Field: Others (Diary)
Title: Journey to Islam- Diary of a German Diplomat
Author: Murad Wilfried Hofmann
Publication: The Islamic Foundation
ISBN: 0 86037 326 6
Rating: 3/5
Level: Intermediate
Reviewed by: Safwan

A diary, though different from (auto)biography, tells as much about the author as the latter customarily would. This one in question records the life of the author, his quest of truth, intense curiosity, remarkable analysis and critical thinking, among many others, since the beginning of the second decade of his life.

Being a reader, a characteristic essential for a diplomat, Mr Hofmann acquainted himself with many books including the Qur'an, which he found to be unique. Years before actually becoming a Muslim he has extensively read on the hadith and Islamic philosophy. Finally on the 25th of September 1980 in Bonn, he declared his shahadah.

In the eyes of a German diplomat, a new Muslim, an ex-Catholic, Mr Hofmann saw many things otherwise hidden to both the general Westerners and Muslims. In the many ocassions where the former see Islam as a threat, he sees it as an alternative, and when the latter take something for granted, he appreciates it like anything. It was only a matter of time before his intellect and piety took him to another stage; everywhere in the world people longed to learn from him.

Field: Islam, Ummah
Title: Islamic Resurgence in South Africa
Authors: Abdulkader Tayob
Publication: UCT Press
ISBN: 0-7992-1612-7
Rating: 3/5
Level: Intermediate
Reviewed by: Safwan

The multicultural South Africa was not left out when then modern Islamic paradigm took shape in the Muslim world. Leading the shift in the early period were the Malays, largely because of the many political exiles who were shown much respect in this 'new home'. They later build mosques, but were divided between racial lines (Malays-Indians-Africans). This was further exacerbated by the different school of thought adopted by each community, until that it was not uncommon to have serious disputes on what would otherwise be trivial matters.

The modern Islamic paradigm, drawn from international experience, serves as a useful source of Islamic knowledge against traditional 'ulama and the grips they had on the community. It has found Islam in new rhetorical slogans, discussion groups, rallies, and campaigns, even disarming the 'ulama who have long claimed the sole right to interpret the religion. This, of course, did not happen without harsh opposition. The 'ulama saw this change as detrimental to their influence, and did not prefer to sit and watch it crippling down.

Later, Islamism came about, as a response to the success of Iranian revolution. By this new paradigm, it was believed that education and preparation (not arms struggle or revolution) would ensure the eventual success for Islam in South Africa. When the Islamic movement (here the Muslim Youth Movement) had to face the changing political terrain in South Africa, they found an alternate approach- i.e. contextualism. In concrete terms, its image became involved in political issues more than anything else, through a contextual reading of the Islamic texts.

Field: Wars, Others
Race with Death
Vahida Demirović
TA-HA Publishers
Reviewed by:

“…For a hundred days he had to endure abuse, humiliation and beatings: they kicked him, beat him with iron rods, heavy logs, and anything else they could lay hands on. Nursing his own wounds, he wished he could block out the noise of the sufferings of other inmates… Even worse was the sense of impotence. In particular the cries for help he heard from the Muslim women and girls being raped and tortured… He wondered what his wife was enduring and he thanked God that he had no daughters. Perhaps it would have been better if his wife just died, if she was being tortured like this… And he thought of Risto (his Serb neighbour), how he had transformed from their helpful neighbour into a torturing criminal overnight. What has snapped in his psyche all of a sudden? Or was the good neighbour act all those years a mere façade? Why does he begrudge my existence? What have I done to him to deserve this?”

This book collects within its two covers 22 personal stories of the brutal Bosnian war, as communicated by Vahida’s patients. Reading one after another is painful, but surely experiencing it is worst. Words can describe so much but it needs a higher faculty, strength and endurance to be inflicted with- and survive- such great ordeal. In the words of Vahida, “only a parent who has lost a child could understand the pain of losing a child”. These instances, however distressing, make only an imperceptibly tiny fraction of what happened to Bosna as a whole.