Bismillah Hir Rahman Ir Raheem
Peace be upon you all
I’m continuously in search for books that possess a highly spiritual content, that make me think a thousand times what I would do in the situation, that make me see one situation from the perspective of every person involved, that show each person as a complicated complexion of experiences and that give me something worthwhile to learn. Forty Rules of Love and Peer-e-Kamil are examples, but one great example is Alif.
CAUTION: SPOILERS ALERT!
Alif is a profound book for one to read as it delves in the exploration of the self. It’s a story about a lot of people, how faith presents itself in different people’s souls and the struggles their faith is tested with.
It’s about people who’s Alif is curved initially or becomes curved and they spend their life wondering how to make it straight again.
It’s about people who would’ve wished that they had a choice in their destiny but ultimately realize that the destiny Allah had chosen for them is perfect.
1. We see life in multiple perspectives of people:
- Qalb e Momin: A film director who measured success by money, fame and people who fell head over heels for him.
- Momina: An actress who sacrificed her dream of being a calligrapher to become an actress to save her brother’s life, while spending everyday feeling like a sinner.
- Sultan: An unemployed makeup artist who used to work for a popular actress and dancer, Husn-e-Jahan whom he loves. He’s the father of Momina.
- Master Ibrahim: Momina’s calligraphy teacher who lived his life abroad of glamour and material success to later realise it wasn’t success.
- Abdul-Allah: A calligrapher from a long lineage of calligraphers who’s life turns upside down when his son, Taha, leaves him. He resents his son as long as he lived until regret took over him and spends his life making amends wherever he can.
- Taha: Abdul-Allah’s son who’s a calligrapher and a ‘Whirling Dervish’ dancer. He falls in love with and marries Husn-e-Jahan, who his father disapproves of because of her career so he leaves him. Eventually, he carries the regret of leaving his father with him and feels disconnected from Allah and his work; blaming it on Husn-e-Jahan.
- Husn-e-Jahan: An actress and dancer who wishes to leave her career that she was forced to do, discovered the beauty of Allah’s Grace and Mercy through Taha, mothers Qalb e Momin and lives through a torturous fate destiny had planned for her until she finally found happiness.
Each of these characters takes you on a journey of self-discovery that is both eye-opening and painful at times and reminds one of the struggles one faces in life, whether they believe they have faith or not:
You can be showered with all the wealth of the world and live with a materialistic mindset yet be depressed, engage in drugs and live with a starved soul, like Momin.
You can work hard till your head aches and your tears get dry, yet you’re disrespected, not valued, and not given any credit, like Momina.
You can work hard in a career that isn’t appreciated anymore as time passes, and have to accept that the person you love can live without you in spite of everything you did for them, like Sultan.
You can live a life of glamour and success, leaving your family behind, yet turn back once you’ve listened to the voice of your soul and redeem yourself, like Master Ibrahim.
You can dedicate your entire life to the service of Allah with sins wiped clean off as if you were a baby, yet forget all those by making one simple mistake of loving your ego more than your son to realize you’ve lost him forever. After that, you try and overcompensate your sin and hope he and Allah forgives you, like Abdul-Allah.
You can live the life of an angel, where Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem is as clear as the Sun, and yet life can sweep you off your feet and make your life change forever. You can lose your way, your connection with Allah and the guilt of it can eat you alive leaving you nowhere to go to but away, like Taha.
And lastly, you can accept to give up your family, your career, the life that you’ve known that misguides you and depresses you, for a new life where Allah welcomes you with His vast embrace. Yet so-called ‘pious Muslims’ keep their arms folded and shun you away for not being born pious. You live your life being the best that you can be but that is never enough because you weren’t born perfect. Those whom you love and care for blame their lives’ problems on you, yet you never lose your way and you survive in spite the pain, like Husn-e-Jahan.
Each of their stories remind us of how tough life can be yet if we call upon Allah and turn to Him, He will help us in wonderous ways.
2. We see a struggling Muslimah in the eyes of every character in the book:
Husn-e-Jahan is seen from the perspective of everyone and I love such books that show that one person or thing can be seen in different ways.
Qalb-e-Momin thought of his mother as a dancer, the cause of his family being broken and the mother that grew to not love him. Yet as time passed, he realized all the gifts he got, all the joy he had in his childhood was due to the sacrifices of his mother, even if it caused the family to break.
Momina saw Husn-e-Jahan as the evidence of her own future in the film industry. Liker her, she was forced into acting. Like her, fate had plans for her that weren’t within her control. Like her or any actor, she’d face a rise and a fall, which scared her.
Sultan viewed her as a perfect specimen of a human whom he loved yet didn’t want her to leave her career and pursue her true passion. Yet, he was her faithful friend who protected her and understood her struggles more than anyone.
Master Ibrahim viewed her as the most precious, perfect, pious woman in the world clear of any flaw without whom he would not have found his way back to Allah.
Abdul-Allah viewed her first as a curse on the lineage of God-loving calligraphers who would sway his son from Allah only to realise that his ego prevented him from seeing the purity of Husn-e-Jahan’s character. As time passed, he slowly began to accept her for who she was and at the end, helped her finally find peace.
Taha was astounded by Husn-e-Jahan’s beauty and grace which took over his heart, and later on by her character as well. Yet, he left his father on bad terms which in a way put a curse on his soul that prevented him from painting with the skill and heart he had. He blames Husn-e-Jahan for his failures because of her past and leaves her.
It was fascinating how one person’s struggle to find Allah had an impact on all of the characters, transforming them into their better selves, yet many of them thought low of her. It truly shows that you never really know a person, how much grace and strength they contain within them and their status in the eyes of Allah, because Husn-e-Jahan was awe-inspring. She gave up everything and put herself through every pain if it meant she would get closer to Allah and if it meant her family would be happy. A mother’s love and commitment in spite of any obstacle was what made me cry on that episode.
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That’s why I consider Alif a beautiful book. Have you read it? What’s your perspective about it? Let me know in the comments.