I enjoyed reading the author's earlier published book entitled Struggling to Surrender so got straight to this one after finishing that one! This book is similar to the previous book and there is considerable overlap between the two but I'd still highly recommend reading both. Like his previous book, there's a good mix of the author's personal experiences and stories on what it means to be an American and a Muslim together with the author's reflections on the Qur'an. I particularly enjoyed in this book the author's discussions on the relationship between culture and religion: how the two can easily be mixed up over time, how the former can influence the way a person approaches the latter, and so on and so forth. Overall this book will probably be of more interest to Muslims living as a minority in a largely non-Muslim environment but there is much benefit and insight here for all.
Below are some of my favourite short quotes from the book:
"... The question of the purpose of life is fundamental, and we can hardly know a person or a society until we understand how this question is treated..." "... Repetition is indicative of the importance given to certain topics. It should be observed that the Arabic word for knowledge, 'ilm, and its derivatives appear 854 times in the Qur'an, placing it among the most frequently occurring words..." "... The Qur'anic God is anything but impartial to mankind's condition. He sends prophets, answers prayers, and intervenes in and manipulates the human drama... All is under His authority, and nothing takes place without His allowing it..." "... The Qur'an's "most beautiful names" of God imply an intense involvement in the human venture. These names, such as The Merciful, The Compassionate, The Forgiving, The Giving, The Loving, The Creator, etc., reveal a God that creates men and women in order to relate to them on an intensely personal level..." "... the Qur'an shows that God intends to produce through this earthly experience persons that share a bond of love with Him..." "... Trial and tribulation are held to be inevitable and essential to human development and both the believer and unbeliever will experience them..." "... It is not surprising that the Qur'an upholds the so-called golden rule. Many do feel that it is better to give than to recieve, to be truthful rather than to live a lie, to love rather than to hate, to be compassionate rather than to ignore the suffering of others, for such experiences give life depth and beauty..." "... in the winters of our lives, our past wordly or material achievements will seem less important to us than the relationships we had, loves and friendships that we shared, and times we spent giving of ourselves and doing good to others..."
Excellent read. Really enjoyed reading the author's journey to Islam and his take on what it means to be a Muslim. Also enjoyed reading the author's attempt at understanding and explaining various contentious issues such as the use of symbolism in the Qur'an, the authenticity of Hadith, the role of women in Muslim communities, apostasy, the People of the Book and many others! Of course not everyone will find the author's opinions agreeable and sometimes his opinions are not in line with the Muslim status quo but you can feel his sincerity and his strong desire to maintain objectivity throughout.
Here are some quotes from the book:
"... I learned very quickly that no one knows loneliness like an atheist. When an average person feels isolated, he can call through the depths of his soul to One who knows him and sense an answer. An atheist cannot allow himself that luxury, for he has to crush the urge and remind himself of its absurdity..."
"...'I do have one question.' I paused, not sure how to formulate it. 'Can you tell me what it feels like to be a Muslim? I mean, how do you see you relationship with God?'..."
"... To me, praying the dawn prayer in the mosque is one of the most beautiful and moving rituals in Islam. There is something mystical in arising while everyone else sleeps to hear the music of the Qur'an filling the darkness. It is as if you temporarily leave this world and commune with the angels in extolling God's praises at dawn...
"... You cannot simply read the Qur'an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side..."
"... the Qur'an has no beginning and or end… its fundamental concepts can be ascertained regardless of the order in which it is read. But for one who is about to respond to its call, the arrangement of the Qur'an is pivotal, for the further you progress through it, in the correct order, the more intense and emotive is its expression. As a result, the closer one comes to conversion, the more magnetic is the summons..."
I get asked every few months for suggestions on where to study Arabic in or near the Waltham Forest area and I have to dig around to remind myself of the options. So I thought I'd up a list of options that I'm aware of and I'll add to this list as I become aware of more options...
This book — Muhammad: Man and Prophet, by Adil Salahi — is hands down my favourite in the English language. Just the right level of detail and good, simple language. I'm going through it with my niece chapter-by-chapter and in the process I'm creating a summary of each chapter for future use. Links below to the slides summarising each chapter: