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Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  306 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Raised in Pakistan, Ziauddin Sardar learned the Koran at his mother’s knee. As a young student in London, he embarked on a quest to grasp the meaning and contemporary relevance of his religion and, hopefully, to find “paradise.” After experimenting with the mystical branch of Islam, Sufism, and with classical Islam, he set off on extensive travels through the Muslim world. ...more
Paperback, 354 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Granta UK (first published 2004)
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Jun 11, 2007 Hamad rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone!
So I really do not give a five-star rating to anything except for Amnesty International reports, but I think that this book really deserves it. It also deserves to be read by everyone, Muslim, non-Muslim, fundementalist and Islamophobe. Even if you are not even in the slightest interested in Islam or world politics or the plight of the intellectuals, read it simply for the subtle humor and humanity of the author. As a bonus this book may also give you further strength to struggle against oppress ...more
 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
Dalam sebuah seminar motivasi, sang motivator mengajukan pertanyaan yang membuat hati saya mengkeret. Apa yang membuatmu yakin bahwa kamu akan masuk surga? memangnya apa yang telah kamu lakukan sehingga kamu layak diberi surgaNya?

Sejak kecil, kita sudah dijejali informasi bahwa "tujuan utama" hidup manusia adalah menuju surga. Hidup yang cuma sebentar harus dimanfaatkan sebaik-baiknya agar kitak tak melenceng dari tujuan utama tersebut. "Satu-satunya" cara untuk menggapai surga adalah "melalui j
Amongst all the books I’ve read in my life, only two left me speechless, high and spellbound. The first one was Sophie’s World; the second one is this, Desperately Seeking Paradise!

As the title suggests, the concept of Paradise is being examined with an intellectual magnifying glass of a Pakistani British Muslim, Zaiuddin Sardar. Describing himself as a skeptical Muslim, Sardar decides to embark on a journey around the Middle East, Islam place of birth, as well as notions, beliefs and opinions t
One of the more disappointing reads I can recall. At first there was promise that Sardar has a sense of humor, along with indications of travel throughout the muslim world. Well ... both were there, just not enough to save this book.

The author describes himself as a "muslim intellectual", which means lots (and I mean lots) of chat with other similar folks with conversations important to them at the time, but not, unfortunately, for most anyone else. If you are interested in rehashings of grant p
To me a painfully tragic journey, but a fulfilling one nevertheless: Sardar expressed issues with contemporary streams of Islam in ways that I always felt but could never quite express. I loved his conclusion that paradise is a journey as opposed to a destination.
Emily Iliani
I read it while I was literally searching for paradise; I was a little neglectful of my deeds and a little careless with my speech.

The search, written by Mr Sardar was funtastiq. It reflected my own confusions, reservations and longing.

A good travelling book to remind us all that there is a reason for living and a purpose to fill.

Update 2013
Having reread this, 6 years apart, I still feel the same longing I felt the first time reading it; longing for paradise, for historical magnificence, for ce
Tariq Mahmood
Extremely funny and striking book on British Muslims. The author talks about his own experiences of life in UK and other Muslim countries. Though you have to be careful when considering the definition proffered by the author of a 'sceptical Muslim' as it is contradictory I think. For how can you be sceptical and a Muslim at the same time?
unforgettable, funny, sincere, and beautiful. the "skeptic" protagonist is ultimately earnest, troubled, and measured in his traveled search for Islam, faith, and understanding. am enjoying this book immensely.
Valerie Willman
I have failed.

I did not complete this book.

Finishing books I've started has always been an unwritten law for me. If I start one, I have to finish it.
It's only been recent (in the last five years or so) that I've allowed myself to not finish a book. I had conceded that my time was precious and that if I was not riveted to what I was reading ... it was OK to stop.

So, I didn't complete "Desperately Seeking Paradise." I purchased it at that great Mecca of booksellers: Powell's City of Books with the
I'd never came across Ziauddin Sardar before this but I'm surprised that I hadn't. This book is a semi-autobiographical account of his travels throughout the global Muslim community and his 'desperately sought' endeavors to try to improve the state of his people. It is an impulse people of all backgrounds can relate to but appears to be a book specifically geared to Muslims.

The Islam he describes as his is one that I recognize in my own life and family as well. Humanistic, intellectual, pluralis
I think you really need to experience what Zardar goes through. To be honest, non-Muslims (unless well-versed in Islam -- and by extension Islamic thought--), won't really understand this book. Muslims who aren't really exposed to the Muslim community(ies) won't either.

Sardar's book was actually one of those long ignored books on my bookshelf. I attempted to read it when I was younger, but didn't understand a thing. I remember thinking how disheveled the book seemed.

But I was wrong. When I was
Lulu Rahman
Islam is a way of life, there is no doubt about that, or is there? Have you ever questioned any of its teachings and practises, especially now with Islam being thrust in the limelight? Desperately Seeking Paradise addresses that. It questions, seeks answers and even refutes various old and current practices and beliefs and Zia Sardar is the perpetrator.

Zia presented us with various aspects of Islam but raised his doubts over the conflicting thoughts and current practices. His journeys took him a
Busrini Agustina Prihatini
what is paradise? how is the shape of paradise? why do people always talk about paradise? Is paradise the goal of the life? is it the only reason why we have to live?

Paradise is... everyone has their own definition about it. some of them may have the similiarity and that makes them creating community. there're people who come to another country and persuade people to pray. Is this the way to go to paradise?
there're people who are sacrified themselves as a bombers.
Is this the way to go to paradis
Justin Tapp

This book was recommended to me about 5 years ago, I bought it but never got around to reading it. That was a mistake. I reviewed a book on chaos theory earlier in the year and discovered that its author was the same.

Sardar is a scientist and deep intellectual. Moreover, he is a learner and a seeker, and so I felt an instant connection to him. Sardar has traveled the world and seen all sides of the umma, and desperately wishes to save it from itself. The book chronicles years in England spent le
Not a book to read unless you're interested in the Muslim world. But if you have that interest, Ziauddin's mishmash of memoir, travel journalism, polemic and Cliff's Notes-like snippets on Islamic thought makes for compulsive reading. Sardar comments on some of the key events and debates that have shaped international Muslim thought from the 60's onwards - the Iranian revolution, the 'Islamisation' of knowledge movement, the Satanic Verses debacle, the fetishisation of 'Shariah law' etc. through ...more
Enjoyed this a lot. It's a memoir of the author's travels within the Muslim world over the course of his life, both geographically and intellectually. Starting with a sudden realization that he had to find his own route to paradise, he begins to get involved with various organizations and groups.

The discussion of FOSIS in an early chapter was particularly interesting; having worked in the organization myself and heard the stories of the "founding fathers" and the work they did in the 70s, gettin
Sarah Lameche
I loved this book. Perhaps it deserves five stars but as I read it a long time ago four will suffice. I was hoping that his tongue was firmly in his cheek when he kept telling us what an intellectual Muslim he is. Though I fear he meant every repeated sentence. This is my only gripe with this book, that I can remember anyway. He certainly seems to think a lot of himself. despite that I actually agree with a lot of his views. Not all of course but enough for me to really enjoy this book. Funnily ...more
Sarah Salleh
I am in awe of this book.In an era where instant nonfiction books with poor content, threadbare content with holes in it, are churned out in the form of fancy, time-consuming hardbacks, I am incredibly humbled by the majesty contained within its 354 pages.Don’t get me wrong. There might have been a time when I felt that I was perfectly happy for Sardar to represent Islam for me, any day, but those times are gone. The implications of some of the statements he makes in this bok—particularly about ...more
Mehhh. I have to confess I didn't finish it. I stopped around page 210, just because I couldn't take any more of the author's condescension. I was expecting this book to be full of interesting tales of personal experiences and enlightenment. Instead, we get to listen to the author recount uninteresting debates with other Muslim intellectuals, so he can essentially say, "look at me, I'm so smart, and I have smartness, and everyone else is stupid, and has stupidness!"

I give the book two stars beca
Aug 27, 2008 Deborah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mark
I read this book shortly after reading Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy India and Indonesia and, although Gilbert's book resonated more with me, I found Sardar's book to be a wonderful complement. He also deals with a problem I encounter as a Christian, how to be a person of faith and uphold the basic tenants of justice, mercy and humility when your religion has more or less been highjacked (no awful pun intended) by fundamentalists committed to interpreting scriptur ...more
Rashad Raoufi
hmm its one of the most profound and absorbing books i have read on islam. i loved the witty comments and the intimate way he wrote the journey it was very well layed out and the arguments were very interesting. the political analysis was astute and accurate. the only thing he left out was how this modern intepreaation or reform of the shariah would reflect on the big questions of say homosexuality and premarital sex. would it still be as forwned upon as its now and how the possible reforms woul ...more
This book is part memoir, part analysis of various approaches on the part of contemporary Muslims to build a "perfect" society. What I appreciated most was Sardar's honesty in describing his wandering and often futile efforts to find the solution to Muslim ills. I don't think he is a great writer, and he does a better job of describing the events he was involved in than standing back and understanding himself within those events. Added context and introspection would have made this a better book ...more
What a wild ride! These memoirs span decades and take the reader all over the world and into the company of all kinds of Muslims. As with the mainstream, the world of Muslims has seen many different religious movements and idealogues over the years and Ziauddin Sardar and/or folks he knows seem to gotten caught up in one way or another in all of them. Often Sardar is a bemused narrator (he notes how he could tell a man's religious leanings from his beard style) at other times he dips his toe in ...more
This book is a delightful read. The author is at times sarcastic, at times dramatic, but his choice of topics is always serious. You can feel his anger, his depression, his fear, his hopes, as he grapples with major events that affected Muslims during his time - the call for Sharia' law to be implemented, the Iran Revolution, the Satanic Verses, to name a few. What is great about the book is that in his attempt to defend his faith, he does not hide the flaws that are found in Muslim society but ...more
Sardar starts off with the islamic movement from his youth in his college days when he first encounters with Tablighi Jama'at members,whom he finds believing in rituals,not bothered abt other aspects...then he comes across works of Maududi,which first impresses him,but later finds his works reactionary and misogynistic...same is the case with the Muslim inorder to find true Islam he travels thru Muslim world,from Turkey to Syria to Iraq to Iran to Saudi Arabia discovering cultur ...more
Nicholas Butler
Theres nothing like being white anglo saxon and culturally protestant to leave you exposed to only the worst of the media. Ziauddins book points to where the poor notions about Muslims , Islam and the culture of living Muslim today and historically arose and then sets those ideas in context. I may remain Secular and Atheist in my views but I left the book with a deep respect for what Men and Woman like Ziauddin and Meryl are trying to achieve within a culture that they felt was determined to bac ...more
Shonna Froebel
This memoir chronicles Sardar's journey to find his path as a Muslim, exploring different paths and the history behind them as he examines his own beliefs. It begins when he is a university student and continues through to 2004 when the book was first published. As he explores he also explains the different belief paths, where they came from, who espouses them now, and why he accepts or rejects them.
I learned a lot about Islam, about beliefs and histories, and about what Sardar sees as issues fo
Ahmad Abugosh
I thought it was very interesting how Sardar tried to become a member of different Islamic groups, and was able to discover flaws in all of them from an intellectual point of view.

The major thing that I didn't really like about it was how he tried to make it into a clean story of how it actually went in his life, and I wasn't a fan of its narrative structure as it left me trying to fit the pieces together chronologically.

Also, the ending is depressing.
Jagadeesh Andrew  Owens
This book started off so swimmingly! A haywire journey that the author hadn't bargained for. After that, it's just facts about different sects (if you will) of Islam. Before I gave up it was just a who's who in the Islamic world. That's not what I wanted from this book. I wanted the tales of his travels. Maybe it comes later in the book, but I couldn't hang in there.
Lady Jane
At first I found this book quite dry and difficult, but ultimately it was a rewarding read. I struggled because so much was new- names, concepts, the history of Islam. I am glad that I persisted and finished the book. I will probably seek out other books by Sardar, but not immediately.
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Ziauddin Sardar has written or edited 45 books over a period of 30 years, many with his long-time co-author Merryl Wyn Davies. Recent titles include Balti Britain: a Journey Through the British Asian Experience (Granta, 2008); and How Do You Know: Reading Ziauddin Sardar on Islam, Science and Cultural Relations (Pluto, 2006). The first volume of his memoirs is Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journey ...more
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