Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book review: Goodbye Mr. Chips, by James Hilton

Once in a while you come across a book which you read with tears in your eyes and a smile upon your lips. Among its pages, you meet characters so memorable and warm that their memories stay with you long after the last pages have been turned and the book placed back upon the shelf.

One such book that I have read is "Goodbye Mr Chips" by James Hilton.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a short novella about a school teacher affectionately called Mr Chips and chronicles his life. Mr Chips is not just a teacher but an institute and an era in his personality. 

As the teacher of classics at Brookfield School since 1870, he sees many changes in the British society, the Franco-Prussian War, the First World War and survives many headmasters at the school. 

His wife Katherine appears in just a couple of chapters but her vivacious character is as unforgettable as her memories are poignant. She had a great deal of influence on him and changes him into a mellow, gentler creature well-liked and respected by everyone at school. 

Such is the love, fondness and respect for the elderly teacher that in spite of his tattered robe, his peculiarities and his old fashioned ways that when one headmaster tries to make him resign the students, their fathers and the board of governors comprising his old students stand behind him to a man. 

It's a very lovely book that will make you cry a little and smile a lot and give you a warm feeling of having known someone precious.

Highly recommended!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Series review: Guided Through the Qur'an

“Guided through the Quran” (Bil Quran ihtadayt in Arabic) is a very inspirational series that shows brief interviews of people who have accepted Islam as their religion and their way of life.

The host, Shaykh Fahad AlKandari, has travelled to many countries like Brazil, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, UK, USA and Spain to interview people about their journey to Islam.

The videos are brief, about 20-25 minutes long. They are in Arabic and English with English subtitles and usually the following questions have been asked:

  • The life of the person before accepting Islam
  • What prompted his or her journey towards Islam
  • The time and place of Shahada (testimony of faith declaring belief in the oneness of God (monotheism) and the acceptance of Muhammad ﷺ as Allah’s Messenger) and what the person felt at that time.
  • The reaction from family, friends etc and problems faced after accepting Islam
  • And last, the verses of the Quran or the surah that affected the person most.

Guided Through the Qur'an

As a person who is born a Muslim, this show had a very profound effect on me. Watching almost 90 episodes spread over three seasons, I felt emotions like gratitude and admiration as I listened to these beautiful and courageous people.

Gratitude, because I was born in a Muslim family and never have had to face the problems that these reverts had to face such as ostracization by family, loss of job, Islamophobia and even brutal physical attacks on women who chose to wear hijab in non Muslim European countries.

And I also felt great admiration because these are the people who struggled to search for siraat-e-mustaqim or the Right Path and remained steadfast in face of all the trials.

One of the amazing thing for me was how much they endeavoured to improve their knowledge of the Arabic language and tajweed to read the Quran and be able to pray because they felt that unless they learn the language, they would forever remain dependant on other people to translate the Quran for them and their own knowledge would remain inadequate.

On a personal level I felt that stories from France were most inspirational. One was most amazing stories was of Arnoud van Doorn, a Dutch politician whose party had sponsored the anti Muslim movie Fitna. However once he read the Quran, his feelings towards Islam and Muslims changed completely and he decided to become a Muslim.

For some people just one verse of the Holy Quran was enough to change their life forever. For some, the story of Jesus in the Quran proved to a catalyst while others were impressed by the scientific facts and miracles mentioned in the Quran. Some searched for peace and some felt lost in a dark world. Whatever the reason, each person had a beautiful story to tell.

If you have never met a Muslim in your life and all you know about Islam comes via news channels, I would request you to watch a few episodes of this show on YouTube.

From Rahim Jung in UK to Yasmeen Rolland in USA, to Alessandro in Brazil to Nicola in France, you will meet some amazing new Muslims who are following their deen with humbleness and piety and are beautiful examples of Muslims which you will never see on mainstream media.

Say MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa Billah

After Alhamdulillah, the second phrase which I feel we should all start using frequently is MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa billah (Surah Kah...