Two billion caliphs A vision of a Muslim future

Haroon Moghul

Book - 2022

"With autobiography, theology, and a little comedy, Two Billion Caliphs describes what Islam is, where it comes from, and what it could be"--

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Boston : Beacon Press 2022.
Main Author
Haroon Moghul (author)
Physical Description
xii, 231 pages ; 22 cm
  • A Note for the Reader
  • Prologue
  • Introduction: An Embarrassment of Riches
  • 1. Yelling at the Converted
  • 2. What's the Big Idea?
  • 3. Standing for Torah at Sinai
  • 4. Anakin Skywalker Is the Devil
  • 5. Flood from a Machine
  • 6. Twilight of the Idols
  • 7. Friends, Romans, Countrymen
  • 8. What's Past Is Prologue
  • 9. Adam and Eve and Eve and Eve and Eve
  • 10. The Fable of the Stable Theocracy
  • 11. The Empty Throne
  • 12. The Case for the Caliphate
  • 13. The End
  • 14. Sermon on the Mount
  • 15. Why I Am Not a Sufi
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Booklist Review

This book outlines one individual's journey in shaping his religious convictions, intertwining how his religious beliefs were formed through life experiences. It starts with the idea of God (within the Abrahamic tradition), God's covenant, and its implication on creation--specifically, on humans as God's caliphs on earth. The discussion then moves to moral agency and a dynamic, personal relationship with God, with examples such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Hagar peppering the narrative. Muhammad's life and how to understand it segue into how contemporary Muslims should interpret Islam's key messages (focusing on polygamy, slavery, territoriality, and organized religion). The narrative returns to discussing how to engage with God by living as stewards of the earth, and challenging injustice. Hence the caliphate is upholding divine order through individual agency--making it an individual obligation. The text provides some novel responses on being a Muslim today, in both Muslim-majority and -minority countries. It embraces diversity, intellectual freedom, and personal rights. While readers may differ with the narrative, it does provide a basis for introspection and debate.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this forthright and entertaining treatise, essayist Moghul (How to Be a Muslim) provides a personal account of Islam's past and present while musing on its future. The author explains the tenets of Islam, covering the unified nature of God, the origin of the devil, and the lives of prophets from Adam to Muhammad, in addition to exploring social issues such as Muslim approaches to marriage and politics. Moghul illustrates his relationship with Islam through personal anecdotes about watching Star Trek with his mother and suffering a major health crisis that forced him to abandon his career in academia. The author doesn't shy away from critiquing Islam, finding fault with Muhammad's opposition to homosexuality and mounting a nuanced take on Muhammad's polygyny. Moghul also offers prescriptions for the future of Islam, advocating for "empowering Muslims locally" and developing "deeply compassionate" Muslim communities. Though Moghul's presentation occasionally feels disorganized, jumping from religious textual analysis to personal stories, the blend of sacred and secular has its charms, as does Moghul's straightforwardness and optimism for Islam's future. Moghul's candid mix of devotional and memoir make this a solid primer on Islam. (Apr.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Moghul (How To Be a Muslim) explores what being a Muslim means to him, and some of the underpinnings of his faith. The text alternates among scripture, reflection, and personal experiences, weaving together a narrative that reinterprets what it means to be a Muslim in contemporary times. Drawing from the scriptures (especially the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Hagar), Moghul starts with the idea of God, human agency, and the personal relationship between each individual and God. Next, he discusses Muhammad's life and how it should be interpreted as embodying Islamic ideals. Sections of the narrative are specifically devoted to polygamy, slavery, territoriality, and organized religion. Moghul then returns to engaging with God, speaking out and combatting injustice as our individual situations permit, and living as stewards of earth. These are distilled as individual obligations incumbent on all Muslims. Readers may not agree with the conclusions or methods of reasoning Moghul uses; they may even accuse him of omitting other sections of scripture that may challenge his interpretation. However, the work does provide a basis for introspection and debate for Muslims and non-Muslims. VERDICT Recommended for its novel perspectives and invitation for dialogue.--Muhammed Hassanali

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A scattered tour through the Islamic world. Moghul, who gained acclaim for his memoir, How To Be a Muslim: An American Story, returns with a second exploration of Islam from his perspective as a Pakistani American author, professor, professional writer, and "thought leader." Less evocative and introspective than his memoir, the author's latest doesn't advance a true vision so much as "describes what Islam has been and what it is, who its heroes are, what its big ideas are." A hodgepodge of personal experience, Islam 101, and advice for "the ummah, the global Muslim community," the narrative is disordered and often unclear. If there is a common theme, it is a call to a kinder, gentler Islam. Moghul decries the "religion of coldness, hardness, and distance" that he has too often experienced. Using pointed historical analysis, he questions the misguided political nature of Islamic cultures through the centuries. Based on the tenets of statecraft, Moghul calls for a new version of the "Caliphate of God," but this concept remains vague throughout his text. "We can and must free Islam from the grip of religionized politics and politicized religion, returning it to what it was always meant to be. How to talk to God. How to turn back to God. How to instill life with everlasting meaning." It's an admirable goal, but the book lacks concrete action items. The author presents readers with an intriguing contrast, writing as a Muslim insider, explaining and deconstructing his religion, while at the same time making himself out to be an outsider who doesn't fit easily into his religion and admits, "I cannot stay within the confines of traditional Islam." Moghul also embarks on numerous confusing rhetorical side trips and employs a number of clumsy metaphors. He is knowledgeable about his subject, but he needs to refine his message and his method in order to reach more readers. Meandering musings on being Muslim. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.