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Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  1,194 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews

With a new afterword

Acts of Faith
is a remarkable account of growing up Muslim in America and coming to believe in religious pluralism, from one of the most prominent faith leaders in the United States. Eboo Patel’s story is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people and of the world-changing potential of an interfaith youth movement.

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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 4th 2007 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jan 04, 2009 Maureen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Its a fascinating and super engaging look at one man's life and journey to understand his religious identity - and how that journey is universally experienced. Patel started a nonprofit organization to bring young people of diverse religious backgrounds together to spend a year doing service work together, and through that, come to understand and respect each others' cultures. He delves into the absolute need for religious pluralism, especially when fa ...more
"To see the other side, to defend another people, not despite your tradition but because of it, is the heart of pluralism."
Patel writes an excellent memoir of building a movement as he develops his own (religious, political, and social) identity. This is an excellent resource for people engaged with interfaith collaboration, but also for developing leaders in all stripes of social entrepreneurship. He paints a virtual how-to in identifying funding sources, encouraging community support, and sup
Oct 14, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: religious and non-religious readers alike, community development practitioners, youth activists
Shelves: memoir-autobio
A wonderful book written by an incredible mind and spirit. Part autobiographical, part visionary, Acts of Faith recounts Patel's coming of age as an Indian-American Muslim alongside the development of a vision for a viable, pluralist America. In his words, “This is a story of returning to faith, of finding coherence, of committing to pluralism, and of the influences I owe my life to” (xix). This is a truly hope-inspiring read. I couldn't put this book down, as I was filled with a range of emotio ...more
Michelle Rader
Feb 21, 2011 Michelle Rader rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book on several levels: 1) as a memoir of what it is like to grow up in America as an Indian immigrant, 2) a personal journey of faith and 3) an appeal for people of different faiths to dialogue and work together.

His vision of religious pluralism is not one that says " all religions are the same and the differences don't really matter.". Instead he has real respect for the uniqueness of each religion, for following ones own convictions, for searching out truth. His vision
Oct 04, 2015 Humza rated it really liked it
To be honest, I was biased at the outset with regards to this book. I was determined to dismiss it as the work of yet another apologist begging for acceptance in to the mainstream. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Dr. Patel is neither an apologist or desperate for "acceptance". Patel is an excellent writer and his journey from "white-washed" suburban desi to realistic pluralistic (after a stint as a revolutionary marxist) was riveting and inspiring. What resonated with me the most wa ...more
Nick McRae
Aug 27, 2015 Nick McRae rated it it was amazing
I can't think of a time when I was more inspired than right now, having just finished Eboo Patel's spiritual memoir. I think he is right: we MUST engage American youth in interfaith dialog and service. It might be the only way to reverse the trend of bigotry and violence that seems to be growing every day in our country and in the world. I am moved; I hope you will be too. Are there sections of this book that, to the casual reader, may seem a little overdone and ultimately extraneous (for instan ...more
Beth G.
I knew Eboo slightly back in college - I was a year behind him, living in the same Residence Hall he talks about in the third chapter. His account of growing up Muslim-Indian-American and how that led him to a career in organizing interfaith youth service projects is both fascinating and well-told. His struggle to integrate the pieces of his identity will feel familiar to many young people of very different backgrounds, and his commitment to encouraging pluralism around the world is inspiring.
Feb 19, 2008 Shalini rated it really liked it
Nice story, with a genuinely interesting message. Patel is an interfaith youth coordinator now, but his central point isn't that faith always makes people do great things. It's that faith can be a vehicle for violence and intolerance or it can be a channel for service to humanity and compassion, and which path a person takes is completely dependent on early influences. What people want, and especially young people, he says, is a role, a sense of shaping their world. Either path gives it to them. ...more
Derek Emerson
Jun 06, 2011 Derek Emerson rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011-books-read
Patel is getting a lot of attention for his work, but frankly, it is not because of his writing. This book comes highly recommended not only from people I respect, but with big-name quotes and a major award. The message is stronger than the messenger, which is probably why. Patel is doing good work and he'll let you know that, although he tries to be humble (and fails miserably).

The book itself is disjointed. Part of it is about his own life, which can be summarized as upper middle-class kid has
Dec 20, 2012 Margie rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this. Patel discusses his own faith journey, describes the birth of his organization (the Interfaith Youth Core, or IFYC), and outlines the need for us to create environments in which young people can explore their faith in pluralistic/interfaith settings. He manages to weave these three threads together into a really engaging story.

"This is a book," he writes, "about how some young people become champions of religious pluralism while others become the foot soldiers of religious t
Aug 21, 2011 Kristi rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I really liked Patel's ideas within this book, but I found it hard to follow/read at many times. There was a lot more history and religious definition that I think I expected from the book.

That being said, Patel is an amazing person! He has spoken at my college twice in the last 2 years and has blown me away! It is his charisma, flawless speech-writing, and desire for peace and understanding that drew me to this book. The writing is well-done and I could see bits of his personality shine throug
Apr 11, 2014 Ardene rated it liked it
Shelves: spirit, non-fiction, 2012
Patel, an American Muslim of Indian descent, is the founder and director of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), an organization that promotes interfaith service and dialog.

Patel makes a case that religious violence (suicide bombings, etc.) can and is being taught to youth around the world, and that if we wish to counter it we must teach youth a different response:an ethic of service that recognizes common values in a variety of religions while acknowledging and respecting the unique paths each tra
Dec 22, 2015 Pete rated it liked it
It's a good book... yet I felt profoundly misled once I looked outside this book to learn more of the author's Islamic faith.

What he apparently is afraid to tell his audiences is that the Ismaili sect of Islam is considered so liberal that many Muslims would say the Ismailis are not Muslim at all.

This is particularly astounding given that it was Ismaili's who founded Al Hazar University, possibly the most respected Islamic center of learning on the planet. (It shifted from a Shia/Ismaili base to
May 27, 2014 Bill rated it really liked it
I would highly recommend this book. The best part is the first half, as he recounts his early struggles in finding his place in this world. The importance of service is stressed; perhaps the most interesting aspect is the influence of the legacy of Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker movement.

The most interesting quotes come from others, but that is not a slight to him. I think it is wonderful to pass along the words of others who have inspired you. So let me finish this review with some of Pate
One of the most eloquent and empowering accounts I have encountered of an individual coming to terms with their faith, marginalized identities, and the desire to do good in the world. This is an amazing book with profound things to say about religion, youth and civic involvement. I'm going to recommend it to everyone I know.

April 2012 update: I reread Acts of Faith this week. Still wonderful, three years later. It is amazing how much this book has positively influenced how I see the world.
Noor Najjar
Feb 06, 2014 Noor Najjar rated it really liked it
Very well written account of a once curious college student at UI who strove to create religious pluralism first in his relationships with other students, and then in the form of community activism and understanding. Eboo Patel spoke of the many experiences and key individuals who have lead him to activism and the development of his ideas and instincts in regards to religious tolerance. In his current position, as he serves as president obama's religious understanding chair, i can see the influe ...more
Jun 11, 2014 Mystery rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 24, 2010 Robin rated it really liked it
Eboo Patel tells the inspiring story of forming the Interfaith Youth Core. He interweaves coming to terms with complex personal identity (in his case, Muslim, Indian, and American) with stories of the transformative power young people of faith can have when they band together for change. The writing is engaging and makes for a quick read.
Oct 29, 2007 sara rated it it was amazing
i think i'm in love w/ eboo patel. no seriously, before i ever started the book, i had a dream that i met him at some fundraising dinner, and we were sitting on the same table. loved the book. much of it felt like he was takin words out of my mouth. if we only had more muslims like him in this world...sigh...
Karla Owen foisy
Apr 13, 2014 Karla Owen foisy rated it it was amazing
Lots of similar themes b/w this and the book I just finished (The Faith Club) but he is a much better writer. I love his honest struggle and coming to terms with the racism he felt and the anger that resulted(which could have led to violence had he not had more peaceful voices influencing him). The things that I highlighted most were the many times he described Islam and it sounded like he was describing Christianity as it was originally intended. (For instance, he talks about Islam as being, at ...more
Nov 20, 2014 Ellen rated it it was amazing
You know how Goodreads asks you which friends you should recommend this book to? Well I would recommend it for everyone, although I know that not everyone will relate as well to it as I did. And while I am not, and have never been, an angry brown kid struggling to find my identity we saw so many things in the same way. I view volunteerism and rabblerousing towards social justice and equity as my way of acting out my religion and serving God and the fact that this aspect was not a part of church ...more
Ann Otto
Sep 13, 2016 Ann Otto rated it really liked it
I found this book while visiting a book store. It was in the biography section, but may fit as well in a current issues or religion section. Eboo Patel, as the subtitle states, is an American Muslim, and the book is about the struggle for the soul of a generation- not just for Muslims, but for all religions and spiritualists. It tells the story of the founding and work of Patels's Interfaith Youth Corps, dedicated to establishing tolerance in youth. His hope is that "interfaith leader" will some ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was ok
I could not get into this book. During many of the pages I was stumbling upon names of individuals which distracted me from the true meaning. I would have appreciated some type of pronunciation, but I know that is more of a privilege to me than the author.

The part in which I enjoyed the most was toward the middle end. During this part, the author delved into the live and following of Saddam Hussein.

Overall, I could not get into this book and at night I had to force myself to read a few pages e
Every time we read about a young person who kills in the name of God, we should recognize that an institution painstakingly recruited and trained that young person. And that institution is doing the same for thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of others like him. In other words, those religious extremists have invested in their youth programs.

The above may be the most important takeaway from Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation. Whether on
Jan 07, 2013 Kathy rated it really liked it
What were humans able to do that angels could not, that gave us the ability to serve as stewards of creation? We could name things. We had creativity. We could learn and apply our learning to improve creation.

Maghrib time is the holy moment when it is both night and day on earth.

Muhammad, guided by revelations from God, knew that ultimate victory for Islam did not mean violently defeating the enemy, but peacefully reconciling with them.

Religion, as Archbishop Desmond tutu once said, is
Jan 19, 2011 Jena rated it it was amazing
This book asks what would have happened if the 9/11 hijackers would have had an influence other than bin Laden. Things might have turned out much differently. Patel wants to make that happen for another generation of kids. Loved this book.

It's about religious pluralism/tolerance. This guy started an organization called the Interfaith Youth Core. He asks how teenagers came to hold their views. And answers "People taught them." He also says that teenagers' faith in their own religion becomes stro
Aug 05, 2009 Judine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Part of what makes Patel interesting to me is that we are close to the same age -- he finished college in the mid-'90s and went to graduate school after that. Primarily, his account is fascinating because he makes good points about the necessity of inter-faith youth movements; he uses a series of striking comparisons about what happens when youth (like himself) are exposed to positive religious influences and work with people from a variety of religions with what happens to youth (in situations ...more
Acts of Faith technically is the story of an American Muslim, but that part of the subtitle really throws off your mindset for what the book is meant to be. The point of this book is more the “Struggle for the Soul of a Generation,” which is the other half of the secondary title. The author is telling the story of his life in America and how he found a way to create the Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that encourages young people from all around the world, with any religious belief, to co ...more
Tiffany George
Oct 21, 2013 Tiffany George rated it it was amazing
May 19, 2013 Katy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very powerful memoir about a Muslim American growing up and trying to find his own identity. At first, he is trying to fit in as a white American. He rejects much of his Muslim culture. For several of his teen years, Patel is angry at the government and almost got involved with the "wrong" group of people. However, he managed to meet with different people first and those people turned him towards the "good" side. He started to become interested in many different faiths and started to e ...more
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Named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Eboo Patel is the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based organization building the global interfaith youth movement. Author of the award-winning book Acts of Faith, Eboo is also a regular contributor to the Washington Post, USA Today and CNN. He served on President Obama’s inaugural Adviso ...more
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“I thought about the meaning of pluralism in a world where the forces that seek to divide us are strong. I came to one conclusion: We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.” 3 likes
“The tradition you were born into was your home, Brother Wayne told me, but as Gandhi once wrote, it should be a home with the windows open so that the winds of other traditions can blow through and bring their unique oxygen. “It’s good to have wings,” he would say, “but you have to have roots, too.” 2 likes
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