Salaam y’all! So, for today’s book review I want to write about some books that I don’t actually know much about: a series called the New Muslims Mini Library compiled by Mahmoud R. Murad.
While packing up to leave London and join my husband in Algeria, I came across a couple of these books in a random old box. No one knew who they belonged to; none of my flatmates were “new Muslims” or even that proficient at reading English, and I am pretty sure that the woman who had lived in this house before me was an older English woman. None of my friends are new Muslims, or had any interest in the books, so they by default fell to me.
These books are just what they sound like; small, travel-sized books, that each deal with an area of Islam that could be helpful to new Muslims, or even just someone who is new to practising Islam. From the metaphorical “luck of the draw,” I happened to find numbers two, five, and nine in the series, The Manual of Arkan al-Eeman, Articles of Faith, The Manual of Zakat, Poor Due, and The Proofs of the Loftiness of Allah from the Qur’an and Sunnah, respectively. I don’t have any idea how many more there are, but I would certainly be interested in seeing what the rest of the series has to offer.
They are quick reads, and I can easily get through each (around 180 small pages) in a day. I was sceptical at first when I started looking through them, but I have actually found them to contain really helpful information.
The first one I read, number two of the series entitled The Manual of Arkan al-Eeman, Articles of Faith, was probably the most basic for me. It takes the reader through the six articles of faith that every Muslim must believe in, explaining each with some details. For me, this was no new information, but I can certainly imagine how it would be useful to a new Muslim, or someone who just isn’t sure what exactly the articles of faith are.
The second that I read, number five in the series called The Manual of Zakat, the Poor Due is by far my favorite. The information inside is very practical, and it goes through not only what zakat is, who it can be given to, and why it is important, but exactly how zakat should be calculated on gold, silver, money, and other assets. It explains what needs to be counted, what the limits for each type of assets are, and the percentage that needs to be paid.
Before reading this I actually really had no idea about how zakat was calculated. I for my first year as a Muslim, I wasn’t even 100% sure I needed to pay zakat, but I put my savings and jewellery value into a calculator and just did it anyhow (better be safe than sorry I guess, right?).
My second year I had been living off my husbands income, and had incurred several debts in the course of my master’s degree and living abroad, so that I wasn’t eligible for zakat.
But this year, I am actually looking forward to not only putting my assets into the calculator, but having a real understanding of what needs to be paid on, how much will need to be paid, and whether or not I am really even eligible to give zakat.
After reading this little book, I am also pretty excited to write a blog post (wink, wink) and share with you all what I learned after some further research!
The third little book I read, and the ninth in the series, entitled Proofs of the Loftiness of Allah from the Qur’an and Sunnah was also very interesting to me.
It is basically a short essay that details all of the proofs from the Qur’an and hadith of the Prophet (saws) that Allah (swt) is above the seven heavens, where his kursi (footstool) and arsh (throne) are as well. This is intended to refute various sects within Islam and even some Christian belief that hold that God is in everything, all at once (i.e. in your bedroom, your kitchen, the grocery store, etc.)
Before reading this little essay, I actually didn’t know that this was something that was debated in the Muslim world; I had always just assumed from my own reading of Qur’an and hadith that Allah is above the seven heavens, above His throne (in a somewhat more abstract way than this book seemed to hold, i.e. He is greater than and in control of everything under the seven heavens), and completely separate from His creation, though He is omnipotent and does know even what is hidden inside a rock inside the deepest, darkest cavern of this earth. Mostly I hadn’t even thought about the issue because for me, God is unlike anything even fathomable to the human mind, so naturally the idea of God having a location didn’t really enter my thoughts.
It was interesting to see how some construe verses to say that God is actually everywhere, and to read how the other side debates that God is above his creation.
(Edit: After some very helpful advice from a much more knowledgeable reader I have found that this last essay is probably not the most reliable source, and I have changed my wording to take out any mention of God having anything like a location, direction etc., as it turns out that my original interpretation, i.e. that God is above in power, and in control of, etc. and not actually physically located above anything is indeed the more correct in the opinion according to the majority of Sunni scholars (and in fact attributing a direction or location to God can be seen as kufr). For more information on that, I have been recommended this blog, and am passing it along to y’all! Plus, jakahallahu khairun to the reader that corrected me on this matter!)
Anyhow, that is how I found the three little books that I have, and I would love to find out more about the rest of the series! Has anyone else heard of the New Muslims Mini Library, or do you know where you can access the rest of them? I would certainly be interested to see what the other books may have out there (though knowing what I now know, I would be slightly wary of the rest of the series).