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Among the believers: an Islamic journey
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Among the believers: an Islamic journey

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,730 Ratings  ·  128 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, 495 pages
Published 2003 by Pan Macmillan Ltd (first published 1981)
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The book is sheer intellection. Naipaul proceeds by letting Muslim converts -- not those who were born to the faith -- speak for themselves. He questions them pointedly. The monologues are interspersed with sequences of analysis so brilliant, so penetrating, that they consistently astound, at times conveying insights that take the breath away. This is not classic travel narrative. This is not Dalrymple or Theroux, which is not to slight those writers. But there's very little description or sense ...more
Dec 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Lisa Faye
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
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...
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ubaid Dhiyan
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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
I have always believed that, if one wants to learn, one should travel. Cause no matter how many books you read about a place, no matter how many documentaries/movies you see about its culture, history and people, no matter how many stories you hear, nothing gives you more understanding that the experience you gain when you visit that place.

I haven't been everywhere, but it is on my list.
~Susan Sontag

How I wish I could go everywhere. But alas, we can't go everywhere, can we?
And that's why we rea
May 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ramkumar Natarajan
Naipaul remains a sharp observer of the world around him as always and makes a lot of insightful (and what seems prescient) observations about Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Islamic states of the middle-east. However, his very thinly veiled prejudice, contempt and condescension for faith (and people of the faith) and absolute belief in the western, secular way of living makes the book difficult to take in as an open-minded dialog and exploration of the Islamic world. It comes across ...more
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
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Scott Ford
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
I read this as I was traveling through Malaysia, actually. Insightful, wonderfully written. A pleasure to read.
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ali Gilani
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Daniel E. Ritchie
Shortly after the 1979 Revolution toppled the Shah of Iran and established and Islamic Republic there, the journalist V.S. Naipaul took a journey through four leading, non-Arab Islamic countries. What did a modern Islamic society look like in Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and (of course) Iran?

Going back to this 1981 account, 35 years after its publication, is a fascinating experience: what seemed new then is all too familiar now (Islamic terrorism); what was important then is either irrelevant
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
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The money quote:

"The West, or the universal civilization it leads, is emotionally rejected. It undermines, it threatens. But at the same time it is needed for its machines, goods, medicines, warplanes, the remittances from the emigrants, the hospitals that might have a cure for calcium deficiency, the universities that will provide master's degrees in mass media. All the rejection of the West is contained within the assumption that there will always exist out there a living, creative civilizatio
Haroon Khalid
Jan 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haveacopy
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
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
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sorin Hadârcă
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, asia
Either in Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia or Indonesia, Naipaul goes into the heart of the matter, using whatever raw materials that get in his ways of travel. A fine observer and a good writer, he makes the world which surrounds us more clear, more transparent and, unfortunately, more unsettling.
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.
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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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