islam di masa kini, dan bab 2 menulusuri sejarah kemunduran negara-negara tersebut. Fokus pembahasan IOK adalah negara Timur Tengah yang jelas-jelas adalah negara Islam, bukan negara-negara berpenduduk mayoritas Islam seperti Indonesia. Meski tidak menelaah negara kita, buku ini tetap penting dibaca oleh orang Indonesia. Seperti yang penulis sampaikan di bagian Prakata, Indonesia menjadi kasus penting sebagai penguji argumen buku ini. Ada 3 faktor utama penyebab kemunduran negara-negara Islam: persekutuan ulama-negara, pemerintahan otoriter, dan rente minyak. Dalam konteks Indonesia, ketiga faktor itu nihil. Alhasil, Indonesia adalah salah satu dari beberapa negara mayoritas muslim yang pembangunan sosial-ekonominya lebih maju dibanding banyak negara lain di dunia muslim. Hal ini dapat dilihat yang pertama dari MUI yang bukan lembaga negara, sehingga tidak ada keharusan bagi umat Islam Indonesia untuk menuruti fatwanya. Kedua, Indonesia merupakan negara yang demokratis di mana rakyat dapat berpartisipasi aktif dalam kebijakan negara. Ketiga, tidak adanya rente minyak. Negara yang berpendapatan dari rente minyak cenderung menolak partisipasi masyarakat dalam pemerintahan. Hal ini dikarenakan rakyat tidak perlu membayar pajak, sehingga sikap kritis terhadap pemerintah tidak ada. Masalah yang dihadapi umat muslim bukanlah bersumber dari Islam, melainkan teori tertentu yang dianggap islami. Dalam buku ini, Kuru berpendapat bahwa Muslim memerlukan kaum intelektual dan borjuasi independen, yang dapat mengimbangi kekuasaan otoritas ulama dan negara. Dalam konteks Indonesia, saya rasa iklim untuk berpikir kritis dan berpendapat sudah ada, tinggal sumber daya manusianya yang perlu memanfaatkan keadaan sebaik-baiknya. Setelah membaca buku ini, saya menjadi sadar bahwa menjadi Muslim di Indonesia merupakan privilege tersendiri.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Islam Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment focuses on the state of the Muslim world and the cause of its remarkable civilizational decline. There exists a plethora of books on this topic but author Ahmet Kuru hits the mark through focus on objective underlying conditions rather than drowning in all-encompassing theory. In doing so Kuru elucidates an illuminating truth: during the period Islamic society was most successful, the majority of its scholars were independently funded, with a mercantil Islam Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment focuses on the state of the Muslim world and the cause of its remarkable civilizational decline. There exists a plethora of books on this topic but author Ahmet Kuru hits the mark through focus on objective underlying conditions rather than drowning in all-encompassing theory. In doing so Kuru elucidates an illuminating truth: during the period Islamic society was most successful, the majority of its scholars were independently funded, with a mercantile class being eminent. Later that inverted, the majority of scholars being funded by the state, and the mercantile class becoming weak and marginalized. — Summary Islamic society today, to borrow a biblical term, is in a ‘Fallen State’. Yet there indeed is something to redeem, as between the eighth and twelfth centuries (encompassing the “Golden age”), Islam was a civilization that was objectively successful by several metrics of freedom, economic output, and productivity. A definitive characteristic of this society was a thriving mercantile class that backed an independent intelligentsia - a bourgeois, in short. As evidence of this, Kuru presents research that shows 72.5% of scholars were privately funded during this period, either through their own businesses, or via a patron. Later Islamic society post Golden-age shifted. Kuru presents research (such as trade manifests) that argues the vast majority of scholars in this period were publicly funded. He argues that due to a drought, new wars (the Mongols and Crusades), and a change in structure around private property and wealth, the merchant class was actively marginalized and an 'Ulema-State alliance' arose in its place (between an establishment ulema and the military elite). Control and the avoidance of disruption was in the self-interest of this Ulema-State alliance, who gradually dominated the merchant class and instituted a suffocating sort of conservatism that ended the independent intelligentsia. Some of the fundamental philosophical justifications for that alliance (which Kuru argues were influential) did not originate from Islam at all, but were pre-Islamic Sassanian axioms, namely, the saying the religion and state are like twins. This slowly led to the decline of Islamic society up until colonialism. The remnants of that alliance and its far reaching implications into our faith are responsible for Islamic decline into the modern era, in addition to the negative impacts of colonialism. The solution, then, is not through authoritarian means, nor possible only through on-paper democracy. Instead a mercantile class must re-emerge and become dominant, which will restore an independent intelligentsia, and allow the Muslim world to rise up from its depths. — My thoughts This is an interesting and novel thesis, and much value can be extracted from Kuru’s work by diving deeper into these separate points. What explains the underdevelopment, authoritarianism, and regressive aspects of the Muslim world today? Is Islam responsible, or are only socio-economic conditions the cause? And is there even something to redeem, or was there never truly anything to begin with? I learned a lot in attempting to answer these questions, and came away with meaningful changes in my understanding. The heart of this book rests on the inversion of the relationship of scholars to the state, and the erasure of the mercantile class that this requires. To me, Kuru is able to make a convincing case for the problem of intellectualization, a conclusion that is somewhat different from Kuru’s own, and is a lesser claim to that of the Ulema-State Alliance. In the Libertarian economist Thomas Sowell’s book, ‘Intellectuals and Society’ (disclosure: I have not currently completed this book), he defines intellectuals as individuals who conceive ideas but do not need to test them against reality. For him it is an invective category. Take an engineer, for example. Engineers are forced to build real things - if their theories are incorrect you will know quickly as the bridge falls from out under you. Similarly a doctor who kills all his patients will surely find his clientele dry up, and perhaps a few lawsuits heading his way. An intellectual is free to theorize away, without suffering the loss for the failure of their ideas. Nassim Taleb, in his book ‘Skin in the Game’, makes the same argument through a less partisan case. He touches on the removal of risk from intellectuals, the flawed incentive structure intellectualization promotes, and documents the harm of intellectualization on modern society, and societies throughout history. As Kuru details, the Ottoman clergy refused to allow the Quran to be translated into Turkish by pain of death all the way into the 19th century. It was only after the Ottomans had fallen that the the Turkish-language Quran was published. Yet as I later looked up, Quranic translations had been published into other languages as far back as the 10th century, and even further. This pattern can be seen again and again, with an intellectualized elite banning things out of a theoretically justified fear of disruption and desire for control in later Islamic society (such as the printing press) that was embraced in earlier Muslim society (like when it commoditized the then innovation of paper). Kuru makes objective assessments of the Islamic golden age, and the later period using metrics for scientific output, intellectual freedom, and other modes of production. He is able to make clear that with intellectualization these outputs all suffered profoundly. Causality is a funny thing, but operating through revealed preferences, it's clear that intellectualization was an important force behind our fallen state. For Muslim believers it demonstrates also that Islam is not a corollary of decline, without discounting the objective fact that religion can also play a negative role. Some may ask what difference does it make - why would it not be better for a civilization to be led by scholars and academics, rather than self-serving business men? Yet in doing so, they misunderstand the nature of commerce. Commerce has a functional necessity - profit, via customers. While indeed it is true rent-seeking exists, commerce remains an attempt to solve problems. Merchants know they have solved a problem when someone is willing to pay for them to do so, and they then begin to pursue other problems to solve, to further grow profits. This is highly productive, and does not suffer the problems of intellectualism - regardless of how good a business idea sounds on paper, it must work in the real world to be profitable. Finally I wanted to note how attitudes towards the working for the state changed with the process of intellectualization, or the rise of the Ulema-State alliance as Kuru would put it. Originally, Muslim scholars saw working for the state as more negative, along with a popular discontent with the state itself (the Ummayads being responsible for the massacre of Karbala is one reason Kuru gives for this). He quotes Abu Hanifa’s (who was himself a silk merchant) prominent student Shaybani in the following “the profession of the honest merchant, or indeed any trade, pleases God more than Government service”. Later, this notion changed, wherein the majority of the Muslim ulema became patronized by the state. Where once a handshake was used to give Bay’a or fealty between the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers, a transactional act, Muslim rulers would later require their subjects to prostrate before them. — Critiques This book remains exceptional amongst many academic works for its focus, as mentioned before, on objective underlying conditions. Theory has always been uninteresting to me because seldom is it falsifiable (so what’s the point?), and never can it truly overcome narrative and correlation fallacies. In addition, I believe the problem of induction is proven to be a relevant one to analysis (ignore any paradoxes there). As such we can never completely understand cause per se, and pursuit of theory is to some degree futile, and in many cases harmful. Instead, by evaluating objective conditions instead of root causes, we can operate through revealed preferences and reach actionable conclusions to improve society, if never achieving utopia. As an academic, and somebody who does take theory seriously in this book, I doubt Kuru will side with me in this regard. But again, through focus on conditions, the book findings are such that it does not matter. All that being said, there are shortcomings. Kuru’s research is meaningful but often fails to measure up. This is frustrating as Kuru clearly demonstrates a grasp of rigour, and a recognition that much historical research is questionable, as he unpacks why different theses that contradict his argument are incorrect. However, this is often not extended to research he himself cites. I will take one example that I found particularly vexing: his use of research from the 80’s that 72.5% of Islamic scholars in the Golden Age were privately funded. This to me was a critical piece of information that made the argument objective. However, this analysis did not look at the later Islamic period, making its comparative powers questionable. And there are obvious questions to be asked about methodology as well as quality of information. Ibn Sina, for example, was at one point privately funded, and at another funded by the state. Where does he fit in? In addition, there are some areas where there is again a failure to be sufficiently comparative or objective, and argument that may suffer clearly from narrative or correlation fallacies. This is most obvious in the sections on Europe, and when diving deeper into the Ulema-State alliance theory. All this is not to say to attack Kuru, or to delegitimize this work, but to point out that it is only the beginning - the case has not yet been made, but has instead been made plausible. — Challenges Kuru tracks the evolution of Islam across different schools of thought, and how they arose often in response to one another. He then argues that Islam took a more anti-intellectual philosophical turn around the time and ideals of Ghazali, removing aql and other tools from use and beginning to call for those who disagreed to be put to death (though he does not sufficiently prove that this was novel, which is obviously extremely important to know). Islam is then codified into an orthodoxy through the Nizamiyyas, and the Ulema-state alliance continued to support this strangulation of intellectual dynamism. The Ulema-State alliance would also coopt convenient non-Islamic traditions into the fold of Islam, such as the Sassanian axiom the religion and state are like twins, which he argues was very influential and may continue to inform the religion’s views today as well. The point Kuru is able to make here is that an authentic version of Islam, true to its roots, could exist in the modern world, and indeed did existed at one time. Where some argue that Islam acts as a regressive force, Kuru is able to make a convincing argument that such aspects are the contingent consequences of the Ulema-State alliance (or as I would see it, the lesser claim of intellectualization), rather than inherent aspects of the faith itself. — Kuru’s book is a massive undertaking and I am extremely grateful for him to have written it. In addition to these important findings, Kuru also helped me clear up topics I was unsure on, such as the objectivity of the Islamic Golden age. Yet as Kuru tracks, across metrics of scientific output, economic productivity, intellectual freedom, and tolerance Islam performed exceptionally. Comparing across time and geography, Islamic civilization was one that could progress towards modernity as we understand it today. Near the end and beginning of the book Kuru examines the modern Muslim world, its faults, and the implication for its positive change. Kuru argues that the status of many Muslim nations as rentier states has harmed their incentive structure towards reform, similar in the ways in which land reforms around the 12th century hurt the merchant class and led to the domination of the Ulema-State alliance. In addition, he mentions how the authoritarianism of the Muslim states so often worked against them, the authoritarianism of secularists later being used against those same secularists. According to Kuru the major change that needs to take place is the re-emergence of a mercantile class. This independent class then, without authoritarianism, can begin to move the Muslim world again towards a place in the modern world through sponsorship of intelligentsia, as it once did prior. I would argue this sponsorship of intellgentsia should not be the goal, but a movement away from intellectualization which will allow free thought and entrepreneurship to rise.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ismail Tutar

    This book effectively addresses questions about the gap of economic, social and scientific development between the West and the Muslim world. For many of us who have grown up in a Muslim-majority country but later emigrated to the West, answers to those important questions are elusive. Our first-hand experiences, such as being able to successfully adapt to the Western culture and institutions while remaining loyal to our faith, give us the intuition that Islam cannot be singled out as the culpri This book effectively addresses questions about the gap of economic, social and scientific development between the West and the Muslim world. For many of us who have grown up in a Muslim-majority country but later emigrated to the West, answers to those important questions are elusive. Our first-hand experiences, such as being able to successfully adapt to the Western culture and institutions while remaining loyal to our faith, give us the intuition that Islam cannot be singled out as the culprit, yet we cannot explain to ourselves why Muslim-majority countries lag behind the Western world. Dr. Kuru’s book on Islam and development offers a comprehensive explanation to this conundrum. As one can tell from the title, he has been profoundly influenced by the classical liberal thought which emphasizes the relationship between limited central power, individual liberty, and development. Dr. Kuru asserts his major points based on exhaustive historical research but eschews didacticism: he refrains from imposing a mono-causal argument and continually reminds the reader of the broad geographical, political, and socioeconomic factors, offers exceptional cases, and provides the reader with alternative explanations. In this regard, Dr. Kuru successfully performs two challenging acts: he gives credit to grain of truth even in most orientalist arguments while refuting them in their entirety, but without falling into the trap of reactionary apologetics. Beyond its political arguments, Dr. Kuru’s book is also notable for presenting a rich set of complex events in the history of Islam. While reading it, I could not help drawing parallels between The Western Tradition, Eugene Weber’s instructional visual series on Western Civilization, which I have watched in the 1990s as a teenager. Notwithstanding the differences in their length and format, Dr. Kuru’s book offers a good primer on the development of Muslim thought, culture, and politics, the way Eugene Weber reviews Western history. I highly recommend this book to all readers who are interested in the ever-changing legacy of Islam throughout history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kahfi

    Buku ini untuk sementara menjawab pertanyaan saya perihal mengapa dunia Islam pada saat ini tertinggal dalam hampir seluruh aspek sosio ekonomi dengan dunia Barat. Tesis besar yang dibawa oleh penulis seakan menjadi alarm bagi pemimpin dunia Muslim saat ini untuk mereformasi terutama sistem pemerintahan yang berkaitan dengan aspek sosio ekonomi. Ketertinggalan tersebut ternyata apabila ditelusuri terdapat suatu akar historis yang telah dilakukan berabad-abad oleh para pemimpin Muslim yang tadinya Buku ini untuk sementara menjawab pertanyaan saya perihal mengapa dunia Islam pada saat ini tertinggal dalam hampir seluruh aspek sosio ekonomi dengan dunia Barat. Tesis besar yang dibawa oleh penulis seakan menjadi alarm bagi pemimpin dunia Muslim saat ini untuk mereformasi terutama sistem pemerintahan yang berkaitan dengan aspek sosio ekonomi. Ketertinggalan tersebut ternyata apabila ditelusuri terdapat suatu akar historis yang telah dilakukan berabad-abad oleh para pemimpin Muslim yang tadinya pernah menjadi kiblat ilmu pengetahuan kemudian memutar hampir 180 derajat menjadi dunia yang sangat berbeda. Titik balik peradaban tersebut dipengaruhi oleh beragam banyak faktor, namun penulis menggarisbawahi satu faktor yang paling berpengaruh yaitu terpeliharanya relasi antara ulama-negara yang sampai saat ini kerap dijumpai di beberapa negara Muslim seperti Indonesia.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Motahareh Nabavi

    Fantastic work of research, I read the history chapters more than once to fully soak it in. Really informative in understanding the downward trajectory of Muslim societies after their initial flourishing in the early Islamic period, and how the fruits of these problems can be seen in the Muslim world's current sociopolitical context. Fantastic work of research, I read the history chapters more than once to fully soak it in. Really informative in understanding the downward trajectory of Muslim societies after their initial flourishing in the early Islamic period, and how the fruits of these problems can be seen in the Muslim world's current sociopolitical context.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Baris Taze

    It was impressive to see how Kuru thoroughly scans over a millennial-length history (from 600s to 1920s) and provides a fairly complete picture of any noteworthy phenomenon or process while seeking an answer to a famous question: Why muslim states fell behind of Western Europe? In his book, he studies many major works previously done and criticizes them bravely. His confidence in elaborating in which ways his work is different than previous ones is well supported by comparative data and well-knit It was impressive to see how Kuru thoroughly scans over a millennial-length history (from 600s to 1920s) and provides a fairly complete picture of any noteworthy phenomenon or process while seeking an answer to a famous question: Why muslim states fell behind of Western Europe? In his book, he studies many major works previously done and criticizes them bravely. His confidence in elaborating in which ways his work is different than previous ones is well supported by comparative data and well-knit argumentation. He suggests that the alliance between ulema (orthodox religious scholars) and state, “ulema-state alliance” as he puts, played a key role in marginalizing merchants and intellectuals. Such a suppression on bourgeoisie class eventually weakened the scientific and socioeconomic dynamism in Muslim world in a vicious circle fashion and held them back. He demonstrates that in absence of such an alliance, the bourgeoisie class could generate flourishing dynamism and prosperity in the golden age of Muslim world (from seventh to eleventh century) and in Western Europe after twelfth century. His class-relations-based approach seems pretty convincing when compared to other approaches he studies: essentialist approach, anti-colonial approach and new institutionalist ones. I found his book very profound and convincing; and I felt similarly provoked and inspired in comparison to Harari’s Sapiens or Acemoglu’s Why Nations Fall.

  9. 4 out of 5

    عبد الحكيم

    سؤال الكتاب الرئيسي: لماذا الدول ذات الأغلبية المسلمة أقل سلاماً وأقل ديمقراطية وأقل تطوراً؟؟ هناك مقاربتان نظريتان كتبت حول مشكلات العنف والسلطويةوالتأخر في البلدان الإسلامية: 1، المقاربة الجوهرانية؛ التي تشير للإسلام بصفته مصدراً رئيسياً لمشكلات المسلمين الحالية. 2، مقاربة مابعد الاستعمار؛ التي تبرز الاستعمار الغربي واستغلاله لموارد البلدان الإسلامية كسببين رئيسيين لمشكلاته. الكتاب ينتقد المقاربتين ويتبنى مقاربة ثالثة تركز على 1، العلاقات بين طبقات المجتمع (دينية، فكرية، سياسية، اقتصادية...) هي ال سؤال الكتاب الرئيسي: لماذا الدول ذات الأغلبية المسلمة أقل سلاماً وأقل ديمقراطية وأقل تطوراً؟؟ هناك مقاربتان نظريتان كتبت حول مشكلات العنف والسلطويةوالتأخر في البلدان الإسلامية: 1، المقاربة الجوهرانية؛ التي تشير للإسلام بصفته مصدراً رئيسياً لمشكلات المسلمين الحالية. 2، مقاربة مابعد الاستعمار؛ التي تبرز الاستعمار الغربي واستغلاله لموارد البلدان الإسلامية كسببين رئيسيين لمشكلاته. الكتاب ينتقد المقاربتين ويتبنى مقاربة ثالثة تركز على 1، العلاقات بين طبقات المجتمع (دينية، فكرية، سياسية، اقتصادية...) هي التي تحدد سبب نجاح أو إخفاق هذه المجتمعات 2، الارتباط بين الأفكار والظروف المادية. مقولة الكتاب الأساسية والتي ظل يجادل عنها المؤلف على طول صفحات الكتاب (432 صفحة بدون المراجع والمصادر) هي ان تحالف العلماء والدولة بداية من القرن 11م الذي بدء مع السلاجقة وتم استنساخه لدى كل من أتى بعدهم أيوبيين، مماليك، عثمانيين، صفويين، مغول هو سبب التخلف والسلطوية في العالم الإسلامي. هذا التحالف الذي قوض طبقة التجار والبرجوازية وبالتالي المفكرين والفلاسفة والعلماء المستقلين الذين كانوا يتلقون الدعم من هذه الطبقة..... الأمر الذي ساعد على نشوء هذا التحالف هي التحديات التي واجهها العالم الإسلامي من غزو مغولي وصليبي وتهديد شيعي.... =================== هذه لمحة سريعة جدا عن الكتاب وأنوي لاحقا كتابة مراجعة طويلة (وقد تكون قراءة نقدية) فالكتاب يحوي على العديد من النقاط والمقولات والدعاوى التي تحتاج لنقاش ونقد.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Kuru’s sweeping study of decline, underdevelopment, and authoritarianism in the Muslim world cannot be said to be sweeping at all, as the reader revels not just in his argument but also his detailed and grasping footnotes. Like all studies claiming to make sense of a large swathe of history, I am sure a lot of nitpicking is to be expected of Kuru’s illustration of Muslim world history. But also like many definitive accounts of historical sociology (e.g. Diamond, Marx, Moore, Skocpol), one can’t Kuru’s sweeping study of decline, underdevelopment, and authoritarianism in the Muslim world cannot be said to be sweeping at all, as the reader revels not just in his argument but also his detailed and grasping footnotes. Like all studies claiming to make sense of a large swathe of history, I am sure a lot of nitpicking is to be expected of Kuru’s illustration of Muslim world history. But also like many definitive accounts of historical sociology (e.g. Diamond, Marx, Moore, Skocpol), one can’t help but notice the persuasive nature of the argument; rough at the edges maybe, but convincing in its deft combination of the historical, institutional, and ideological, and serious commitment towards cross-disciplinary referencing. This is an exemplary account of mono-causal theorisation, wherein an acute awareness of context and counterfactuals help propel the argument instead of forcing it into a caricature. The book’s strength is that its highlighting of a case of intellectual decline is always matched with a strong dose of empiricism. To make his case, Kuru counts and compares books, libraries and students, showing that a decline in intellectualism is not simply the case of not having thinkers, but rather the ecosystem to produce one. Unlike many apologists, Kuru counters argument of Muslim exceptionalism by insisting on its comparability. But his analysis recenters the Muslim protagonists themselves, as seen in the footnoting that incorporates a great deal of primary sources. Only lazy reactionaries/apologists can accuse this book of being derivative (or worse, lazy). My assessment of this book is favourable because I think the author is basically doing a thankless job of engaging with a few circles, i.e. the Islamic dogmatists, the Islamophobes, and the postcolonialists that seem too entrenched in their thinking to consider alternative opinions, let alone do the hard work of research to make an informative case instead of emotive ones (one who lives in Malaysia can surely appreciate this sentiment). At almost each turn, Kuru contends, unpacks, and reframe theories of Muslim decline, from Quranic essentialism to geographical determinism, and to absolutist colonial blaming. Not only that, he actively shows that dogmas, geography, and colonialism matters a lot, but they matter only if one considers how they reinforced the ulama-state alliance, or vice versa. Like any good historical institutionalist, Kuru cares about sequence, context, and the relative weight of individual factors. The intellectual labour undertaken is immense and deserves credit for being so. As I said, nitpicking on this book will be easy, and I have no intention to make it easy for myself in front of a masterpiece. So I will just advance one question here. If the making of the Sunni orthodoxy (and to some extent Shia orthodoxy) under the ulema-state alliance is the reason behind the Muslim world’s underdevelopment and decline, why not just label the cause as the lack of secularisation, i.e. the differentiation of the spheres of power and religion? I understand the author’s reluctance to pin the decline entirely on theocratic regimes in the Muslim world (which is far and fewer in between, as secular autocratic regimes still outnumber them), but secularisation does not necessarily mean the outcome will be a liberal democratic regime. But what it does offer is a break of the ulema-state alliance, which isn’t cleanly so even in the case of nominally secular regimes such as in Egypt, pre-Arab Spring Tunisia, pre-and post-military rule Turkey, and definitely in semi-democratic Malaysia. To stress, to make the case that secularisation is imperative is not about promising a bright future. It is, however, to illustrate the absolute need to break a political as well as intellectual bondage that is institutionalised and normalised by the ulama-state alliance; one that also plagues the social sphere, as seen in the regressive tendencies of many non-state Islamist/Muslim movements, so that the Muslim world (including the non-Muslims residing in them) can be a productive and competent contributor to efforts to redefine the ‘secular’- something that brought us countless calamities as well.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Javier

    This is an excellent study on the historical trajectory of the Muslim world, vis-à-vis Western Europe. Kuru shows how the ulema-State alliance adopted by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century (and inherited by the Mamluk, Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires) persists to this day, especially in autocracies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This is despite the past secularizing efforts of Kemalism in the latter case (with which the author may sympathize). Kuru further demonstrates that this reactionar This is an excellent study on the historical trajectory of the Muslim world, vis-à-vis Western Europe. Kuru shows how the ulema-State alliance adopted by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century (and inherited by the Mamluk, Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires) persists to this day, especially in autocracies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This is despite the past secularizing efforts of Kemalism in the latter case (with which the author may sympathize). Kuru further demonstrates that this reactionary alliance (which mimics the backward, feudal societies of Europe between the Dark Ages and modernity) is not inherent to Islam, considering the much freer intellectual, political, and commercial atmosphere of Islam's Golden Age (ca. 700-1300 CE), which produced thinkers like al-Ghazali, Ibn Khaldun, and Ibn Rushd, among others. The author rightfully compares this period to the European Renaissance. He finds that this progressive historical alternative to the ulema-State alliance depended on an independent merchant class (or bourgeoisie), which would finance independent scholars, scientists, and artists through its profits. (By contrast, the ulema-State alliance creates a stifling and stagnating bureaucratic atmosphere, opposed to progress of all kinds.) Accordingly, Kuru proposes political and economic liberalization as a remedy to the problem of authoritarianism and underdevelopment in the Muslim world. I would be curious to consider what an anarchist alternative to this strategy might be: Kuru argues, and I don't disagree, that the Muslim masses are generally conservative, and attached to the ulema and State. It is a conundrum, admittedly.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erdem Dikici

    Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment is an ambitious study of contemporary problems of political violence, authoritarianism and socio-economic underdevelopment in Islamic societies. The monograph starts with the question, ‘Why are Muslim-majority countries less peaceful, less democratic, and less developed?’ To address this question, the book is divided into two parts: the first discusses the respective problems of 49 Muslim-majority countries and elaborates on prevailing theoretical ex Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment is an ambitious study of contemporary problems of political violence, authoritarianism and socio-economic underdevelopment in Islamic societies. The monograph starts with the question, ‘Why are Muslim-majority countries less peaceful, less democratic, and less developed?’ To address this question, the book is divided into two parts: the first discusses the respective problems of 49 Muslim-majority countries and elaborates on prevailing theoretical explanations, and the second examines historical patterns of Muslim development and progress with a particular focus on the roots of ‘intellectual and economic stagnation, which constituted the historical origin of their current vicious circle of authoritarianism and socioeconomic underdevelopment’ (66). The book skilfully indicates that Muslims’ contemporary problems cannot be explained by singling out a particular factor such as Islam or colonial invasions. Instead, the author contends, class relations have played a critical role in the rise and decline of Muslim intellectual and economic progress. The book suggests that the ulema– state alliance substantially undermined intellectual and merchant classes, leading to stagnation. For a full review, see: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/1...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lyz

    Mengapa negara muslim atau negara mayoritas muslim seringkali dikaitkan dengan otoritarianisme dan ketertinggalan? buku ini membahas sebab-sebabnya secara komprehensif dan mendalam, memberikan gambaran dunia muslim yang dari abad ke-9 sampai abad ke-11 menjadi tempat dengan kemajuan tertinggi dunia, jauh sebelum kemajuan Eropa barat yang terjadi beberapa abad setelahnya. Lalu, apa yang membuat Islam sangat dikaitkan dengan ketertinggalan? buku ini akan menjawab pertanyaan tersebut, anda tidak dibua Mengapa negara muslim atau negara mayoritas muslim seringkali dikaitkan dengan otoritarianisme dan ketertinggalan? buku ini membahas sebab-sebabnya secara komprehensif dan mendalam, memberikan gambaran dunia muslim yang dari abad ke-9 sampai abad ke-11 menjadi tempat dengan kemajuan tertinggi dunia, jauh sebelum kemajuan Eropa barat yang terjadi beberapa abad setelahnya. Lalu, apa yang membuat Islam sangat dikaitkan dengan ketertinggalan? buku ini akan menjawab pertanyaan tersebut, anda tidak dibuat menjadi pembaca muslim yang kolot dalam buku ini, namun anda akan menjadi pembacs netral dengan rasa ingin tahu yang semakin besar semakin anda melwati halaman-per-halaman buku ini. Indonesia tidak dikaji di buku ini, namun disebutkan beberapa kali. Dan, tentu saja buku ini penting bagi pembaca Indonesia, karena kita negara mayoritas muslim yang perlu dipahamkan betapa pentingnya literasi dan buku dalam kemajuan peradaban.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mehmet Kalaycı

    I love reading books that bring a different perspective to current issues. I think the author did a great job of comparing the West and the Muslim world to bring an unusual view of the facts. Also, the book is very understandable and extremely easy to read even if you don't have a deep knowledge of the Muslim world. I love reading books that bring a different perspective to current issues. I think the author did a great job of comparing the West and the Muslim world to bring an unusual view of the facts. Also, the book is very understandable and extremely easy to read even if you don't have a deep knowledge of the Muslim world.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mazen Abdenbi

    Islam, authoritarianism, and underdevelopment is a book where Ahmed T.Kuru tries to explain and highlights the reasons behind Muslim-majority countries backwardness. I must admit I felt a bit of a let down because I expected more from this book. The book contains valid arguments, sometimes supported by states, that point out the root of Muslim intellectual decline. The author argues that the state-Ulema alliance that was established during the 11th century as the main cause of such decline, henc Islam, authoritarianism, and underdevelopment is a book where Ahmed T.Kuru tries to explain and highlights the reasons behind Muslim-majority countries backwardness. I must admit I felt a bit of a let down because I expected more from this book. The book contains valid arguments, sometimes supported by states, that point out the root of Muslim intellectual decline. The author argues that the state-Ulema alliance that was established during the 11th century as the main cause of such decline, hence you will find him use the “Ulema-State” expression a lot (and I mean A LOT). My main disappointment with the book is that it focuses more on the medieval period rather than the contemporary period which occupies only a third of the book. Moreover, I think the author stresses the role of the Sunni orthodox Ulema and while I do agree with their role in opposing innovation and rejecting modernization, i think the biggest challenge for Muslim countries is Authoritarianism. Further, it’s the Muslim rulers and political class that that maintain the State-Ulema alliance and benefit from it, especially in countries like Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, and specifically Saudi Arabia. The rulers in those countries are the ones that hold power and oppose change that threatens their privileges (Arab Spring for example). The book is well written and supported by various academic sources. I enjoyed how the author referred to both academics from both the Muslim world and the West while analyzing their arguments carefully. It can be hard to read sometimes but I think it’s worth reading to understand the relationship between Autocratic regimes and religious authorities in the Muslim World.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kemal Akkaya

    In this timely book, A. Kuru investigates one of the widely asked questions on the roots of backwardness in Muslim majority countries. He focuses on scientific, economic and political aspects of the problem and presents a stunningly comprehensive survey of the Islamic history to get to the bottom of the problem by considering all the Muslim empires/dynasties starting from the time of Umayyads. The book discusses major transformations that happened in a chronological order by putting them in cont In this timely book, A. Kuru investigates one of the widely asked questions on the roots of backwardness in Muslim majority countries. He focuses on scientific, economic and political aspects of the problem and presents a stunningly comprehensive survey of the Islamic history to get to the bottom of the problem by considering all the Muslim empires/dynasties starting from the time of Umayyads. The book discusses major transformations that happened in a chronological order by putting them in context. This is indeed very useful in order to understand the inter-dependencies of the events that are often presented in isolation in the typical history books. It is amazing to see all of the controversial issues being discussed in a compact manner from Al Ghazali’s ideas to revivalist endeavors in the late 19th century Ottomans, from Ashari Theology to Salafism and from the story of the book printing in Ottomans to failures of assertive secularist governments in modern times. While Kuru’s main argument for the underdevelopment of Muslim countries is shaped around the alliance of state and ulema (Islamic scholars), he does not shy away from discussing and crediting other arguments from essentialism to colonialism. This unbiased approach gives the reader a broader perspective in understanding the pros and cons of the other arguments with their details along with footnotes and related citations. Although at times Kuru overemphasizes his ulema-state alliance argument, this argument is a novel one that helps linking the dots. He clearly demonstrates that such an alliance not only hindered the flourishing of intellectuals but also undermined the economic development and hence the merchants. Consequently, for Kuru, Muslim countries failed to develop a bourgeoisie and intellectual class, which are indispensable for a functioning democracy. The book is very easy to follow and gave me a similar sense to watching a TV series where you cannot wait to see what would happen in the next episode when reading it. It is definitely a must read for every young Muslim, especially in the East, to be able to get out of their comfort zone and realize what had happened. For the western readers, it is an invaluable summary of history of Islam although it is not a history book. Kuru’s recommendations at the end of the book have also a lot of potential to pave the way for interesting contemplation and discussion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Azwad Adnan

    The book provides great insights for the history enthusiasts who are particularly interested about the Islamic history and culture. I would not be exaggerating much if I say it projects a holistic discussion of the political and economic structures and their actors of the Islamic world starting from the Umayyad Empire to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The geopolitical clashes these empires faced and the role of different actors involved at that period are the points of focus of this book. The a The book provides great insights for the history enthusiasts who are particularly interested about the Islamic history and culture. I would not be exaggerating much if I say it projects a holistic discussion of the political and economic structures and their actors of the Islamic world starting from the Umayyad Empire to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The geopolitical clashes these empires faced and the role of different actors involved at that period are the points of focus of this book. The author claims that the decline of these great Muslim empires is largely due to the Ulema-state alliance and the unfavorable atmosphere that existed particularly for the intellectuals and bourgeois class. The comparative analyses among Umayyad, Abbasid, Safavid, Mughal and Ottoman themselves and with their contemporary western counterparts support the author’s claim quite convincingly. The author meticulously dissected the thesis and anti thesis of other scholars on these topics through a very thorough, logical and data driven analysis. While going through the book one should find some ideas that indeed can be much thought provoking and perhaps lead modern Muslims to rediscover their history in retrospect from a new perspective. The author explores the great scholars and the personalities throughout the Muslim history, what difficulties they faced and why they were hardly found afterwards; how the once great Muslim empires came to ruins, gave in to the fast emerging western world and became colonized later also covered in this book. How philosophy was perceived in the Muslim world and the inevitable clashes between them- I find this particular part very fascinating. Overall the author of Turkish origin put up a great effort to draw a holistic picture of the political and cultural history of the Islamic empires, their downfall as well as explored the causes behind it and the effects it produced.

  18. 5 out of 5

    MSB

    Although this subject/problem is well-studied subject in the history and there are significant amount of thesis on why the Muslim countries failed, I personally was sure that "When the rulers and people live so called 'real Islam', the country becomes powerful" as how ordinary Muslim religious guys think. But after failure of "Turkish dream" by realizing how the Islamist's real faces are so ugly, and realizing lies of religious sect groups about brutal coup attempt in Turkey, this question again Although this subject/problem is well-studied subject in the history and there are significant amount of thesis on why the Muslim countries failed, I personally was sure that "When the rulers and people live so called 'real Islam', the country becomes powerful" as how ordinary Muslim religious guys think. But after failure of "Turkish dream" by realizing how the Islamist's real faces are so ugly, and realizing lies of religious sect groups about brutal coup attempt in Turkey, this question again come into my mind. According to writer, the historical reason of failure of Muslim countries is "ulema-state alliance". All beyond the book, "ulema-state alliance", which means the ruler (sultan, king..etc) uses ulema (the religious leader, spokesman,..etc) as his own benefit and not to share power with scientist, businessman or another part of the folk, is mentioned as big devil ! The writer explains the current failure of the Muslim countries by "rantier economy" which means the economic system based on renting oil reserves instead of collecting taxes and give the folk opportunities to ask question to the ruler where the collecting taxes are spent. The writer explains the exceptions by regional diffusion which makes sense. And also he described current Turkey as semi or quasi-rantier which means instead of renting oil, gas reserve, renting high valued land especially in bigger cities. The book is definitely well-written and densely academic. Although I prefer a little bit easy reading book instead of fully academic research, because of the subject is so important for me, I could read it in 3 days.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samir Firdovsioglu

    The book is a well-researched book with a lot of references, its arguments are convincing and the author tries to support his claims with explanations backed with historical examples. His language is not difficult, easy to understand, but as enjoyable as one would wish. I have one main reservation with his conclusion regarding the authoritarianism; he is indeed right in pointing out the authoritarianism and centralisation of the power as the most significant factor that killed the spirit of scie The book is a well-researched book with a lot of references, its arguments are convincing and the author tries to support his claims with explanations backed with historical examples. His language is not difficult, easy to understand, but as enjoyable as one would wish. I have one main reservation with his conclusion regarding the authoritarianism; he is indeed right in pointing out the authoritarianism and centralisation of the power as the most significant factor that killed the spirit of science, entrepreneurship and merchantry which led to the decline of one of the greatest civilizations of the history. But I do not agree with him in defining ulema-state alliance as its cause, I would rather say that it was a result of the authoritarianism. Centralized states forced the ulema into submission and gave them a role in the state structure in order to legitimize the state through the religion. There are other reasons for authoritarianism in the islamic lands and it goes back to the end of rashidun khalifas and beginning of first kings/sultans. The book is a powerfull work and I definately recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Blocker

    Prior to reading Professor Kuru's well-written book, I had the very limited knowledge and understanding of Muslim history typical of the educated western layperson I am. His complex, panoramic view of Muslim societies over the centuries introduced me to the details of issues and happenings placed in a very clear analytical framework. Moreover, throughout the work he addresses the western and Muslim-world scholarly debate about multiple aspects of this history. I am well versed in European histor Prior to reading Professor Kuru's well-written book, I had the very limited knowledge and understanding of Muslim history typical of the educated western layperson I am. His complex, panoramic view of Muslim societies over the centuries introduced me to the details of issues and happenings placed in a very clear analytical framework. Moreover, throughout the work he addresses the western and Muslim-world scholarly debate about multiple aspects of this history. I am well versed in European history and so appreciated his lengthy comparison of the emergence of western Europe with analogous developments in the Muslim world. Finally, he critically relates his findings directly to the situation of Middle Eastern nations today.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Petra Gilang Ramadan

    Awalnya saya berprasangka bahwa Ahmet Kuru akan habis-habisan membahas tokoh muslim yang menjadi aktor kemunduran. Ternyata tidak! Ahmet Kuru dalam buku ini berprilaku sangan objektif, mambongkar kebiasaan pejabat di negara muslim yg menyebabkan kemunduran sekaligus membongkar prilaku-prilaku dunia barat dalam menyebabkan kemunduran negara muslim. Kuru juga mematahkan teori-teori tentang kemunduran Islam yang menekankan pada aspek spiritual Islam itu sendiri, sehingga menurut Kuru ajaran Islam b Awalnya saya berprasangka bahwa Ahmet Kuru akan habis-habisan membahas tokoh muslim yang menjadi aktor kemunduran. Ternyata tidak! Ahmet Kuru dalam buku ini berprilaku sangan objektif, mambongkar kebiasaan pejabat di negara muslim yg menyebabkan kemunduran sekaligus membongkar prilaku-prilaku dunia barat dalam menyebabkan kemunduran negara muslim. Kuru juga mematahkan teori-teori tentang kemunduran Islam yang menekankan pada aspek spiritual Islam itu sendiri, sehingga menurut Kuru ajaran Islam bukan penyebab kemunduran Islam seperti yang dilabelkan oleh pemikir di dunia barat.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Naile

    I was amazed by reading this book. Without understanding the history of Islam, one cannot begin to understand the Muslim world and this book clearly provides the background about politics and, religious thoughts that influenced the Muslim community. Reading this book has provided me with a better understanding of Islam, authoritarian regimes in Muslim countries, Sunni Orthodoxy, and how we got to this point of time. I strongly suggest all Muslims to read this book to better understand themselves, I was amazed by reading this book. Without understanding the history of Islam, one cannot begin to understand the Muslim world and this book clearly provides the background about politics and, religious thoughts that influenced the Muslim community. Reading this book has provided me with a better understanding of Islam, authoritarian regimes in Muslim countries, Sunni Orthodoxy, and how we got to this point of time. I strongly suggest all Muslims to read this book to better understand themselves, their roots and tradition. For non-Muslims who want to understand what is going on in the Muslim world, this book makes you surprised.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ranggi Reksa Pradana

    The idea of this book is to find the correlation between the 3 things that you can see in the title. I like the way the author does when he's comparing the data between secular islamic-majority countries and islamic countries. His deep analysis about how the alliance between ulama-umara at the end of islamic golden age and also the factor behind why ulama at that time is leaning toward releasing conservative fatwa is really astonishing I think. The idea of this book is to find the correlation between the 3 things that you can see in the title. I like the way the author does when he's comparing the data between secular islamic-majority countries and islamic countries. His deep analysis about how the alliance between ulama-umara at the end of islamic golden age and also the factor behind why ulama at that time is leaning toward releasing conservative fatwa is really astonishing I think.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Fikri Angga Reksa

    Banyak tesis menarik yang menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan saya perihal ketertinggalan Islam dengan negara-negara Barat. Namun, akan sangat baik jika tesis-tesis tersebut dibuktikan dengan memberikan contoh di negara-negara Islam di Asia Tenggara seperti Indonesia dan Malaysia.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alharkan

    The best book about underdevelopment in Islamic context i ever read

  26. 5 out of 5

    Warren McGuire

    Excellent scholarship and a good read Well written analysis of Islam’s economic and political challenges with plenty of footnotes to inspire further studies. Highly recommend for anyone interested in the subject.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Abdullah

    Unimpressive.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wan Fahry

    kalau ada pertanyaan mengenai bagaimana kondisi dunia islam sekarang mungkin bisa dijawab oleh buku ini

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mazen Alloujami

    A very interesting analysis of the relation between Islam and authoritarianism and underdevelopment of the Islamic world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Boyke Rahardian

    Penulis mengusulkan beberapa sebab ketertinggalan di dunia muslim. Yang utama adalah persekutuan penguasa dan ulama yg menyingkirkan intelektual independen dan pedagang / borjuasi berpengaruh. Kemutlakan penguasa secara tidak langsung menyebabkan tingginya kekerasan di banyak negara muslim, walaupun ada peran warisan kolonial juga di situ. Sayangnya banyak ekonomi di negara muslim bersifat ekstraktif, tidak bergantung pada peran serta masyarakat, yang menyebabkan kekuasaan otoriter menjadi lebih Penulis mengusulkan beberapa sebab ketertinggalan di dunia muslim. Yang utama adalah persekutuan penguasa dan ulama yg menyingkirkan intelektual independen dan pedagang / borjuasi berpengaruh. Kemutlakan penguasa secara tidak langsung menyebabkan tingginya kekerasan di banyak negara muslim, walaupun ada peran warisan kolonial juga di situ. Sayangnya banyak ekonomi di negara muslim bersifat ekstraktif, tidak bergantung pada peran serta masyarakat, yang menyebabkan kekuasaan otoriter menjadi lebih awet.

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