Monday, May 26, 2008

Desperately Seeking Paradise By Ziauddin Sardar

"Desperately Seeking Paradise" is a spiritual-cum-philosophical autobiography by British author and scholar, Ziauddin Sardar. In this book, the author is in search of the right approach for paradise (and please do not take it literally) - one notion which is termed as the prime objective for every Muslim. In his search, he joins one sect (or thought of school) and then gets dejected by its approach/thoughts/people etc... and then leaves it to join another and same thing happens there as well and then another and so on... His search takes him from Mecca to Bejing and all the other places, in between meeting with people like Zia-ul-Haq to Anwar Ibrahim, even attending a mujaheddin meeting with Osama Bin Laden in attendance, and him running into Iran's military police in times of Ayotollah. There is an entire chapter dedicated on 'The Satanic Verses' controversy - talking about how the author felt bad about 'The Satanic Verses' and the Ayotollah's fatwa as well. Here the author regrets that the core issue was buried under whatever political drama that took place around the controversy.

The book is filled with lots of information about various aspects of Islam, ranging from different terms associated with it to the current as well as traditional interpretation of different things associated. He also looks into different school of thoughts and poses a not-so-rosy picture of things. This book was written in pre-Iran, pre-Iraq, pre-Afghanistan era and with his descriptions one can relate to what is happening now and how its roots are related to those times only. The authors quest for a new initiative about "paradise-seeking" is not accepted in the traditionalist societies where the true meaning of Islam has been confined to having a beard sometimes. He also tries to understand what does Sharia means in actual terms and how it should be adapted in modern times - again he finds that societies just want Islam in totality but are never open to understand the totality itself.

I am not sure what to make out of this book - I am as confused about this book as the author is about his search. The main problem as seen by the author is that nobody is willing to listen to modernist Islamic views. Overall, a nice read for me at least - for understanding more about Islam and another face of it where there are modernist thoughts in plenty.

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