Taner Edis

Islam Evolving: Radicalism, Reformation, and the Uneasy Relationship with the Secular West

Islam Evolving is an insightful analysis of how Muslim piety is stimulated by having to live side by side with twenty-first-century modernity. This has led to an explosion of conservative populism and religious nationalism across the globe. Taner Edis rightly argues that although most devout sharia-seeking Muslim majorities do not support the idea of a global caliphate—and have significantly departed from certain Islamic traditions—their conservatism is often directed toward reducing personal freedoms and the public space available to religious minorities and women.”
—Pervez Hoodbhoy, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan.

“If there is one man who can lead us through the maze of scientific and ideological problems related to the Islamic worldview, it is Taner Edis. Born and raised in Istanbul and educated in science in the United States, Edis has a unique background and intricate knowledge of multiple languages and cultural traditions that make him the perfect guide to get a grasp on some of the most vexing problems of our time. Few books on the relation between the Islamic and the secular word are written with so much knowledge, wisdom, and compassion.”
—Johan Braeckman, professor of philosophy, Ghent University, Belgium

“There are a slew of books out there that look at Islam’s interaction with modernity from a secular perspective. However, the Islam presented in these books is often simplistic and far removed from the lived reality of Muslims. Instead of engaging with a caricatured version of Islam, Islam Evolving presents a nuanced analysis of the way Muslims living in different societies are responding to challenges posed by modernity and secularism. Edis then deftly uses this lens to comment on the failures and successes of secular liberalism itself. Islam Evolving is an engaging, thoughtful, and timely book that should be a must-read for anyone interested in the future of secularism, liberalism, and Islam.”
—Salman Hameed, Charles Taylor Chair and director, the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies, Hampshire College

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How is Islam adapting to the rapid changes of the 21st century? Despite political unrest and terrorism, the author argues that many Muslim societies are successfully developing their own versions of modern life. In contrast to the secular liberal model that prevails in the West, Islam is demonstrating alternative ways to be modern while maintaining a distinctly Muslim worldview.

Professor Edis, an American physicist with a secular viewpoint who was raised in Turkey, is uniquely qualified to evaluate the interplay of modern trends and Islamic values. He devotes separate chapters to prominent examples of what he calls Islam’s “pious modernity.” For instance, while most Muslim societies embrace the applied sciences and technology, they are cooler toward aspects of science with materialist implications. They are also enthusiastically adopting a market economy and consumerism, while preserving Muslim religious values. Even in such controversial areas as multiculturalism, individual human rights, freedom of speech, and gender roles, the author shows that Muslim societies are drawn toward a flexible conservatism. He critically evaluates attempts to import Western political and cultural notions into Muslim societies and draws interesting parallels between conservative Christian reactions to secular society and similar responses in Islam.

This balanced overview of Islam’s relationship with the modern world will be of interest to open-minded readers in both the West and the East.


1 Varieties of Islamic Experience
2 The Sacred Sources
3 A Muslim Modernity
4 Divine Law
5 Women and Men
6 Islam versus Secularism
7 Blasphemers and Infidels
8 Sacred Violence
9 The Future, If It Happens, Will Be Confusing

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