Review: Shades of Oblivion

oblivion“Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said: ‘When (will come) the Help of Allah?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allah is near!” (Al-Baqarah 2:214)

This world is a transitory existence for man and vitally marked by recurring moments of gratification and tribulations. All of this is irrefutably predestined by Allah (swt). It is the choice and decision made by an individual, which eventually concludes their fate in the next world.

Ibn Adam in his character-driven contemporary fiction, “Shades of Oblivion”, narrates the story of three teenagers dwelling in the interiors of London: Masud Khan, Rizwan Kareem and David Eubanks , each associated with substantially diverse backgrounds; yet they end up making similar choices. Their ratification leads them all into “Oblivion”, an informal title assigned to post 9/11 detention centre.

The book “Shades of Oblivion” consists of three parts:

  • The first part informs the reader about three protagonists; their mindset and conduct.
  • The second deals with the juncture in their lives where each of them is compelled to contemplate.
  • The last part reveals the approach they take and what it eventually inculcates into.

However, there is another novel which is expected to come out as the second part of this book.

Ibn Adam arranges the novel in a dexterous manner, captivating the reader from the opening. And as the story flows, the reader finds himself entangled in the happening of events, personifying the characters and getting emotionally attached with them. The author smoothly convinces his audience that the devil will create hurdles for them by adorning the path that leads to misery. He makes it evident that the inner demons will become relentless by saying: “doubts and whispers would flutter into him.”

It is the strength of character which needs to be built in order to conquer the fight against these forces “to purge and break free from the shackles of his old life was not to take small steps but rather strides. In retrospect, this proved to be more difficult than he first anticipated.”

The occurrence of undesirable events following various consequences, lead the characters to a gradual and moral progress which brings about a change in their lifestyles as well as outlook. Masud, Rizwan and David; each faces severe reactions from family, friends and the society. The narrative compels the readers to contrast themselves with the characters and instigates them to conduct self-analysis.

Exploring the themes of juvenile delinquency and the lack of contentment brought about by the unacceptable social behavior, Ibn Adam provokes his audience to compare the condition of the youth of today to the Islamic perspective of social conduct.

Exploring the themes of juvenile delinquency and the lack of contentment brought about by the unacceptable social behavior, Ibn Adam provokes his audience to compare the condition of the youth of today to the Islamic perspective of social conduct. Moreover, using powerful imagery such as describing scenes of prison and fight club, he illustrates the story, forcing the reader to speculate and reflect. Alongside, divine texts are quoted in the second and third part of the book to further elaborate the situations.

Doubts and vague assumptions about Muslims are removed. A veil is swiftly lifted and a whole new perspective is born. You are not the fancy dresses you wear, the type of friends you hang out with or the wealth you accumulate; so who are you?

The question is answered once you enter the light and there the condition is totally reversed. After a vigourously fought war, there comes a point when the things that used to trigger suffering, temptation and distress, create nothing more than ripples in the steady calm within.

[Book Review] Quran Par Amal

book1There is a legacy amongst most of the people who inherited Islam from their forefathers that the Quran, sent down for the guidance of the whole mankind, is to be recited to gain the ultimate benefit. We Muslims don’t realize that apart from reciting this Book, we should also make an effort to learn and understand the Arabic language, so that the message of Allah (swt) in this Book becomes clearer. Reciting Quran, without understanding a word, is not what Allah (swt) wanted us to do. It is binding upon all of us to also implement its teachings in our daily life. However, this is what we all fail to do.

‘Quran Par Amal’ by Samia Ramzan, is a book that a very dear friend of mine gifted me on one of our re-union parties. At first, I was dissuaded by Satan to actually read it. But the message of my friend that “We might meet in Paradise” shook my conscience; I must make an effort to work for Jannah if I intend to meet her there. It was out of this sheer guilt and a sense of responsibility that I opened the first page. No sooner had I started reading the book that it had completely grasped my attention and I couldn’t put it down.

The book, with a small prologue of this remarkable programme, consists of a total of 14 chapters; each chapter consists of one daily life problem and a small narration of the experiences of a few women, who solved it through a verse of Allah’s (swt) Book.

The book contains real life experiences, shared by various women, about their daily life problems and how they found their solutions in the Quran. Ied when the author, Samia Ramzan, initiated a special Friday gathering for women in a Madarsah. After a small Islamic lecture, women used to rush around her in order to share their grievances and ask for her help. As this gathering gained momentum, she came up with a special programme that would ensure solutions to routine problems, through the glorious Quran and Sunnah. According to this programme, all the women were required to take out one verse of the Quran, recite it, learn it by heart and repeat it, till it was implemented in their daily lives. And then, the next week, the same process would be repeated with a new verse of the Quran. The book, with a small prologue of this remarkable programme, consists of a total of 14 chapters; each chapter consists of one daily life problem and a small narration of the experiences of a few women, who solved it through a verse of Allah’s (swt) Book.

Reading this book was a life-changing experience, because it bridges the gap between our lives and the Quran; it is a tool that most of us are deprived of. It shows that this life is a lock, whose key is hidden in the beautiful verses of the Quran; understanding Allah’s (swt) Book will reap ultimate fruitful rewards for Here and Hereafter.

Review: Get Fluent in Arabic

book1Being multilingual in today’s world is not only an asset but a necessity. The world has shrunk, bilingualism is commonplace, and as people scramble to gain an edge over others, adding a third or fourth language to one’s credentials is desirable.

Moniur Rohman’s book, “Get Fluent in Arabic” is basically a self-help motivational genre. He takes the reader along for his personal struggle in learning Arabic, with anecdotes and experiences that at times detract from the message. ‘Get Fluent…” is divided into four parts titled:-

  1. The Four Basic Skills
  2. How to Approach Learning Arabic
  3. Tools
  4. Going Abroad

In Part One, Rohman explains to the reader that there are two types of skills required when embarking on the language journey – Receptive and Productive Skills. The language student must train all four of these skills (reading, writing, listening & speaking) to attain fluency. He talks about the benefits of each skill. This is common knowledge to any person who has learned any language, even his mother tongue.

The book, in Part Two introduces the reader to popular language accusation methods used by teachers all over the world. He denounces the Grammar-Translation method and advocates the Direct Method, using language immersion – the author moves to Egypt to study Arabic. I like his tip about not knowing ‘difficult’ words in Arabic, so he uses simpler words to describe what he wants, still using Arabic. For example, if you want to say, “The car has four wheels.” However, do not know the word for wheels, say, “The car has four circles,” but do not under any circumstances switch to your first language.

The book gives valuable advice to a novice seeking to learn Arabic, and for seasoned veterans I like his list of resources and self-check milestones scattered throughout the book.

Part Three, talks about the various ways he tried, failed at and succeeded in. Mostly it is about his experience living and studying at an Institute in Egypt. Rohman mentions the difference between Fusha (classical) and Ammiyah (vernacular), but does not dwell on it. To understand Quran you need Fusha, but to carry on a conversation with a native speaker you use Ammiyah. This part is by far the most useful; I found his analysis of the various opportunities including pros and cons very practical and informative.

In my opinion, Part Four is really common sense and didn’t need to be in the book. It talks about the pitfalls of staying in a less developed country that anyone can just Google in this day and age.

The book gives valuable advice to a novice seeking to learn Arabic, and for seasoned veterans I like his list of resources and self-check milestones scattered throughout the book. I feel his personal incidents in the Introduction detract from the value of the book as resource for Arabic Learning. My favorite parts in the book were Rohman’s summaries at the end of each chapter in Part One, his website resource list and advice on Arabic books and dictionaries.

Review: The Forgotten Queens of Islam


Fatima Mernissi is a controversial figure in traditional Islamic circles. Her book Forgotten Queens is not for the faint hearts as Mernissi challenges traditionally held views about what it means for a woman to rule and a detailed discussion about the definition of ‘queen’ and the definition of a ruler.

Mernissi’s introduction “Was Benazir the first?” is very thought provoking, “…Either women heads of states never existed…or in the past there have been women who led Muslim states, but have been rubbed out of official history.” She claims that this book does not redefine the Muslim women’s role, but simply challenges the premise that there were no women ever who ruled, and explores in what capacity they ruled. Forgotten Queens takes the reader through 15 centuries of colourful history, interpreted through a woman’s eye.

The book is divided into three parts, part one is titled “Queens and Courtesans’. Courtesans were a reality during many Caliphates, where the rulers maintained harems, which by their very nature are contradictory to Islamic teachings. Mernissi, describes how women here wielded power that affected the Caliph. Part two is called ‘Sovereignty in Islam’ and deals with the definition of sovereignty. The part I found interesting was the chapter dedicated to ‘Fifteen Queens’. These include a look at all the Muslims Dynasties and their ‘first women’, so to say. Finally part three is dedicated to ‘The Arab Queens’, and has historical information about the dynasties in Yemen, Cairo and the Queen of Sheba.

Besides the historical aspect, the book sheds light on a modern phenomenon, that women have become generally more educated than men. In the past, the women Mernissi talks about faced similar situations. Being more educated, maybe more capable, but excluded from politics and public life, how do Muslim women make their voice heard? That is the fundamental question I asked myself as I read the book.

“There is no feminine form of the word ‘imam’ or ‘caliph’, the two words embody the concept of power in the Arabic language…How did the women of former times manage such an achievement…In many Muslim countries there is a sort of acceptance of democracy…Muslim women going to the voting booth…Nevertheless, rare are institutions in which women figure.”

Though the historical aspect of the book is enjoyable, the conclusion is disturbing. Mernissi concludes, “…Believers do not have the right to say or write what they want, and especially what comes to their head….” My objection to this is that part of my Iman is obeying Allah and His prophet (sa) without question. A caliph cannot be a woman, no matter how accomplished, that is an irrefutable fact. Challenging traditional roles, which are in fact based on Islam and its code of conduct, is also not acceptable. So, ignoring Mernissi’s philosophical debate, the historical aspect of the book is worth your time. I would like to conclude saying that reading literature and learning to be critical is an essential skill for a Muslim. This is the reason why this book is recommended.

Forgotten Queens can be downloaded in .pdf format at:

Review: Western Muslims and the Future of Islam


Do they forge a new identity for themselves and their children or do they adhere almost to the pint of obstinacy to their ‘home’ culture?

 “…taking into account the social, cultural and political realities Muslims are facing, three questions are fundamental and urgently demand precise answers if we are to build a future for ourselves in the West: Where are we? Who are we? And in what way do we want to belong ?”

This book speaks not only to the future generation of Muslims who find themselves caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, their parents’ culture and western culture, but is a beacon of reformist thought that will appeal to Muslims in every situation.

Let’s face it, there is no longer a Dar ul Islam, so Muslims must refashion and rethink their stand on several issues. Ramadan offers new understanding and interpretation of what it means to be a Muslim, in a non-Islamic environment. He offers the principle of justice as the beacon that should guide our development as an Ummah, not our cultural bias which only leads us to withdraw into our shells.

“If for example Muslims in the West are called upon to participate in a war that is unjust and based solely on the desire for power of control (of territory, interests, other people), they should not…take part…they should under the ‘conscience clause’ plead ‘conscientious objection’…many people have pleaded this conscientious objection throughout history…”

Later in the book, Ramadan talks about how Muslims must and should integrate into mainstream society, obviously keeping in mind not to violate Islamic tenets. In this new context, interpreted keeping in mind that practising Muslims are a minority in most countries, they must participate fully in the civic life of the societies they call home. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam moulds a fresh Muslim Identity, one that refutes the idea that there is a Clash of Civilizations according to Huntington.

This book intelligently argues that Muslims in the 21st century must focus on ‘an Independent western Islam’ that is not held down by traditions rooted in culture, but should be lightened by Islam’s own traditions and the reality of living in the West (or other countries that are not traditionally Muslim).

Western Muslims and the Future of Islam is divided into two parts, the first part has an introduction with four chapters, and the second part includes six chapters and a conclusion. The introduction is a must read to understand the book and the methodology Ramadan used in deriving his conclusions. He has used traditional sources such as Quran and Ahadith, and interpreted them in the light of Western culture. The best part of the book is the way traditional problems that Muslims perceive are thought of as benefits in establishing a new identity at par with Islamic traditions. Isolation as a method to keep ‘our children safe’ is not acceptable any longer.

A book worth reading, even if I do not agree with all of its premises, I do like that it opened my mind to a new way of approaching and raising my kids, and living as a Muslim in Canada. No longer is the ostrich approach viable, it is time to venture where no Muslim has ventured before. May Allah give us Imaan.

Review: Islam and the Arab Awakening


The Arab Spring began with a fruit vendor, a highly educated university graduate forced to sell fruit out of a cart on Tunisia’s streets, who burned himself in protest of unemployment and poverty in December 2010. This was the spark and soon the entire MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region was on fire.

This revolt masquerading as a revolution began in Tunisia,overthrew Mubarak in Egypt and now Morsi, led to a Libyan civil war that saw Gaddhafi killed, massacre in Syria of innocents by Bashar al Asad, demonstrations in Bahrain, and elsewhere. Tariq Ramadan expertly takes the reader on a journey from how this internet revolution was actually masterminded by the West, how they cannot completely control the direction it has taken and what could result – explore the Arab Spring, its beginning, significance and consequence in a well written, impeccably referenced and insightful manner.

Islam and the Arab Awakening consists of four chapters, an introduction and a conclusion. Ramadan tells us that as early as 2003, the West offered training to young protesters already on social media about how to start peaceful movements using this platform.

“The uprisings that swept the Arab world did not come from nowhere. As early as 2003…there had been talk of democratization in the MENA zone. It had…become…Bush’s key argument for intervention in Iraq. One year later MENA cyber-dissidents were signing up for training courses in non-violent protest. Institutions funded by American administration…organized lectures…and set up networks that would provide training…in the use of the Internet and social networks.”

We read further on that in Egypt’s case Google provided satellite codes for internet access after the government shut down the internet, however in Syria Google was not so cooperative, why? Mubarak was on his way out, the US needed a new ally, Bashar al Asad is still useful? The first chapter “Made to order uprisings?” raises many such questions. Chapter two, “Cautious optimism” analyzes how the future cannot be controlled or predicted, and how the West didn’t account for young Muslims to try and provide a self-made solution, true to Islam and their culture. They do not want an imported democracy – one a media informs us will bring the ‘Arab world’ into the 21st century. ‘Islam, Islamism, Secularization’, debates the very premise of what this new wave means. Ramadan talks about the Arabs being absorbed into a Western alter ego. Arabs reject secularism, but the Islamist parties have offered nothing viable either. Finally chapter four talks about “The Islamic reference”. Ramadan calls for Arab Muslims to draw upon “cultural capital” to produce “something new, something original”. He denounces the dictatorships that have starved progress in all fields.

“A genuine, tangible process of reform, democratization and liberation cannot take place without a broad based social movement that mobilizes civil society as well as public and private institutions. It is precisely here that the reference to Islam assumes…an immediate, imperative and constructive meaning.”

Islam has the answer, we need to overlook our differences and work together. “The Arab world had shaken itself out of its lethargy.” This line begins the conclusion; let’s see what the future holds. The promise is there, the system (Islam) is in place, all that is needed is someone to follow it.

Review: “Muslim Parents and Cyberculture”


The ever expanding cyberworld is a reality we have to learn to live with. If a couple decades ago, the World Wide Web was a welcome guest in our homes, then today we have come to realize that it can easily turn into an unwelcome intruder. Just as we educate our children about their roles and responsibilities in society, we, as Muslim parents, have to ensure that they also know the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of the internet.

The new generation was born into the world of flourishing computer technology. Today, children learn typing as easily as they learning walking and talking. Often, they quickly surpass their parents in the knowledge of computer use and the internet. Although parents may feel helpless in their attempts to protect children from the dangers of the cyberworld, there are some real and manageable steps they can take for helping their children stay safe.

“Muslim Parents and Cyberculture” offers to parents and children Islamically sound guidance for interacting with the World Wide Web. Bringing the importance of Tarbiyyah to the forefront, the book offers plenty of practical advice and discusses the oblivious dangers of the internet, interaction with various age groups, internet addiction and online privacy. Parents are recommended to set up an internet use policy for their entire family as well as work through the difficult situations, when something has gone wrong already. The concluding chapter of the book presents a brief summary of the guidelines for both parents and children, which can be used as a quick reference.

The authors of the book pray and hope that this publication will fill the void on the subject of cyberculture among the books on traditional Islamic upbringing and will contribute towards building a strong next generation of our Muslim Ummah.

(Reviewed by: Laila Brence, Senior Editor of “Hiba”)