Muhammad Inam Al-Haqq’s first novel is the story of a disturbed man in search of answers and the redemption he finds in spiritual community.
As the book opens, Al-Haqq’s hero Shaheed hears disembodied voices commanding him to travel from Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles. Sometime during the flight, Shaheed’s passport disappears. Treated with great suspicion by the authorities in L.A., Shaheed is allowed to return to Sydney, where he finds his passport has reappeared just as mysteriously as it had vanished.
These and other uncanny incidents propel Shaheed into an exploration of the occult. He forms the view that secret occult societies are controlling the events of history. Climate change and other modern woes are the result, he believes, of these forces at work.
Driven to despair, Shaheed at last embraces Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revival movement originating in India in the 1920s. Tablighi Jamaat enjoins its followers to observe six principles emphasizing the basic duties of Muslims, as well as to undertake communal missionary voyages of varying lengths. The movement focuses on individual piety. It is apolitical and keeps a low profile.
The author is not a native English speaker, and this is evident in his word usage and sentence structure. Another difficulty is that the book shifts awkwardly between fiction, essay, and ideological tract. Large portions of the book are research reports on the topic of the occult, as well as on the history and teaching of Tablighi Jamaat.
Adherents of Tablighi Jamaat or those curious about the Islamic experience might take an interest in this. The general fiction reader, however, will find an ideological tract that is thinly disguised as a novel.
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