Sarwat's Reviews > American Dervish

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar
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Sep 29, 11

Read in July, 2011

American Dervish: Ayad Akhtar’s book is a witty, humorous, educational, sensual and spiritual, insightful, captivating and riveting tale of a young child growing up in the Midwest in the early eighties. The author beautifully and painstakingly narrates the impressions of a child as he struggles to understand the complexity of Islam and thus his own identity, through the controversial messages from many well meaning people in his life. It points to the biases bred through cultural and historical lenses, which have the potential to traumatize the minds of our next generations of Muslims in America. These biases can and (inherently) do shape the very existence of the young minds, unbeknownst to the people who love them the most, their parents and families, who are so caught up in 'their own world' and its challenges. Some of the challenges in this tale are universal to all Muslims while others are very individual to the book’s protagonist, Hayat Shah.

While the message of Islam is universal, the Muslims are not monolithic. Cultural influences and customary interpretations from around the world impact the way the religion of Islam is taught and practiced. With migration from around the world, Islamic Centers in America are like a ‘mini United Nations’, a melting pot of Muslims from around the globe, who bring in diverse customs and cultures adding to the beautiful tapestry of the Muslim fabric of America, thus adding to the complexity of understanding Muslims and Islam.

Personally, the message of Quran which resonates with me is: ‘Read and Reflect’, as it emphasizes the use of intellect, reason and logic and discourages from blindly following the customs and traditions of ancestors, which may be contrary to the essence of the peaceful religion of Islam.

The future of Islam and Muslims, like any faith community, depends upon our youth. With the ever increasing negative stereotyping of Muslims and Islam by parts of the media, clergy and politicians, it is our responsibility to the next generations to bring in an era of Islam, which stands for social justice, equality of all beings and peace.

After reading Ayad Akhtar’s book, American Dervish, I am convinced more than ever that the time and need for ‘Ijtihad’ is now, for ongoing contemporary narrative with contextual interpretation of faith and the Holy Quran, individually and collectively by scholars to help reshape and reframe the influence of religion on the mindset of next generation of Muslims, which engages them towards a peaceful coexistence in the world and peace within themselves.

Sarwat Malik MD, FACP
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message 1: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse sounds like a book I'd enjoy. I've been in Pakistan. I also hold a special place in my heart for 'theater' folks. My daughter also holds a College theater degree. Congrats to the author on his book. Sounds great!


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