Book Review

Book Title: Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam

Book Author: Khaled M. Abou El Fadl

Publisher: Paramount Publishing Enterprise

Pages: 419

Conference of the Books, a collection of essays, draws upon the remarkable intellectual heritage of the Muslim civilization. With admiration for the ethos of knowledge that was the hallmark of the civilization of the word, the civilization which was based upon the book of God, the author takes recurring contemporary issues and searches how they were dealt with earlier, reconstructing the past and examining the diversity of scholarly opinion, trying to learn from their successes and their mistakes. In the essay: The Pearls of Beauty, to the question: "…what do you do with the long-established practice of Muslims?", the author responds: "…, I respect and honor it – it is a formidable precedent to be considered and studied. But if it no longer persuades me, I will respectfully disagree with it."

The author, a jurist and a teacher, believes that beauty is a core Islamic value. Hence, the laws of Islam are based upon beautiful moral and ethical values, which need to be understood and appreciated, for the rules and laws are to be implemented in spirit, and not just in letter. As he puts it: "Piety creates and pursues the rules, but the rules do not create piety".

Based on the premise that the intellect is the most wondrous of all of God's creations, the author laments the "shelters of ignorance", the "delusions of comfort" and the "derangement of fear" that have plagued the Muslim mind for centuries now. He beckons the reader to knowledge, to the "expanse of its magnitude" and the "richness of its sublimity". Through his nightly conferences, he takes the reader into the world of the jurists of the past, studying their efforts, methodologies and solutions. He consults them, and they point the way, helping him to understand and confront the challenging problems of the contemporary era. He believes in the beauty and resilience of the Islamic message, and hopes that the Conference of the Books will help rekindle the interest of the Muslims in the book.

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