A useful resource for readers seeking an introduction to Islamic thought and its major schools.



A valuable primer on a religion that, for all its monolithic appearance, is as splintered as any other.

“Islam today is a living reality faced with multiple problems and challenges, but still deeply anchored in the . . . tradition and the truths that have guided its destiny since the descent of the Quranic revelation more than fourteen centuries ago.” So writes Iranian scholar Nasr (Islamic Studies/ Georgetown Univ.) in the close of this survey of Islamic thought, which covers both the ideological mainstream and some of the offshoot (and sometimes heretical) variants of the religion. Nasr begins by identifying what all observant Muslims believe in common, the foundations of the ummah, or community, of Islam: that “There is no god but God,” that “Muhammad is the messenger of God,” that “the Quran is the verbatim revelation of God.” Beyond that, however, lies much local and cultural interpretation, which allows some mullahs to decree terrorist acts, for example, to be anathema and others to declare them a key to heaven. In the course of his explication, Nasr offers a few comparisons with Judaic and Christian belief—noting, for instance, that “angels have not as yet been banished from the religious cosmos of Muslims, as they were to an ever greater degree in Christianity from the seventeenth century on”—and ventures interesting asides on the condition of Islam as a transnational polity today. On the second matter, he observes that although nearly every nation in the Islamic world is independent, many are less free, and certainly less contented, than they were under foreign rule—a situation that affords a perfect breeding ground for antinomian groups. But, Nasr holds, although fundamentalism is a powerful reality in the Islamic world, it is less powerful and less unified than the Western media portray it.

A useful resource for readers seeking an introduction to Islamic thought and its major schools.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-050714-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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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

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