Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sandcastles And Snowmen- A Personal Search for Spirituality

I have received a few books from FB Publishers for review and I am so excited each time I do since their books are so different from the norm and always so enlightening. Sandcastles And Snowmen- A Personal Search for Spirituality by Egyptian author and international public speaker Sahar El-Nadi did not disappoint.

I had eagerly been planning to read this book for a month but had to put it on hold due to urgent work commitments that were taking up most of my time. However, I think when I did actually read the book, it was at a time when it was most beneficial to me.

You see, being a Muslim in this day and age often means a bit of an identity crisis. There is  a dichotomy between what I know and believe to be a religion of peace, love and tolerance and all the negativity portrayed in the media about Muslims, made worse by a minority of so-called Muslims who perpetrate horrendous acts of hatred and violence. My heart (and those of billions of peace loving Muslims globally) sinks every time I hear of acts of terror in the name of Islam and we weep with the rest of the world when there is a loss of lives. This week's attacks on Paris and various other places was no different. Of course, when these things happen, supposedly in the name of your religion, it forces some introspection into what it really means to be a Muslim and whether the cowardly acts of a few can in any way be reconciled with this (the answer of course being no). By now you are probably wondering what all this rambling has to do with the book I read?
Sahar tells the story of her journey towards spirituality. She was born in Egypt, where, despite being a predominantly Muslim country, the practice of Islam was frowned upon (something which I was certainly unaware of). Although born Muslim, Sahar went to a Catholic school and led a glitzy jet-setting life in fashion and media. She only truly discovered religion and spirituality in the form of Islam in her thirties. She writes about about this journey in a profoundly beautiful manner and in the process shares both her scientific research and emotional findings of what Islam is really all about. 

Sahar explains in detailed but simple terms what Islam really is, where it comes from and how Muslims are in fact expected to conduct themselves (as opposed to how many Muslims in fact do behave). She answers in elquent terms two of the existential questions that my four year old has been asking me recently, namely why were we created or why a God that is loving would allow pain and suffering in the world

She debunks various myths relating to Islam and issues like women's rights, animal rights, politics and what is allowed in war. For example, she shares stories of the prophet Mohamed's friendship with people of all religions and how in times of war (which were carried out through necessity and not hate), it was forbidden to hurt women, children or the elderly or to destroy property or nature. In times of war, it was even ordered that any captives were to be fed the best of food, even if it meant that the prophet's own people went without and that they were entitled to the best medical care. This of course is a total contrast to some of the events we see in this day and age. 

She shares ideas for how inter-cultural barriers can be broken and how to encourage communication and understanding across different religious and social backgrounds in a peaceful and productive manner.

Why the title? Sandcastles and snowmen, although from completely different climates, are both a child's innocent attempt at turning something abstract into a tangible reality, just as adults do when trying to build a life. 

However, as with life, neither sandcastles nor snowmen are permanent and both will return to where they came from. Put simply, this book is all about finding the meaning of life before it comes to an end

I would recommend this book to any Muslim person who seeks some spiritual enrichment or wants a refresher on what it really means to be Muslim and I would recommend it even more so to non-Muslims who wish to find out what the religion is really about as opposed to what the media portrays it to be.

If you are keen to read the book, it can be purchased on Amazon. Alternatively (for my South African readers) I have spotted it at the local CII store.