Or is it? In Iran, he exposes himself to the leading ayatollas in their holy cities, notes the attendant stupor or frenzy; but his companion throughout is his interpreter Behzad, and Behzad is another kind of revolutionary, a communist: two distinct strands, sustained by different faiths, but by "absolute faith" nonetheless. Pakistan does not fall so readily into a pattern: carved out of colonial India as a Muslim homeland, its people attribute their woes to their own imperfections, to being insufficiently "pure"; yet they live by the export of their own people too—"by appealing to the ideals of the alien civilizations whose virtues they denied at home. As Naipaul moves further East, into the complex civilizations of Malaysia and Indonesia where the past is ever-present, the tone of the narrative becomes gentler. He blamed the world; he shifted the whole burden of that accommodation upon Islam. And so the book turns back, in a way familiar to Naipaul readers, on the delusions of both the West and the Islamic world: "It was the late twentieth century that had made Islam revolutionary, given new meaning to old Islamic ideas".

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To my surprise I found myself relatively indifferent. Among other things he is a direct witness to the immediate aftermath of the Iranian Revolution and the so-called Islamic awakening that was birthed in part from that event. Naipaul brings his familiar perspective to all the places he visits: that of the Anglophile and Brahmin.

He sees the move away from the "universal civilization" of the West as an obvious folly, though one that itself is partly influenced by the Western Romantic tradition. I found some of his observations to be prescient and some to be shallow, particularly his reflexive belief that non-Arab Muslims are in fact living out a false consciousness that has been alienated in them by Arab imperialism.

The political origins of this latter belief became evident later in his life when Naipaul revealed himself as a supporter of Hindutva ideology. Nor did I find Naipaul to be an unsympathetic interlocutor to the people that he meets. He just is who he is. For the most part he gives people their own space to express themselves and does his best to understand them on his own terms. I would say that he is a good journalist and a bad scholar. In such a world, men and women will inevitably reach out for old certainties, even if it means manufacturing them where they had not previously existed.

In the Muslim world this has meant grabbing onto fundamentalist Islam as a means of making confused peoples feel whole again. In my view this movement has failed and is already looking to have been a fad. The reason is that instead of making people feel whole, it has made them feel internally divided in new ways, particularly since they obviously cannot deny the universal civilization upon whose products and institutions which, inevitably, are not themselves value-neutral they still depend.

When it comes to spiritual sustenance, people also need a form of religion that is not at odds with them. Otherwise it will inevitably fit them awkwardly, chafe, and eventually be cast off as too much trouble. No wonder so many fundamentalists seem to end up becoming atheists, or effectively atheist. As usual, in these kinds of books Naipaul completely fails to self-examine the Anglophile civilization he embraces so uncritically.

He never raises the question of whether anti-Western ideologies are even partly a reaction to aggressive foreign policies, or if they would have been able to gain traction in the Muslim world without them. To not even mention this, even perfunctorily, is a telling oversight. As usual the writing is good and makes reading it feel like an inexpensive vacation across the world and back a few decades in time.

He even takes you to some places that subsequent tragedies have made it no longer possible to visit.


Among the Believers : An Islamic Journey

In these travels Naipaul talks to a cross section of the society: people from drivers, students, guides, government officials to people of power like Ayatollah Khalkhali and Anwar Ibrahim during his student politics days. Naipaul then synthesizes his experiences into a commentary on the history of the people, their faith, the impact of their faith on their way of life. This review is divided into three parts. Naipaul comes across as a man with a sharp sense of observation and intellect and a sharper tongue. His analysis of the role of Islam in the countries he visits is brutal and honest.


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Purpose[ edit ] The proposed aim of the author was to study cultures which have a long pre-Islamic history and their modern attempts to establish a religious state. Naipaul does not include Arab countries as he is interested in "converted peoples". Travels[ edit ] Iran: he went to Iran just after the revolution and could listen to all the mixed voices, guided around the holy places like Qom by a communist, Behzad. Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali is interviewed.

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