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Publisher's Summary

Bernard Lewis examines the historical roots of the frustrations and resentments that dominate the Islamic world today and that are increasingly being expressed in acts of terrorism. He looks at the theological origins of political Islam and tells us what the Islamic doctrine of jihad has meant at different times in history. And he takes us, as only he can, through the rise of militant Islam in Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, examining the impact of radical Wahabi proselytizing and Saudi oil money on the rest of the Islamic world.

Crisis of Islam ranges widely through 13 centuries of history, but in particular it charts the key events of the 20th century leading up to the bitter and violent confrontations of today. The Second World War, the creation of the state of Israel, the Cold War, the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, the Gulf War, and the September 11th attacks on the United States have all shaped Muslim perceptions in important ways.

While hostility toward the West has a long and varied history in the lands of Islam, its current concentration on America is new. So too is the cult of the suicide bomber. Bernard Lewis helps us understand the reasons for the increasingly dogmatic rejection of modernity by many in the Muslim world in favor of a return to a sacred past. Based on his George Polk Award-winning article for The New Yorker, The Crisis of Islam is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what Osama bin Ladin represents and why his murderous message resonates so widely in the Islamic world.

©2003 Bernard Lewis (P)2003 Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Remarkably succinct...offers a long view in the midst of so much short-termism and confusing punditry. Lewis has done us all - Muslim and non-Muslim alike - a remarkable service." (The New York Times Book Review) "A timely and provocative contribution to the current raging debate about the tensions between the West and the Islamic world." (Business Week)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Frank
  • Mission Viejo, CA, USA
  • 04-17-03

Absolutely Worth It, HIghly Recommended!

Prof. Lewis has hit just the right length and level of detail. The author reads his own work, a definite benefit, although you will need to get used to his diction and vocal range (but that is generally true with audio books, and the Professor does better than most in my opinion.) His viewpoint on the current events pertaining to Islam, terrorism and Iraq is an historical one, lending a depth and breadth which are mostly missing amongst the pundits commonly heard on the news channels. He answers, or suggests plausible theories, as to why the events in the Islamic world, and in the Middle East in particular, are taking place. I now find the current Middle East events far more understandable.

The book is much like an extended college lecture, but is constructed more carefully and thus somewhat better listening. I listened on the way to work each morning, and I found myself leaving a little earlier than normal each morning as I looked forward to hearing more. Only a mild criticism, I found that the pace briefly slowed at about the 3/4 point, but in general this book moves forward as fast of most any of the historical/current events genre.

Five Stars!

129 of 130 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very Informative and Very Relevant

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this. The author gave a wonderfully concise and relevant review of Islamic events in the past have lead up to the attitudes and hostilities that are being expressed today. I had some knowledge of the practice of Islam as well as a familiarity with Islamic terms before listening to this which I feel was helpful in following along. Without this, I may not have gotten as much out of it. It has broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of Middle Eastern events. I think anyone interested in foreign policy, world religion or current events would benefit greatly from listening to this.

The narrator had a bit of an accent which I thought added to my enjoyment as well. I am looking forward to listening to it again.

39 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Interesting in Parts, Boring in Others

I'm not sure if it was the content or the author's voice that had me rewinding, realizing that I had just missed the last 10 minutes that I listened to. I did this through many parts of the book, as the author's voice continued to drone and drone and drone. Some of his points are repeated over and over and others are broken away from tangentially until I forgot what his original point was. I did come away with some lasting impressions from this book, however. There is valuable content in here if you want to understand some fundamental differences between the Middle East and the US and of some Islamic's hate of the US. Only get this if this topic really interests you as this listen does nothing to draw you in. You have to have a deep interest to begin with or you will fall asleep. Overall, I feel enriched by this book, but it was not listened to without some work on my part.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A very good book...a very mediocre reader...

This is a must read for all who seek insight on the creation, evolution and structure of Islam and it's struggle with the modern world.
With that being said, I suggest the author hire someone with a little more "flare" to read his next book. This was a mono-tone disaster.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Tim
  • Longview, TX, USA
  • 08-07-03

Good Info but BORING!

I really enjoyed the contect of the book, but the reader/author of the book was painful to listen too. He talks in a very monotone uninterested voice. He is very knowledgable but it was difficult to listen to. I read another review and the reviewer noted the pitiful reading but I didn't think it would be as bad as it was.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


For most Americans, the history of the Muslim "world" is a complete mystery. The relevance of historical events such as the elimination of the caliphate is a good example of this. Americans (and most "enlightened" Europeans, too, I'd wager) are oblivious to the significance of many such cultural references that mean nothing to us but are major motivating factors for fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organizations. Listen to this book, and I promise that you'll have many "aha -- now I get it!" moments. Potential Muslim readers should be reassured to know that the author strongly emphasizes the errors in interpretation of the Koran made by terrorists like bin Laden. This book is not just a biased critique of Islam.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dennis
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • 06-03-03

Well worth it.

I have read various criticisms of this book, but I found it a concise, cogent summary of many issues relating to recent acts of terrorism. I heard nothing that seemed markedly out of step with basic historical fact, whether or not you agree with the author's interpretation. In addition, this title is well-read by the author, the recording is pretty clean and loud enough at 3, at the length is about right.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Truly Insightful

This is an extremely complex issue and an equally complex read but remained captivating no less. Immediately upon completing the book, I started over and listened a second time to further piece it all together. The book left me pondering America's roll in past and present history, now with a clarified insight into the failures caused by our short attention span and nearsightedness when it comes to foreign affairs.

After 9/11 when so many asked "why us?", this book offers insight to the answer to that question. A strong believer in the current administration's strong handling of the "War on Terrorism" and the Middle East crisis, I think this book offers the much needed understanding of a culture so different from our own, an understanding that will be required to find our way as a nation through this complex time in the world. We can not afford to abandon yet another body of people who will only respond with resentment if we fail them and grow to become the next generation of Anti-American fighters.

The book is a must read... more than once. The one shortcoming is the authors reading who's speech at times was difficult to understand making the listen even more complex. Still, a must read.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A little heavy on the rhetoric

What did you like best about The Crisis of Islam? What did you like least?

The author comes off as incredibly knowledgeable. That being said, even to someone like me who knows little about the subject, he's clearly cherry picking to make a political point. I think the idea is basically that he can locate various historical strands to assemble into an ideology, which he ascribes to Islam generally. But the threads are all over the place, and he noticeably flattens the culture - treating a bunch of different people spread over hundreds of years as a single actor with a single set of thoughts and motivations. That's just my sense. It's still an interesting view, but I can't recommend it as a comprehensive primer, which is what I was looking for.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The author reading lends a certain earnestness to the book, but at times he swallows words or is otherwise hard to hear. It was a bit distracting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jerry
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • 10-26-05

Great book but why read by the author?

This was a very good introductory, yet detailed book regarding Islam. However, why did Bernard Lewis read? His voice crackles and several times it I could not decipher what he was saying. This book should be re-read by someone with a better voice.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful