Thursday, February 8, 2024

Review of The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror by Bernard Lewis

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Intriguing Connections = 1) Get To Know The Peoples Of The World (Empires of Islam), 

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“During Muhammad’s lifetime, the Muslims became at once a political and a religious community, with the Prophet as head of state.  As such, he governed a place and a people, dispensed justice, collected taxes, commanded armies, waged war and made peace.  For the formative first generation of Muslims, whose adventures are the sacred history of Islam, there was no protracted testing by a persecution, no tradition of resistance to a hostile state power.” – Bernard Lewis, Chapter 1: Defining Islam, Page 6

“Since then, there is a new perception of the Crusades as an early prototype of the expansion of European imperialism into the Islamic world.  A more accurate description would present them as a long-delayed, very limited, and finally ineffectual response to the jihad.  The Crusades ended in failure and defeat, and were soon forgotten in the lands of Islam, but later European efforts to resist and reverse the Muslim advance into Christendom were more successful, and initiated what became a series of painful defeats on the frontiers of the Islamic world.” – Bernard Lewis, Chapter 3: From Crusaders To Imperialists, Page 51

“Oil wealth also had negative political effects, by inhibiting the development of representative institutions.  “No taxation without representation” marks a crucial step in the development of Western democracy.  Unfortunately, the converse is also true – no representation without taxation.  Governments with oil wealth have no need for popular assemblies to impose and collect taxes, and can afford, for some time at least, to disregard public opinion.  Even that term has little meaning in such societies.  Lacking any other outlet, new and growing discontents also find expression in religious extremist movements.” – Bernard Lewis, Chapter 8: The Marriage Of Saudi Power And Wahhabi Teaching, Pages 130-131


Is This An Overview?

Islam has a diverse community, formed by diverse views.  There are those who seek peace and friendly relations with others, but there are also those who seek to justify conflict.  This book is focused on explaining why there are those who want conflict, on the justifications.  The Islamic community had been a leading civilization in military power, commerce, and science.  But since at least the 17th century, Islamic communities have been falling behind.  Without an effective resolution to the gap.  There are those who place the fault on Western imperialism.  Some sources of material support came from foreign sponsors who also provided a philosophy to express anti-Western sentiments.  Although foreign influence did not cause the sentiments, many Islamic states were receptive to the sentiments.


Those who seek conflict, need an enemy to retain power.  Even creating conflict to prevent cooperation and diplomatic relations.  In Muslim states, there is no separation of government and religion.  Islam has a devote population with high participation, and deference to the community that is no longer found in the West.  Giving people an identity, and obtaining loyalty.  There are those who seek a pure and authentic Islam.  A piousness that restricts behavior, with those who commit inappropriate behavior seen as legitimate targets of conflict. 



As this book focuses on understanding those seeking conflict, there is not much on those seeking cooperation.  There is a lot of Islamic history, with this book covering relatively few events that focus on explaining the claims.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What are the different Islamic communities?
•What is the reach of Islam? 
•What is the history of Islamic communities? 
•What caused the decline of Islamic communities?
•How are Muslim states organized?  
•What does Islam provide for people in the 20th century? 
•How does religion and government effect each other?  
•What effect does Islam have on behavior and effect how other people’s behavior is interpreted? 
•What is the succession plan for Islamic communities?  
•How do people justify conflict?
•What are the obligation of people when at war? 
•Why do people want to prevent diplomatic relations?
•What foreign support did Islamic communities receive? 
•How did European activities effect Islamic lands during the 18 century C.E. and later?
•How did European imperialism effect Islamic states?
•What was the effect of Saddam Hussein?
•How did Afghanistan think of the Soviets?  
•What was the effect of the Soviets on Islamic states?
•What effect did the Muslim Brotherhood have? 
•Why did Saladin proclaim a jihad against Crusaders?  
•How did Saladin lead the community?
•What was the effects of the Crusades? 
•How do anti-American Muslims think of America? 
•What political power do democrats and Islamist have?  Which has an advantage? 
•What is madrasa?
•What is fatwa? 
•What is Jihad? 
•What is the effect of oil wealth?  
•What happened to Salman Rushdie? 
•What is Wahhabism?

Book Details
Publisher:               Moden Library Edition [Random House]
Edition ISBN:         0679642811
Pages to read:          181
Publication:             2003
1st Edition:              2003
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall          3