Monday, February 1, 2010

Book: Reconciliation by Benazir Bhutto

I've been trying to think about what to say about this book. I still enjoyed reading it. I still found it interesting. But my...early, bubbly feelings about it have long since gone.

She presents a view of Islam that is unrealistic and not historic in the least, despite what she would like her readers to believe. A basic knowledge of history will let you know that what she claims in regards to the 'tolerance' of Muslim nations is incompatible with the facts.

She tends to make general statements as though they were fact, often without citing supporting evidence. And when she does present some evidence, it is often not much, and (annoying to me), not properly footnoted within the book. For instance, her Qur'an quotes (or quotes of any kind for that matter), lack the little superscripted numbers that would point you to the reference. She does have a list of those references in the back of the book, but you wouldn't know they were there unless you went looking for them, and then, since the quotes in the text lack connecting numbering, you still have to look back to try and find the quote that the reference is referring to. It's *annoying*.

On the subject of her quoting the Qur'an, she takes one or two verses out and ignores the rest. The context of the surrounding text is lost, as is the historic context or any other sort of context for that matter.

There is also the (as Achelois had to point out for me) problem of her, at least once, attributing something to the Qur'an that is not, in fact, in the Qur'an. The number of prophets (120,000) is not found in the Qur'an, but in hadith. I can't say whether or not there are more such misattributions because I'm not that intimately familiar with the Qur'an or the hadith. I just know that if it happened once, it colors my perspective. The chances of it happening elsewhere in the book go way up in my estimation.

Now, this book was still in manuscript form when she was killed. Are some of the problems a lack of ability to go back over her work and a lack of knowledge from those who did have the opportunity? Maybe. But since most of the issues that I have tend to be ones that support her premise, perhaps not.

She states, at the end of the book, that the purpose of the book is to show that it is time for new thought, for new ideas and new ways of looking at the Qur'an to take root - to combat the extremists who have hijacked her faith. And to show that that perspective, that of the interpretation of the Qur'an being a matter for each age is the one that actually meshes with the intent of the Qur'an.


  1. Ah, thanks for the review. I was wondering if you'd finished this one yet. It sounds as if her book is about how she wished Islam *could* be and would be if she were the one interpreting it to the masses.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. That sounds frustrating. I liked what seemed to be her message (from what you wrote about the book) but I'd also be annoyed by the lack of references and just general lacks... I don't know exactly what impressions I'd get when reading it myself since I haven't, but it doesn't sound like a read for me, as much as I enjoy people with positive, kinda liberal interpretations of Islam.


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