The Islamic Enlightenment

The Islamic Enlightenment

The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason



'An eye-opening, well-written and very timely book' Yuval Noah Harari

'The best sort of book for our disordered days: timely, urgent and illuminating' Pankaj Mishra

'It strikes a blow…for common humanity' Sunday Times

The Muslim world has often been accused of a failure to modernise and adapt. Yet in this sweeping narrative and provocative retelling of modern history, Christopher de Bellaigue charts the forgotten story of the Islamic Enlightenment – the social movements, reforms and revolutions that transfigured the Middle East from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Modern ideals and practices were embraced across the region, including the adoption of modern medicine, the emergence of women from purdah and the development of democracy.

The Islamic Enlightenment looks behind the sensationalist headlines in order to foster a genuine understanding of Islam and its relationship to the West. It is essential reading for anyone engaged in the state of the world today.


  • An eye-opening, well-written and very timely book, which can help us understand better the complex relationship between the Muslim world and modernity. While both Islamic extremists and Western bigots find it convenient to stress the incompatibility of Islam and modernity, Christopher de Bellaigue shows that Islam is whatever Muslims make of it, and that at least some Muslims have made of it something very modern.

About the author

Christopher de Bellaigue

Christopher de Bellaigue is the award-winning author of The Lion House: The Rise of Suleyman the Magnificent, which was chosen as a book of the year by The Times, Sunday Times, Spectator and New Yorker among others, as well as five previous books, including The Islamic Enlightenment, which was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction and the Orwell Prize for Political Writing in 2017. As a reporter in the 1990s and 2000s, he covered the politics and invasions that shaped Turkey, the Middle East and South Asia for, among others, the Economist, Guardian and New York Review of Books. He has also made television and radio programmes and has lectured at universities and in boardrooms around the world.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more