MY BOOK DIARY: November 2008


Islam (Teach Yourself Series)

by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood

Language: English

What It’s About
It’s an introduction to Islam.

My Impressions
It took me a while to get through this… Or rather it was going very well and then for some reason I lost interest half-way and read the other half a few months later (actually I do that a lot - maybe that’s one of the reasons I don’t read much fiction, by the time I get back to the book I forget a lot of the minor plot details :]). While reading it I was quite hooked actually, so I’m not sure why I had that break of a few months, but whatever :]
I found that most of “the theory” behind Islam is extremely sensible. It’s just that it’s not necessarily practised that way :-/ Here are some points that I found particularly interesting:

  • Unlike in the Catholic religion, anti-conception is fine as long as it’s not something that aborts the foetus.
  • Sex outside of marriage is prohibited, however inside marriage it is encouraged - it is a gift from God and therefore should be practised. Both partners should take care that the other is deriving pleasure from it.
  • Divorce is allowed (though not encouraged) and there is a specific procedure for it.
  • Pakistan has interpreted Sharia law totally incorrectly in regards to rape. The problem is that certain sins (rape among them) have not been assigned to a specific group of sins by the scriptures, so every country makes their own decisions. Pakistan has decided to punish rape in the same way as sex outside marriage.
    The law for sex outside marriage involves having four witnesses because otherwise a husband (or wife) could accuse their partner of infidelity unjustly. Of course one doesn’t normally have sex in circumstances that allow for four witnesses, so the law only works against sex in public. If you engage in sex outside marriage in privacy then it is a matter between you and God. It is nobody else’s business.
    Requiring witnesses for rape is total non-sense and has nothing to do with what the law was meant for.
  • There is a lot of focus on the right to privacy.

I also found the discussion about terrorism and feminism in Islamic context very interesting.

I haven’t read or looked through any other books about Islam, so I have no idea how this compares. But I think it reads well, is organized in a nice and clean way and is fairly even handed, so if you’re interested in the topic matter I think you could definitely do much worse than this book :)

The Bookseller of Kabul

by Asne Seierstad

Language: English

What It’s About
The true story of a bookseller, who started his business in the 70s and continued it through all the different governments and regimes that Afghanistan faced since then (every regime burnt different books). The author stayed with him and his family for 6 months and detailed their life. On the one hand the bookseller is very progressive in thought (especially in regards to freedom of speech), on the other he runs his house very chauvinistically.

My Impressions
I was totally hooked for the first half of the book. After that I started finding it a little repetitive, but it was still a very good read.
It was a nice and easy introduction into Afghanistan’s recent history and had a wealth of information about the rule of the Taleban. I found it fascinating how a country can go from putting people into prison for suggesting the women in the royal family should not uncover their faces in public to forcing the burkha onto all women - this in a pretty short time span.
It paints a really dark picture of Afghanistan as far as women’s rights go. It was published 6 years ago though - I hope things are at least a little better for Afghan women nowadays.

Yes :) Especially worth it if you’re interested in Afghanistan, but I think it’s a good read regardless. Perhaps it helps if you have a really stupid sense of humour as I do. It is unbelievable that the Taleban regime really happened - it seems too absurd to be true. Every now and then I would come across something that would make me giggle (while at the same time finding the idea of it really happening very chilling).

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