THE CLOSING OF THE MUSLIM MIND: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis


Intercollegiate Studies Institute (2011)

Over the past seven years or so, I have been studying Islam for apologetics. I must confess that over and over again Islam did not makes sense. Their belief system and worldview was difficult to understand. Things like why moderate Muslims would be considered non-believers or why Allah could rightly punish the just and reward the wicked. It wasn't until I read "The Closing of the Muslim Mind" that suddenly all these odds and ends fell into place and I could finally understand Islam is like it is.

Reilly traces the history of a philosophical conflict within Islam between what I call "the rational party" and the "irrational party." Both parties claimed to be authentically Islamic, yet they were both incompatible with one another. The title gives away who wins in this conflict. Sad to say, had the "rational party" won Islam and Christianity would have had much more in common and much more to build upon, but alas it didn't.

In the last part of the book, Reilly shows the devastating consequences of the "irrational party's" victory, namely the stifling of science, industry, and education within predominantly Muslim countries. He also suggests that this philosophy also produces a non-realistic view of nature making the wildest conspiracy theories seem prima fascia plausible. Reilly also suggests that Islam's radically transcend view of God produces within Islam a parallel to Atheistic philosophy, which makes sense. If God's will is disconnected from his Nature (and creation), there really is no difference, from our perspective, of a universe created by this God and one created by purposeless blind-chance.

The book is great, but I think I ought to give two WARNINGS. First, it is a history of philosophy (and Arabic philosophy at that), which may appear tedious to those not up on their philosophical chops. Since the author traces the philosophical developments through history, he covers a lot of ground (especially in the Middle-ages) that one could skip without really missing much. For those who are not willing to wade through the whole history, I believe this book is worth its price if one only reads the first couple of chapters and the last couple of chapters.

My second warning is that Reilly presupposes a idealized setting. Many, if not most, of Reilly's conclusions hold true only in countries where Islam is deeply embedded within its culture and it is pretty much cut off from outside influences. However, outside of these environs there is less consistency between one's religious and philosophical views and how they live, so some of Reilly's points may not hold true in these cases as long as Islam does not become the dominant philosophical / religious belief-system.

I recommend this book to everyone, especially the first few chapters and the last few chapters. It helped me a great deal. I hope it will help you too.