American Dervish

Honestly, I went into this book without knowing what it was about. I needed an audio book for slow days at the book store. So I waked over to the beginning of t he audio book section and picked up the first book in the “A” section that looked interesting.

I didn’t even read the back cover or look up the word “dervish.”  I popped the first disc in and started a the journey.

Akhtar introduced me to Hayat, a Muslim boy living in Wisconsin with Pakistani parents. His parents do not practice their religion very . . .  thoroughly. They are nice people deep down, but very unhappy. His father has many affairs with white women and often comes home drunk. Instead of keeping their troubles to themselves they constantly parade their dysfunction around in front of their twelve year old son. Imagine what the does to a child.

When his mother’s oldest friend Mina “Auntie” comes from Pakistan with her son escaping her ex-husband, Hayat becomes utterly infatuated with her. All the adults in his life seemingly too occupied with their own dramas take no time to help him deal with any of his feelings about anything.

When Mina wants to teach Hayat about the Koran and their religion he delves into it at her side and comes to his own conclusions based upon his infatuation for Mina and uneasiness with his parents.

What follows is an depth portrait of religion and how it shapes people’s lives. I am not overly familiar with Islam. I have spent time with Islamic people and even in a predominately Islamic country, but my practical knowledge of the lifestyle is slim, especially of Pakistani tradition. As I listened to these men and women struggle with their faith alongside Hayat, I couldn’t help feeling how similar it felt to how Christians discuss and struggle with individual interpretations. I am still mulling over how all people can be so similar and yet things like culture and belief can make them so different.

The author created a rich world. I almost feel like I know these people, like I really was there.The characters are extremely well crafted. Any one of them could be the main character of their own book and I would certainly be interested to learn more of what they were thinking.

This book is well worth the read (or listen). It made (and it still making me) think and ask questions of myself.

I have faith in something and I try to have faith in humanity, but after reading this book I can’t help asking myself: Does religion poison the human mind or does the human mind poison religion?