Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem of A Book, 7 April 2007
This review is from: The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books (Paperback)
This is one of the most poetic books I have read. So much so that for the first 30 pages of it I thought the author was writing in some opium haze, however persevere as beyond that as when the book gets down to the more serious "search for beauty in Islam" is where it really begins to stimulate the mind.

First a bit about the author, unfortunately of late he does not seem to have been given to good a press from either the liberal or traditionalist sides. The traditionalists will I fear never like him, however the liberals also now seem reluctant to let him ride their bandwagon and have labelled him as one the `progressive Muslims'.

His book covers a multitude of issues, not all of which did I agree with him on, but he seems at least in places to bring a new perspective to the argument. The author, a lawyer by profession, is often consulted by Muslims on different aspects of their lives. The majority of these cases are as one would expect on marital discord. I've always felt that I have a liberal attitude when it comes to gender issues in Islam however reading this book made me feel somewhat a misogynist. Issues such as segregation which I have always taken for granted he shows have little or no historical basis, he shows also that women have equal rights of divorce without necessarily having to include the right to divorce in their marriage contract and gives an interesting take on wife beating. He acknowledges that the husband has the right to beat his wife (lightly) and he goes on to discuss this with regards to the fact that the husband does not even have the right to beat his own slaves or animals.

A large part of his book concerns morality in law. In this he liberal sentiments somewhat, so for example though slavery may not be prohibited in the Quran it is neither encouraged. Whilst keeping a slave in this day an age is legally wrong it would not necessarily be considered morally right. He suggests Muslims should be at the forefront of the moral frontier, thye should look more to follow the spirit of the law rather than just manipulate the letter of the law to fulfil their agenda.

Perhaps some criticism also, this book though excellent is not without its faults. At time I feel that he takes a too liberal stand on gender issues, for example he mentions how proud he was that his mother used to be unafraid to shake other the hand of other men. Whilst I am in no way qualified to judge whether this is wrong from an Islamic viewpoint, given that she was in Kuwait at the time and that most men there would believe it was wrong to shake a woman's hand it seems unnecessarily offensive to do so regardless of whether the action was right or wrong from an Islamic view point.

However my criticisms with the book are perhaps a little trivial and it is perhaps a little unrealistic to expect to read something with which you will agree with in its entirety. Even if you disagree with most of what he writes the book is still worth reading for the challenges it poses to your conceptions.
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