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Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey Hardcover – 1 Mar 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Element (1 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007175337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007175338
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,666,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Asma Gull Hasan who calls herself a ‘Muslim Feminist Cowgirl’, was born in Chicago, the daughter of Pakistani parents, and grew up in Colorado. After graduating from Groton and Wellesley, she went on to the New York University School of Law, where, in addition to winning several speaking awards and working as a staff editor on the NYU law review, she found to time to write American Muslims: The New Generation (Continuum, 2000). Now a practicing attorney in San Francisco, Hasan has been a columnist for the US based Pakistan Link newspaper, and her articles have been published in The New York Times, The Denver Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, and other papers. During the course of promoting her book and speaking about the new generation of American Muslims, she has appeared on CNN, Politically Incorrect, Fresh Air, Morning Edition, Fox News, and many other television and radio programs.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading the above book. I must firstly congratulate Ms Hasan for producing such an informative, factual and reader friendly book on Islam.
If approached with the right intention muslims and non muslims will find that the book explores not only the origins of Islam, but also explains it's role in today's society. It address's and provides answers to the many misconceptions that people may have about this religion.
One thing is for sure, after I finished reading this book it definatly made me proud to be a muslim!
Shabana Azmi
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By booboolina on 28 Feb 2014
Format: Hardcover
When I first started reading this book, I wondered why i had bought it. (It was on sale). As a Muslim it was boring me. It read like a starter book on snippets of Islam. Then she spoke about Sufism in depth. Now as much as I find Sufism very interesting it seemed to go on for a long time. I love the spiritual side of it but the praying at shrines & whirling dervishes is just to much for me. For a non Muslim this would probably be rather interesting though. I read on and it felt like the author seemed to quote Karen Armstrong rather often. This did make me wonder if she can read/understand Arabic herself? Or just English translations of the Quran? Some of the things she says are not common thought amongst many Muslims. A major thing (the difference of opinion on Aichas age at marriage) was not even discussed. This surprised me a little but then I supposed this book is about her beliefs no one else's.
Towards the end of the book she states some cultural practises are harmless (having happily married women around at south Asian weddings). Yet previously this practise stopped a widow being more involved in her own daughters wedding? Not so harmless after all..
However I appreciate she makes it quite clear that's this is cultural and not Islamic.
Parts of this book bored me. Parts of it surprised me. Yet I also enjoyed a lot of it. I would definitely recommend it to non Muslims. But not too sure what a Muslim would get out of it. My fault, not the authors. She didn't tell me to read it!
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By REDLEB123 on 15 Dec 2011
Format: Paperback
Asma in my opinion is very typical of the South Asian attitude to non South Asians muslims. Haveing associated for some time now with non Arab muslims I find her writeing reflects all the prejudices against the Arab 'branch' of Islam. It seems that all the negativity she got came from Arabs. I wonder if this was written for an American/Western reader with a message that reads 'we are not like them'. I find this book biased and she proposes that she knows best and keep reminding the reader that she has a universty degree, therefor don't dispute my ideas.
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By Sew 2 B Happy on 22 Oct 2008
Format: Hardcover
Did not like the book or her style of writing. Not sure it does a lot for peoples understanding of Muslim women but each to their own and good luck to her.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 108 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Personal and genuine dialogue with the average reader 27 Sep 2006
By Average Dude - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Wow there are some seriously vicious people in here. Ah to be objective...the claim of many but the accomplishment of the few!

I just finished reading this book, and it was overall an enjoyable experience. This is not an in-depth view or history of Islam. It is what the title says... Why the author, the person, herself, is Muslim!

For someone wanting more or searching deep insight, it could be better researched, it could be a bit deeper. Some of it went slow and i had to fast-forward through those parts.

But this book is a personal conversation between the author and the average person unfamiliar with Islam, and comes from the author's heart and mind.

Despite the subjective nature of the title and book, Hasan is objective and logically explains her views along with her personal experiences.

It was an enjoyable read, taught me a couple of things, made me understand her viewpoint, and had genuinely touching and moving and deep moments in it.

It's worth the good parts and touching moments and insight.
49 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Worse than a sentimental pamphlet on Islam! Skip It. 7 May 2004
By "kamranmeer" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is worse than the sentimental pamphlets on Islam one sees on the streets of London and New York. Most information in it is a narrow cherry-pick. This is such a confused account of Islam that it does major damage on several fronts. Specifically:
1. Asma is wrong to state that freedom of speech is a core value of both Islam and America. In fact freedom of speech occupies a totally different context in Islam than it does in America. American culture values individual freedom even at the expense of collective culture. On the other hand, Islam places the highest value on stability of the community, even at the expense of individual freedom. The Qur'an has defined strict limits to behavior - no drinking, no pork, no sex outside marriage, no homosexuality, no blasphemy, prohibition to convert out of Islam, modesty in manners for both men and women, Muslim women not allowed to marry non-Muslim men, women's legal testimony in financial matters weighted half that of men, etc. Asma seems oblivious to these basic facts about Islam.
2. Asma commits a major blunder by claiming throughout the book that "Muhammad founded Islam". This is the incorrect and irritating language of 19th century European Orientalists who Asma seems to have blindly copied. No Muslim will ever say that Prophet Muhammad (Upon Him Be Peace) "founded" Islam. If anyone "founded" Islam, it is God. Muhammad is only a messenger.
3. Asma goes on to write that according to Armstrong, "If Muhammad had known about other religions, he would have celebrated these religions too". Is Asma implying that Prophet Muhammad (Upon Him Be Peace) created the laws of Islam himself or that God is unaware of non-semitic religions?
4. Asma claims to know why Satan did not bow down to Adam. She asks "Was Satan right not to bow down to Adam?" She then responds, "Of course, humans are not perfect". Such flaky and dangerous logic makes travesty of the rich Muslim theological tradition of 1400 years. In her hubris, Asma does not even end such statements by the characteristic Muslim expression "walla hu alam" (which means "God knows best") and is always appended to personal opinions by Muslims where answers to difficult questions cannot be established with certitude. She also claims to know what God meant in the Qur'an when God said to the angels "And I know what you know not". Her presumptuous and nonsensical answer is that "we, as humans, are sometimes lucky enough to reach the highest of highs".
5. The child-like writing leaves much to be desired. An example of disjointed sentences littered throughout the book: "Islam is a simple religion. It is not as complicated as everyone makes it seem. It can be complicated if you want it to be. "Therefore stand firm in the straight path as thou art commanded," the Qur'an says (11:112). When Monir called me, I answered the phone. In Islam, God is just a call away, too."
6. Asma's claim that "Islam has had little problem with science" is only the position of modern apologists who want to see Islam validated by science. I suggest that Asma and the serious readers get a copy of Nasr's "Religion and the Order of Nature" to get to know the hierarchical principles under which Islamic Science is cultivated. It stands in contrast to the profane principles of modern science.
7. Asma displays arrogance by stating her views on polygamy thus: "In the end, the view that a reasonable person would take away is that polygamy is no longer allowed." I want to know what if a situation gets created in Palestine or Iraq or Kashmir or Afghanistan or Chechnya in future where large numbers of men are killed fighting on-going wars. Will Asma's feminist streak then allow Muslim men the responsibility of multiple wives to take care of homeless women and orphans or not?
8. Asma says that American Law and Islamic Law are similar. This again shows how little she knows. You're better off reading El Fadl or Rahman's analysis on the key differences between American and Islamic Law.
9. Asma insists that she respects freedom of speech, which she calls core values of both Islam and America. But then she smugly suggests that those who criticize America should leave America (in her words "if you don't need America, then we don't need you"). What sort of logic is this? Why won't she let others express themselves freely? What sort of tolerance is Asma displaying by demanding the expulsion of those who want to make America better by criticizing its darker aspects? (e.g. Middle East policy, anti-Muslim attitudes and Iraq policy immediately come to mind, not to mention US government's support of tin-pot dictators and petty tyrants like Saudi Royal family, Hosni Mubarak etc.).
12. Asma cannot see that America is a secular society, which is radically different from Islam's God-centered vision of society. Islam recognizes tolerance but does not endorse secularism. The élan of the Qur'an is that you should "never ever forget God" but always keep God present in your consciousness and fear the Day of Judgement. All secular cultures by default marginalize religion so cannot be compatible with an Islamic society. Serious readers should read Rene Guenon's "The Reign of Quantity" to see how both secularism and democracy are the profane indicators of a modern human society racing towards dissolution.
My advice to readers: save your precious time and money by skipping this book. It was not for nothing that Prophet Muhammad (Upon Him Be Peace) warned against learning about Islam from those who are not trained and qualified for the task.
If Asma reads this review, she might ask me to leave America as well. But I'm not going anywhere, Asma! I too am an American Muslim and America is my home so I'm staying put!
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
There are much better books about Islam out there!! 28 April 2005
By Fatima Ali - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I do hope that Asma's heart was in the right place when she wrote this book. Islam teaches us to educate others about our religion, but not at the expense of accuracy. I feel this book gives an inaccurate portrayel of Islam. She supposedly quotes different prophets by writing in her book, " they probably said this ...." That is completely inappropriate, who are we to guess what these religious leaders said hundreds of years ago? After reading this book, I seriously question her writing ability and desire to be accurate and sincere in her desire to educate others about Islam. I feel she became an "author" to make a name for herself and to be known as someone with great Islamic knowledge. Please if you want to read a smartly written book on Islam there are many to choose from, just don't let this book be on your list. You could start with The Complete Idiots Guide to Islam.

I, for one, am relieved that I checked this book out from the library. I wasted my precious time reading it, but at least saved my $$$$
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A lucid guide to Islam that covers the basics 14 Mar 2006
By Jessi - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As an English woman (Christian) who has lived in Saudi Arabia for many years, I found Asma Gull Hasan's presentation of her Islamic faith lucid and enlightening. It is written in a lively, conversational style, and she includes many anecdotes from her childhood and schooldays to illustrate the descriptions of Islamic belief and philosophy. As I have studied Islam intensively in both informal and academic settings, this book was a little too rudimentary for me - Ms. Hasan presents a 'short and simple' version of Islam for the benefit of the Western reader who is new to the subject.

Theologically, I disagree with Ms. Hasan on several counts, and there are many fellow Muslim women who have argued against her interpretations of the Qur'an - the journalist and author Saraji Umm Zaid being one of the most prominent. Complicated theological quibbles apart, the best thing about Ms Hasan's writing is that it successfully illustrates that there are hundreds of different views and perspectives within Islam. A lot of Western readers approach Islam and the Qur'an just like the Muslim fundamentalists do: they assume that the Qur'an definitely says a certain thing that has got to be taken in a certain way, and that all Muslims must accept that thing or else they are hypocrites. This just isn't the case - Islam has its different denominations, just as Christianity does, and there are lots of possible ways of interpreting an old classical Arabic text. "Why I Am a Muslim" is one woman's personal exploration of those possibilities, not a definitive textbook on all things Islamic. It should be accepted as such. Don't condemn it just because it doesn't contain what you expected to find, as your expectations probably aren't that well-informed to start with.

As for the reviewer who declares that he was upset that this book contains nothing on the cartoon controversy, I suggest that he take a look at the publication date. The cartoon controversy erupted in 2006. Ms. Hasan's book is several years old. What did he expect her to do - predict the future and write a response to it?
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Why I am a Muslim... 5 Jun 2004
By nina jaffe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after seeing Asma speak in LA. I learned so much from her talking. She is smart, funny, very pretty and enjoyable to listen to, and the book is GREAT!
There were mostly Muslims in attendance at the event, and they all responded enthusiastically. It was clearly a positive
reinforcement for the community. Refreshing to see a relaxed,
self-assured Muslim woman.
I look forward to more books by Asma.
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