Sceptics of Islam: Revisionist Religion, Agnosticism and Disbelief in the Modern Arab World

Publication Year



Edited by Ralph M. Coury, Ph.D. 1984

Arab debates about the critical relationship between religion and modernity began in the early nineteenth century. Such debates are now integral to the struggle for power between a variety of political groups and their opponents, and are vital to understanding the modern Middle East. This unique volume introduces writings of Arab Christian and Muslim revisionist and radical "free thinkers" who have tried to redefine the relationship. It challenges the deeply entrenched idea that the contemporary Islamic world has been impermeable to a critique of religious ideas and practices. Authors from the nineteenth century to the present are included. Some are avowed believers, even if they adopt positions many might regard as heretical; others are openly agnostic and atheistic. Despite their differences, all have been united in disputing the notion that life should conform exclusively to a system of values and laws based upon the Qur'an or the Bible, or, in some cases less radically, upon these as they were widely understood before the onset of modernity. They have also rejected many of the standard religious 'liberal' assumptions that are regularly invoked against traditionalism. The book's originality lies in its evaluation of the social and cultural impact of these thinkers.


“An indispensable resource for students of the modern Middle East … Summing Up: Highly recommended.” –  G.E. Perry, emeritus, Indiana State University, CHOICE

“Coury guides his readers through a variety of texts ... that show just how variegated, satirical and nuanced the questioning of received orthodoxies has been ... [The book] embraces a broad variety of religious attitudes.” –  Times Literary Supplement

“I highly recommend this excellent anthology.” –  Journal of Race and Class

Series Title
Library of Modern Middle East Studies
I.B. Tauris
Cloth: 9781784533373; paper: 9781838602055