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How to Be a Muslim: An American Story by…

How to Be a Muslim: An American Story

by Haroon Moghul

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
There is an interesting story somewhere in this book which needs a lot of editing. I gave up on it about half way through. I am giving it three stars because I received an uncorrected proof, otherwise I would rate it lower. It has potential but the writing needs work. ( )
  Suzanne81 | Apr 14, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The first chapter of Haroon Moghul’s wonderful book How to be a Muslim: An American Story" staggered me. Being a card-carrying-member of the semicolon club (a suicide prevention project), it felt like he was speaking directly into my heart. My first semicolon was a doctor, but my husband has supplied many since then. My reminder semicolon is tattooed on my left wrist.

The short chapters throughout, almost individual essays, move from the highly emotional writings like chapter one, through simple descriptions and dialogs on theology and ways the bipolar interacted with his religion and relationships, and ways of moving out of depression based on his theology. This flow of mood throughout the book left plenty of space so it was not overwhelming in any state. I cannot call this book a memoir, although it is. I cannot call it a book on being bipolar, although that is mainly what this review discusses. Neither can I simplify it into an introduction to Islam, although I learned a lot about Islam throughout Haroon’s path. This is a complex book in readable format, words and style.

I learned a lot about Islam and how Islamic individuals are like me in so many ways. Looking up the Qur'an references sprinkled throughout the book guided me through that book and encouraged me to further explore the Qur'an and Islam. It is a lot different than I had thought it was.

As I lay prostrated with him, on page 192, I remember being there, at that exact place, and am there again with my God.. “I started asking [Allah] for what I wanted. A way out. An end to the up and down. The endless fucking up and coming down. … knowing that I could not continue to live in such a miserable way, haunted by my faults, wounded by my decisions, hoping every few hours that I might die, that nonexistence was the only adequate solution to existence.” His resolution of this, through his faith, especially Qur’an 37:139-148, which is part of the story of Jonah and the Whale, says that “’Your idea of yourself is indispensable for the rescue of that self.’ No woman or man is an island. Your leg is broken, you need a doctor. The problem with depression, though, is you think you don’t deserve the doctor. You think you deserve the broken bone.” He needed to learn how to love himself, which he believed Islam told him was wrong. Every Imam he consulted said he was wrong, and that Islam believes that loving yourself is primary to loving God. God made him and made him worth loving. Until he understood that, he could not love anyone else, let alone love Allah.

Haroon responded by searching for Allah in His many names. “’Samad’ which some have translated as Eternal Refuge” was needed because “When we hurt, the world is hurtful.”[p.195] but that was only one of thousands. Among Allah’s names are qabb and bast, meaning expansion and contraction. “Bipolarity is one particularly intense way to know something of those sides of God … [but] these are faces of God, these are never His only faces.” [p.196] What a wonderful joy it must be to have this as a face of your God.. I cannot put in a simple review all the ways he tried and found healing, except to state that he continued on his medications, but instead, I highly recommend reading this whole book. ( )
  Bidwell-Glaze | Apr 2, 2017 |
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