Thursday, June 2, 2022

Modernity Has Given Birth to Huge Social Issues and Reduced Humans To Just Being Consumers

By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam 2 June 2022 Sandcastles and Snowmen: A Personal Search for Spirituality Sahar El Nadi Publisher: FB Publishing, San Clemente, CA ISBN: 9780985751227 ------ The life trajectory of every person is a unique journey. Some life journeys are remarkable enough to be documented and shared for wider public consumption. These unique life stories constitute the memoir, biographical and auto biographical genres. There are certain events that become a watershed or turning point of one’s life and can prove an inspiration for others to follow. The book under review is the story of personal journey of the author with the transcendental reality of Islam. It tries to amalgamate the autobiographical genre with analytical study of Islam. The author Sahar El Nadi has successfully related the story of her personal quest for spirituality with the rediscovery of her faith. The book is divided into twelve chapters with separate Introduction and Epilogue. The chapters deal with various aspects of Islam, its intersection, relevance in the modern world and Sahar’s rediscovery of her tradition in the modern world. She describes the purpose and contents of the book in the Preface. “As you will discover, this book is not a comprehensive study of Islam, but a simple and personalized illustration of just some of the concepts that attracted me to become a practicing Muslim after I gained my fair share of experience of people and life as a global citizen. It also includes some of the ways I apply Islam to my everyday life as a citizen of the world to relate to world events that affect my life” (P. 19). The problems of modern humans include materialism, consumer culture and vices that push him into a hedonist, heretic, diminishing his tendency for spirituality. Sahar is aware of these challenges as she relates her experience of battling with these problems and overcoming the same with the help of her faith. To her being spiritual means not to be an ascetic but being “aware that the self is three dimensional: spirit, intellect and body, not just body” (P. 35). Instead of finding happiness in the gadgets and luxuries that money can buy humans should be more concerned about finding a cause that will make their lives meaningful. The quest for meaning of life can be found in the holistic spiritual dimensions of Islam, that Sahar terms as Spiritual Intelligence. “Spiritual Intelligence is the global skill that could help us all on both sides of the world to find our balance again, in personal life as well as in public life. It could help us to strike a point of equilibrium between the needs of our bodies and the needs of our souls as individuals and ultimately as societies. That balance makes us strong and confident enough to solve problems and to make positive contributions to the world, knowing that confidence does not come when you find all the answers, but when you are ready to face all the questions.” (P-42). Sahar in various chapters has described the basics of Islam, its worldview and how Islam expects it’s faithful to behave, interact and contribute to the societies where they are living. While describing these aspects of Islam, Sahar also tries to remove misconceptions about Islam that have become the cause of Islamophobia in the world. She vividly describes about Shariah law and what is meant by Fatwas and the concepts of Islam that carry a negative connotation with them. Muslims in the world carry a wrong brand image of their religion, in which the violence is supposed to have the decisive power in settling the issues. Sahar very well deconstructs this smokescreen about Islam and violence, while analysing and describing the concept and status of Jihad and Qital in Islam. She further lucidly describes how Forgiveness as a faith value has been undermined in our personal and collective lives that if implemented properly would certainly have helped in overcoming the negative emotions of envy, hate, communalism and violence. She also describes the journey of her project: “Do not Hate: Educate” that was conceptualized in the aftermath of blasphemous Danish cartoon controversy about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in 2006. It is a successful project that is a testimony of the fact that peaceful means can be used to educate people about the real picture of Islam. Various chapters have been used to describe the Human Rights, International Relations, Trade and Business ethics, Politics and democracy and its status in Islam. The contribution of Islam in the field of Science and Research, Art and Culture too has been properly documented by the author. In the chapter Gender Roles and Equality, Sahar describes women’s rights in Islam, and her own journey from being related to fashion industry and her transformation when she started observing the Hijab in the Egyptian society. She describes the gender relations among men and women in Islam, the concept of veil and how media is distorting the image of Muslim women by reinforcing the stereotypes about them. Sahar is for equity, not equality, among genders a view about which one can differ with her. The growing body of knowledge in the field of Islamic Feminism and gender just interpretation of Islam has not been consulted and referred by the author. Sahar has actively participated in the events of Arab Spring that resulted in the ouster of a dictator like Hosni Mubarak from Egypt. She describes how the faith was an integral part of Arab Spring that fuelled the resistance against the tyrants and dictators. It was the Islamic faith that made people to offer sacrifices for freedom of their souls. Also Arab Spring is a testimony to the fact that Arab Muslims certainly crave for democracy and Islam certainly is not antithetical to democracy. But she has not documented the fading of Arab Spring and reasons for it. Her generalizations about Islam being the sole driving force of Arab spring can certainly be contested. Overall the book is a welcome read that can be a beginner’s guide towards the study of Islam. The author has very lucidly described the Islam, Muslims and their interaction with the modern world. The book pledges for a pluralistic, inclusivist and tolerant interpretation of Islam that can further help in the development of contemporary theology of Islam. Sahar has successfully documented her struggle for the quest of Islam and its spirit while vividly describing the various concepts of Islam. --- An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, M.H.A. Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be contacted at URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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