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Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,372 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Naipaul's controversial account of his travels through the Islamic world was hailed by The New Republic as "the most notable work on contemporary Islam to have appeared in a very long time."
Paperback, 448 pages
Published July 12th 1982 by Vintage (first published October 12th 1981)
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Apr 12, 2012 Donald rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Donald by: Kappa
Shelves: travel
From the first page it was apparent that Naipaul arrived with some mission that he took very seriously. Instead of following the wind like a free-spirit Naipaul had meetings, interviews, appointments. But what were his aims, what was his mission? We aren't explicity told. Having followed him around and listened in on his conversations with Muslims of Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, I can make a few pretty close guesses though I can't help but think he left home with a conclusion and soug ...more
I read this book when I was living in the Middle East and it was a refreshing depiction from an outsider of my world at the time, where I had thought everything was okay. I was grateful for the new perspective he gave me, leading me to realize that I could never make the Middle East my permanenet residence. Reading this book was one of the many gentle nudges I received during that time to try and find another place to call home.
Lisa Faye
The whole time I was reading this book I just kept thinking of this quote:

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” ― James A. Michener

Naipaul is rude, he's elitist, and he came to these countries wanting to find reasons to dislike the Islamic faith. He got exactly what he wanted.

I did learn a bit of history though! So that's where the two stars come from...
One of Naipaul's best and most prescient books. Naipaul travels through islamic Asia - Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia in 1980, just after the Iranian islamic revolution. The book contains his observations on Islam after meeting a lot of people in all these countries. The book is sympathetic in tone, contrary to the usual accusation of Naipaul as a sympathiser of Hindu nationalism.
Naipaul prophetically concludes many of the things which are fashionable today about islamic fundamentalism
Barnaby Thieme
Naipaul's dour critique of four Islamic nations describes a world that is largely without history. One would never know to read it that the formation of autocratic states throughout the Muslim world occurred in relationship to a host of external pressures and factors, not the least of which being repeated intrusion of the most ignominious sort from the West. But for Naipaul, blame for the faults of the Muslim world must simply be rooted in nature of the religious culture. It's like writing a cri ...more
TLDR: Expected better. A lot of very bitter criticism from someone with a bone to pick. It is scary though how Iran has not changed since post-revolution until my recent visit, if anecdotes are based on any truth whatsoever.

You know, I like to think I have seen a fair chunk of this so-called Islamic world Naipul describes. As I mentioned to a friend, and even one guy on a bus in DC who asked how the book was, this is Naipul at his most bigoted. It is not hard to see he had real insight into the
Ubaid Dhiyan
I approached Naipaul's account of his travels through Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia with some trepidation, expecting a screed based on what I have read about him and of his writings. My apprehension was unfounded. Naipaul is not as much vitriolic as repetitive and static in his reporting. His main thesis is that Islam, from its Shia incarnation in post Islamic-Revolution Iran to the animist incorporating version of Indonesia, offers only ideas; it fails to provide structure, institution ...more
V.S. Naipaul's prescient depiction of Islam in countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia where Islamic fundamentalism is growing. V.S. Naipaul doesn't paint a very pretty picture of Islam.
I hardly read Naipaul for what the books contain anymore. I know I will disagree -- occassionally quite strongly -- I know there will be moments that will appall me -- when he's needlessly aggressive or mean or, for that matter, judgmental about people he's just met ('I should be ready at 7:30. He came some minutes before eight. He was in his late twenties, small and carefully dressed, handsome, with a well-barbered head of hair. I didn't like him.') -- but then you're transported by the sheer p ...more
In 1979 Vidya Naipaul, the future Sir Vidya, a Trinidadian writer of Indian descent, went to revolutionary Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. He met a great many Muslims, from a high-ranking Iranian ayatollah to an Indonesian who described himself "a statistical Muslim", and who was worried that when his daughter married a pious young man from poor background and became a "born-again Muslim", she lost her personality and sense of humor. He also met several non-Muslims living in Muslim count ...more
A well written study of Naipaul's 1980 visit to Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Java. Naipaul relates that the Islamic movement is composed of people who want change but don't suggest an alternative to the materialistic Western ways. Although the Islamic movement differs slightly in each of these countries, all see the West as evil; at the same time they send their children to college here and buy Japanese electronics. The Islamic movement seems like Europe's Dark Ages when the Pope was ordering i ...more
Ali Gilani
This book is about Naipaul's travels to Muslim countries which are not Arab. The prose is smooth and it flows like a tranquil torrent.
Naipaul's main theme is, and it is repeatedly quoted, almost to an annoying degree, how Muslims of these countries wanted to reject the encircling Western civilization while enjoying its fruits. However, they had little of their own civilization, in fact nothing but a dream to relive and enact 7th century Arabia. And the struggle for it.
I particularly read the p
Haroon Khalid
I really don't understand why any publisher would have been interested in publishing this book. I had a lot of expectations from the book, given that V.S. Naipaul is such a celebrity when it comes to travel writing. However the book was painful. I had to drag myself to finish, given my compulsion to finish books.

It is hard to believe that a writer can be so ignorant of a society he is writing about. Naipaul makes no effort to go beyond the stereotypes. Talking to a few people he makes generaliz
Scott Ford
I read this as I was traveling through Malaysia, actually. Insightful, wonderfully written. A pleasure to read.
A curious book that feels much like a fair number of magazine or periodical features stitched together. That impression is enhanced by a handful of occasions where characters or information are reproduced from different segments. Basic premise of the text is famous novelist goes walkabout (in 1979, no less) in a handful of Islamic countries. The handful are Iran (right in the middle of the revolution and hostage crisis), Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Naipaul interviews or is hooked up with a ...more
Patrick McCoy
V.S. Naipaul’s nonfiction book, Among The Believers, about his trips to four Islamic countries at the end of the 70s is a compelling narrative and a fascinating look at countries and a religion that has spawned intolerance and terrorism ever since. It is essentially a travelogue in which he interviews various people, students, religious leaders, taxi drivers, hotel workers, interpreters, etc..., in order to get a idea of what is going on in these Islamic countries and how the people feel about i ...more
Naipal begins his journey in Iran, just after the its revolution. Then he visits Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia and returns to Iran just after the taking of the hostages at the US embassy. He meets educators, writers, government workers, students and the unemployed in cities and rural areas. Some he seeks out, others he meets serendipitously. He asks them about their lives and their hopes for the future.

Two refrains emerge. One is cognitive dissonance regarding the west. It is a despised place
Buku Among the Believers (Bersama Kaum Beriman) mencatat “perjalanan Islami” V.S. Naipaul yang mencakup empat negara, yakni Republik Islam Iran, Republik Islam Pakistan, Kerajaan Malaysia dan Republik Indonesia. Pemberian nama lengkap masing-masing negara ini sepertinya diperlukan, untuk memberikan pelurusan terhadap istilah “negara islam” atau “Muslim countries” yang seringkali dipakai di konteks Ero-Amerika—Indonesia bukan negara Islam dan gerakan “negara Islam” merupakan salah satu gerakan su ...more
I guess I'm just not ready to go on an Islamist journey. I let Naipaul take me into these converted lands and I met the folks Naipaul wanted me to meet. But I just don't really get any religion if you want to know the truth and one that treats women with such disdain and contempt is even more confusing so I just didn't join in with the lively conversation when these believers were paraded before me. In fact often times I was in the corner looking at my split ends and when I'd look up the room wo ...more
Muhammad Ahmad
It is easy to dislike Naipaul. His misanthrophy, his Islamophobia, his class prejudice, his palpable unease with his own identity. They could all make him a thoroughly unpleasant companion. Yet there is something quite refreshing about a writer who can be so oblivious to reader sensitivities, so indifferent to the demands of political correctness. Such a disposition could fit a boor. But no boor could write prose as fine as Naipaul's. In the end, despite the unconcealed prejudices, despite the d ...more
Guruprasad Krishnaraj
V.S Naipaul's journey through the heartland of Islam takes us close to the truth of what the people of Islamic countries have come to think of Islam. Sadly though as in any religion of the past, Islam too does not offer much.
One could easily misunderstand Mr Naipaul as an irritated Brit in Islamic countries of Middle East and Asia , but below the irritation is a genuine disappointment of a man who went in search of something good or beautiful that so many believe, but found only hypocrisy as in
Soon after the Iranian Revolution, Naipaul begins his Islamic Journey. His account consists of several interviews of religious and political figures throughout the Muslim world. He finds that Islam while being a worthy and "useful" religion, is handicapped as a form of Government. He concludes that Islam as a form of Government leads to societies and institutions that are feudal in nature and ultimately reliant on the West for technology.
While I enjoyed the book and his insights I felt that it was lacking in some aspects. To begin with he didn't visit a single Arab or African country so there was no analysis of Islam in those places. Secondly he does appear to have set objectives very early on in the book and seems to go out of his way to meet individuals with those views.
Dayanand Prabhu
A good travelogue but a very very bad social science book. Filled with hate and prejudices which the author wants to complete with a confirmation bias.
Mayank Singh
Anything that V.S.Naipaul writes is eminently readable and there are few contemporary writers who can match his erudition or skills. 'Among the Believers' is based on the author's travels through Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia from August 1979 to February 1980, in the search of Islam and its impact on people. Written at a time of tumult - Iran in the wake of the revolution and seize of the US Embassy; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's overthrow and assassination in Pakistan; the strident ascendancy ...more
Dirk Buken
V. S. Naipaul beschreibt in diesem Reisebericht Begegnungen mit Muslimen, die er im Iran, Indonesien und Malaysia getroffen hat. Immer wieder tauchen dieselben Motive auf: Die Sehnsucht der Interviewten nach Reinheit und Sauberkeit, der Ekel vor der westlichen nach materiellen Gütern strebenden Lebensweise, die etwa von der chinesischen Minorität Indonesiens besonders stark gelebt wird.
Es entsteht der Eindruck, dass der starke Drang zum Islam in jenen Regionen auch eine Art Flucht vor den Anfor
Neeraj Jadaun
2001 Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul is a master of English prose. His travelogues are awesome piece of English literature. They give a glimpse of daily life of the people as well the history of the events leading to current situation. In last week i read his masterpiece, its a survey of the condition of Islam among the converted people of Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia. Among the believers: An Islamic journey is a thought provoking book as it was written in 1979-81 but it seems that its wr ...more
Excellent travelogue and series of observations of the effects of Islam on human behavior by a great author reporting on his personal encounters with both ordinary people and with personages located throughout some of the many countries that have fallen to Islamic/Arab conquest, and also with Islamist foreign nationals living in England.

The author was born to a Indian family in Trinidad, a British colony. He later studied at Oxford, and pursued a journalistic career in England. Many of the peopl
that cute little red-eyed kitten
I was a little disappointed. I read one of Naipaul's books many years ago (and unfortunately can't remember which), which I found extremely good. So I had some expectations to this one. But I found it tedious. Not badly written, and he makes interesting observations.

It's a great journey, from Iran to Pakistan and Indonesia and back to Iran, this in 1980, a time when the intellectual and political climate was very different from what it's like today. It was still the Cold War - who was thinking
Sourabh Biswas
This book is definitely an eye-opener if you can't for the life of you understand why the Moslems in the Middle East and elsewhere remain so disgruntled all the time. Travelling across 4 nations, each with varying degrees of of the same religion, the religious zeal of the populace steadily decreasing as the book progresses and yet somehow the basic flavour- the unquestioned faith, dislike of and dependence on the Western hierarchies and systems, the struggle for the attainment of answers and ide ...more
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi
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