A fascinating bridge text between Islam and Christianity.

Intriguing exploration of the Muslim understanding of Jesus.

Akyol (Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, 2011) provides an open-minded and historically driven look at the Quran’s treatment of Jesus, with an emphasis on how the person of Jesus may have come into the worldview of Muhammad and his followers. Displaying a keen comprehension for the background behind all three Abrahamic religions and a deep understanding of Middle Eastern history, Akyol reviews the place of Jesus in the scope of Islam in a way that few modern writers have, especially outside of purely academic works. After a short discussion on the concept of the “historical Jesus,” he explores the divide between the theology developed by Paul, which became Christianity, broadly understood, and that developed by James and the church in Jerusalem, which became “Jewish Christianity,” a sect that eventually died out. The author goes on to share the intriguing similarities between the theology of Jewish Christians and the Quran’s theological concept of Jesus. In a pivotal chapter, the author provides a variety of recognized theories (and some archaeological evidence) for a real, historical connection between the vanishing Jewish Christians and the first followers of Islam. Nowhere does Akyol suggest that any one theory is definitive, but he certainly leaves readers with food for thought. He continues by exploring the role Jesus plays in the Quran, especially in contrast to his role in Christianity. In reviewing Quranic verses on Jesus, the author reveals that in many cases, parallel or at least related statements are made in apocryphal Christian literature. Among many other examples, the Quran claims that Jesus breathed life into clay birds, a statement highly reminiscent of a similar tale in a work of Christian Apocrypha, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Ultimately, Akyol finds that Jesus provides Muslims with a worthy exemplar of piety and holiness and that the overtones of history and geopolitics need not dampen that fact.

A fascinating bridge text between Islam and Christianity.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08869-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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