Sunday, September 26

Book: Al-Muhasibi's Treatise For The Seekers of Guidance, Zaid Shakir Click for more info

You know, it's always difficult reviewing a book about Islam. You see, a lot of them have a built in protection mechanism - criticise or reject what they say and be labelled an ignorant, blind and misled fool who has a hard heart, for whom there is no hope anyway. Still, seeing as I'm hardly the best of Muslims in the first place I don't think I have much to lose.

Despite the title of the book, what we actually have here is more of a commentary on a commentary, or an opinion of an opinion. Al-Muhasibi's treatise itself doesn't seem to be that long, but after translation and tasfir-like analysis can commentary by Zaid Shakir, we end up with a 200 page volume of moral guidance and advice, most of which is presented in a pretty dry manner. I would say that I only really comprehended 60-70% of the book, with the rest passing over my head (despite multiple attempts at re-reading the passages in question).

Aside from that, I did find the book to be a little too preachy for my liking. Of course, this could have been because I have a lot to correct about myself, but still there is something about the delivery of advice which may give it a greater power to it's recipients. A large deal of this advise is also presented in the form of metaphor (of the aforementioned "hard heart" type), no doubt evidence of the Sufi roots of the original author. Although very useful for many, I tend to be less receptive to the non-literal - but this is a personal preference more than a criticism of the book.

And so the biggest value I drew from the book was the more obvious and direct advice it had on offer. Snippets like suggesting we keep our anger in check, that we guard our tongues (and fingers?) from talking rubbish and bickering, and to continuously question your intent all served as excellent reminders to enable us to live our lives in a better way. I felt that most of this could also be seen as secular advice - and so useful for everyone, be they Muslim or even religious or not - which in my view increases its value even more as it reaches a more universal level.

And it's actually these bits which, ultimately, made the book a good read for me. Although sparse, the value I extracted was and will genuinely be useful in changing how I choose to live my life on a day to day basis, and that alone is enough for me to recommend this book to others.


  1. Anonymous17:29

    There's a book called "The Butterfly Mosque" that I've just finished reading, it's not a religious book but rather a book about religion, that I think you would like.

  2. fugstar15:11

    ive heard zaid shakir speack, btu not read anything of his. whats the gignificance of this particular text btw?

  3. Fugstar,

    Not sure what you're asking. Why should this be significant? I was asked to read it by a friend. Perhaps they thought my moral compass needed a little fine tuning?

  4. nononono

    how comes this text had the good fortune of being translated for us!

  5. Nope, still have no idea what you're asking.

  6. he's asking what the book is the actual subject of the book