books · review

Letters to a Young Muslim [Book Review]

9781509842629

This is an interesting book written by the former ambassador of UEA to Russia, Omar Saif Ghobash, as collection of letters to his son. Ghobash himself owns a strong background story to invite his son (and other young muslims) to reflect how we should practice Islamic value in this modern world. Ghobash’s father was shooted by another muslim when Ghobash was a child. Furthermore, Ghobash’s mother is a Russian, which introduce him as well to culture other than only arabic muslim.

In most parts of his book, he suggests us to think any Islamic rule and value not only in ‘black vs white’ sides. There’re a lot of aspects on this life, especially in this modern day, and a lot of those aspects lays on grey areas. There’re several arguments and narrations from Ghobash that trigger me to think more about myself as a Muslim, such as:

  • There was no reason to hate anyone. There is no reason to react to the world around you with hatred. You have to understand that someone has made the choice for you when they say you have to hate. The choice is yours and the only way you can make the world a better place is by doing the opposite of hating. It is by loving.” (page 3). He writes these sentences to counter the hatred idealism and action by some of the so-called radical muslim.
  • “What is the essence of Islam? What is it that distinguishes Islam? What is it that makes you a Muslim or something else?” (page 29)
  • Islamic interpretations coming out of the Arabian peninsula are dry and relatively harsh, a reflection of perhaps of the desert environment. Life in the desert was tough and literally a place of black and white.” (page 39). This passage explain a bit why Islam that can be found in Indonesia is on the more moderate side, just my two cents.
  • “What I am saying to you is that you need to make sure that you understand that those with plausible authority (i.e. clergy) are also human beings like you and me. They are human beiings, who can and will be distracted by the traditional human temptations of power, money, and sex.” (page 71). I found this is ridiculous, but to certain extent is exactly a reality.
  • “Rather than thinking in black and white, we should think with all the colors of the rainbow (muslim diversity) and see Islam as a moreally ad ethically rich faith. The blac-an-white approach is one that sets Muslims in conflict with one another neddlessly and robs us all of our humanity.” (page 76)
  • “It is not enough to chant in public that Islam is not violent or radical or angry – that Islam is a religion of peace. We need to take responsibility for the Islam of peace. We need to demonstrate how it is expressed in our lives and the lives of those in our community.” (page 103)
  • Being an outsider is humbling. It makes you realize the humanity of all outsiders. It is often the outsider who has the most interesting view of what life is and can become.” (page 110)
  • “If you want to be a true to your Muslim heritage, then you need to explore its history properly.” (page 147). Furthermore, Ghobash pushes us to find a role model in Islam, aside from ‘warrior or jihadist’ role models. Why don’t we make Avicenna or Al-Khawarizmi as our role models, with their achievements in science and medicine?

Honestly, I enjoy this kind of book and I like the way Ghobash writes this book. His writing flows smoothly, especially as he writes this book as a series of personal letters. He asks the readers to think, instead of pushes his arguments. However, I feel like I need other complementary books about Islamic value in our modern life. Please kindly tell me you have any recommendation 🙂

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