Wednesday, September 21

Book: The Alchemy of Happiness, Al-Ghazali Click for more info

Before you ask: no, I haven't suddenly become a fan of classical Muslim literature and scholarly works; I'm still way too lazy for that. This slim book was actually given away at a wedding I attended in South Africa last year - a neat alternative to the party favours we usually would have received. It even had a dedication inside the front cover! Neato.

I don't think this is actually the full Alchemy of Happiness but just a few chapters from it. In fact the book feels more like an extended pamphlet than a volume, although that's not to say that it doesn't cover some relatively deep topics. Still I didn't find it as useful as the last (and only) Ghazali book I read; this seems a little more abstract and fluffy and so, for me at least, not as engaging.

Particularly amusing is the chapter on marriage and discussion on wives and how to pick one. I won't go into too much detail except to say that I would think most women I know would probably have a problem with it. The "editor's note" goes on to blame the translator, accusing Claud Field of being an Orientalist, but whether the editor himself is being objective or a feminist is open to debate. Either way, this little conflict is actually the most interesting part of the book.

As much as I appreciated the book as a party favour, I can't say it compels me to read any of the full version or even Ghazali's other stuff. As such, I'm not quite sure I can recommend it.

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