A compelling analysis of the relationship between Islamic thought and modernity.

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A searching appraisal of contemporary Ismaili philosophy and its relation to modernity.

Islamic thought is famously fissured into Shia and Sunni strains, but that neat bifurcation hardly captures its competing allegiances. In the eighth century, following the death of Jafar al-Sadiq, a set of contentious claims regarding his successor was issued, and those who recognized al-Sadiq’s son Ismail as the true heir were eventually called Ismailis. That group itself experienced its own repeated splintering, but as a whole, it has always been a minority within the Shia followers, and a persecuted one as well, scattered across the globe. Western scholars typically know very little about Ismaili philosophical currents, but this is somewhat ironic, as the core of Ismaili beliefs roundly embraces progressive, liberal principles like democracy, pluralism, multicultural diversity, and social justice. Debut author Miraly explores the curious way Ismaili beliefs have exerted an outsized influence on Islamic thought at large despite historical marginalization. He wrestles with the twin possibilities that either Ismaili historians have appropriated liberal categories and grafted them onto revisionist interpretations, or, in some form, these principles were already contained within the ancient Ismaili tradition. Along the way, the author ably dissects that tradition’s approach toward the interpretation of the Quran and the ways Ismaili scholars locate and even ground liberal values on past religious and ethical thought. Miraly also investigates the work of the Aga Khan Development Network, which is essentially the social activist organization of the Ismaili community. Finally, the author considers the way a transnational community of Ismaili disciples presided over by the 49th Ismaili Imam, Aga Khan IV, has formed and how the cultural and political character of Canada has proven particularly congenial to Ismaili commitments. Miraly’s erudition is breathtaking, and the rigor of his analysis unrelenting; he deftly considers all the reasons why Ismaili theology has been so intellectually agile and politically adaptable. He avoids any facile conclusions; instead, he interrogates the internal coherence of the history presented by Ismaili scholars rather than its rightness. As he writes at the conclusion of the study: “In some sense, all historical scholarship is reinvention.”

A compelling analysis of the relationship between Islamic thought and modernity.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8974-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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