Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey

Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey

by Asma Gull Hasan


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In the wake of 9-11, the activities of Osama Bin Laden and Hamas, and the recent Gulf War, the Western press have been filled with information and mis-information about the true nature of Islam. Is it a feudal misogynist belief system that is a threat to Western values? Is it an ideology of oppression? Or, is it a faith tradition that is as varied as Christianity, a "big tent" that includes not only the extremists that we read about in the daily press, but also a majority of followers who are committed to an authentic spirituality that embraces many of the values shared by the mainstream in Europe and America? Why I Am a Muslim is a gentle analysis of those issues. Part memoir and part guide, it represents the side of Islam that is left out of the daily newspapers. For Asma Hasan, being a Muslim is not merely a matter of birth, but a matter of choice. In seven chapters, she presents seven reasons why she is committed to Islam and why it is a viable spiritual option for anyone.

Based on her understanding of the Qur'an and her upbringing as a Muslim, she articulates a vision of Islam that is ethnically diverse, tolerant of others, and supportive of the rights of women. She presents a spiritual tradition that contains a rich mystical tradition and that allows individuals to have a direct relationship with God. Why I Am a Muslim is an important book that will provide readers everywhere with an understanding and appreciation of a frequently misunderstood religious tradition. Hasan successfully articulates a vision of one of the world's great religions that readers within and without Islam will find engaging and challenging.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780007175338
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/28/2004
Pages: 174
Product dimensions: 5.14(w) x 9.04(h) x 0.58(d)

Table of Contents

A Note to the Readerix
1Because I Was Born Muslim1
2Because Islam Gives Me a Direct Relationship with God19
3Because Islam Has a Rich Mystical Tradition in Sufism39
4Because Islam Allows and Expects Me to Make Mistakes67
5Because Islam Stands for Diversity89
6Because Islam Is a Woman's Religion115
7Because Being Muslim Makes Me a Better American (and Being American Makes Me a Better Muslim)143

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Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book discribes TRUE ISLAM and is perfect for a time in the world where our religion is being alterred and used to cover wrongdoing. A book that should be assigned in school! Thanks Asma!
Guest More than 1 year ago
what can i say... by reading the other reviews.. this book is so uplifting. There are so much that i thought i had known have to now come to me. I like the fact that how women are described in this book...ALOT OF RESPECT!!! I didn't know so much about our role in Islam... until now. I told my husband about this book... He said buy a copy... and i will. I would definetly recommend this book to all muslim and non-muslims as getting to know about our religion is a great thing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Intriguing, impressive and interesting book written by Asma. It contains very straight-forward and easy to follow views. Most of all it gives a true picture of muslim women and the way women are protected in Islam.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book at a time, when I was debating the importance, or the relative uselessness, of ethics in a person's life. Asma Hasan does a beautiful job of explaining the basic reasoning behind Islam's ethics code. She also does well in introducing the more mystic, Sufi tradition within Islam. There are however, a few glaring errors of judgement on her part and some that she could definitely have avoided. If the reader is looking for a balanced view of Islam and the way it is practised in the world, you are bound to be disappointed. In the case of Amina Lawal, she chooses to highlight technicalities (stoning versus flogging, or the availability of witnesses), while missing the bigger picture -- which is that the law is necessarily draconian and is prone to misinterpretation and exploitation. Also, the Quran, to any Muslim, is the true and pure word of God. Any attempt to justify it by comparing it to human logic, like the American constitution, seems like an exercise in vanity, more than anything else. If humans could come up with the same code of ethics and morals as God did, why bother with the holy book? I'm probably nitpicking here. In the end, I have to admit that the book was thoroughly enjoyable. Asma opens up to the reader very naturally, and her simple language seems to be a reflection of her own nature, becalming and guileless. She is articulate, persuasive and sharp and it is mighty hard not to like her. A great primer for those who are lured by the great religion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hi readers: if you are looking for a nice and at the same time one really interesting in the subject f islam I recomend this book why i am muslim by Asma Gull Hasan She is the profile of a feminist woman and also muslim, who lives her religion and her lifestyle in relation and armony... I enjoyed!!! it's great... and I think we need in Islam women like her!!! LAURA GOMEZ
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amidst the slew of books published recently by self-proclaimed experts on Islam, Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey offers a refreshing look at what it really means to be a Muslim living in the United States today. Following the critically acclaimed success of her first book American Muslims: The New Generation, author Asma Gull Hasan gives readers insight on growing up as a young Muslim woman in America, or as she calls herself, as a ¿Muslim feminist cowgirl.¿ At a time when Muslims and the Islamic world are being placed under the microscope Hasna appeals to both young Muslims who can relate to her experiences as well as the mainstream readers who are curious about Islam. She not only explains the religion¿s basics but makes you proud to be a Muslim through her own fervor and passion. Dispelling myths often believed about Islam, such as all Muslims are Arabs and vice versa, that it is oppressive to women, and that it is an inherently violent religion Hasan shows Islam in its true essence, idealistically similar to many of the American values we have grown up with here. She cites Muhammad as being the first Arab leader to liberate women and elevate their status in society as equal to men. She also demonstrates how ethnically diverse the Islamic world and how culture often gets misconstrued as religion. Her one example is of the lavish desi wedding, a completely harmless cultural tradition, yet nevertheless, completely un-Islamic. Interestingly enough, Hasan includes a whole chapter on Sufism, an easily misunderstood practice in Islam. She describes the ancient tradition and the idealistic teachings of Rumi and other notable Sufis. Her ability to show the simplicity of this mystical tradition in daily life allows the audience to see the spirituality around them, even in something as simple as a bouquet of flowers. While the book has faced some criticism from some sectors of the Muslim community who fear the ¿Americanization¿ of Islam, Hasan argues that America and Islam are not in opposition of each other, and in fact, are quite similar in the shared emphasis on equality, diversity, education, hard work and democracy. She claims that this belief in the shared ideals has let her be a better Muslim by being American and a better American by being Muslim. A definite must read, Why I Am a Muslim offers the American public a glimpse at a more accurate portrayal of who a Muslim is and what Islam is about. Most importantly, however, it also gives young American Muslims struggling to find their own identity a chance to embrace themselves and a voice with which to be heard.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book presents a cogent and compelling journey to validate the Islamic faith of an American Muslim. It is nice to have such a refreshing voice representing an underexposed part of Islam and also something to fully identify with as an American Muslim! I did have an issue with the idea that Islam has been inhibited by pre-Islamic Arab culture and traditions (p. 149). I wouldn¿t single out Arab traditions since I believe Islam (including Islamic law and certainly Islamic culture and politics) has accumulated many traditions from various parts of the world including Arab, Byzantine, Persian, Turkish, Mongol, Berber, and African, some that have hindered it and some that have advanced it. But the general idea that Muslims living in America can offer a valuable perspective on Islam freed from some heavy baggage of historical traditions is a point well taken. I was also struck by the author¿s intriguing views on secularism. The argument for or against the separation of church and state is bypassed altogether by saying that since Islam never even established a church, the question is moot (p. 31). This is quite ingenious and refreshing, although I still think that any argument on secularism to gain practical acceptance has to take into account such concepts as the caliphate and Islamic law (Shariah). I must admit that I am still grappling with this difficult issue but have started to formulate a systematic view of an Islamic democracy. The author¿s views on salvation are just as intriguing. It is unequivocally stated that salvation is not restricted to Muslims (pp. 100-104). Even though I think it has to be acknowledged that many if not most Muslims do not hold her view, I think she is absolutely right. The Quran does say that what counts is believing and doing right regardless of the name of one's religion (II:62, etc). I had forgotten that Islam simply means surrendering to the Will of God and it is in this spirit that Prophets like Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) are all called Muslims by the Quran. I thank her for putting it in such clear and unambiguous terms. It is this universal spirit of the Prophet and the Quran that has been an importance source of faith for me. The book cover apparently has become such an issue! Well I would simply like to say that I believe that the Quran allows for some display of beauty (zina) with a modicum of decorum as expressed in XXIV:31. I could never understand how such things as the Saudi abaya and the Afghan burka could be justified since they allow for no display of any beauty at all, let alone the uncovering of the eyes just to see where one is going! I think the book cover is in the Quranic spirit, and the author is showing her beauty with taste and refinement. Finally, the sections on Sufism sprinkled with passages from Sufi poets like Hafiz and Rumi and others were truly inspiring. I think the author has hit the mark with her observations on Sufism being the loving heart of Islam as opposed to the stagnant legalisms and putrid politics that many Muslims are fixated on. I also simply enjoyed in a Zen and Sufi way the funny personal anecdotes related in the book. So I heartily recommend this book since it will stimulate a fresh discussion on same basic views of Islam (one thing we Muslims have to learn is the spirit of self-critical debate in an atmosphere of freedom of expression) and because it presents a refreshing and positive view to help counter the terrible image of Islam that comes in these days of global terrorism.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is much-needed in a time of incorrect stereotypes regarding Islam and the Muslims who follow it. She cites specifc examples and relates her own experiences. A must read for anyone interested in the culture of Islam.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book after seeing Asma speak in LA. I learned so much from her talking. She is smart, funny, very pretty and enjoyable to listen to, and the book is GREAT! There were mostly Muslims in attendance at the event, and they all responded enthusiastically. It was clearly a positive reinforcement for the community. Refreshing to see a relaxed,self-assured Muslim woman. I look forward to more books by Asma.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and had a few laughs along the way. I recommend this book to everyone that wants to know what it is like to be an American Muslim.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found Ms Hasan's book to be quite informative, factual and reader friendly. I do not fault the author for being proud to be a muslim as well as an American. The book definatly made me proud to be a muslim. Ms Hasan ensured that she distinguished between culture and Islam. She also presented Islam in today's context which is well needed. I applaud Ms Hasan's good work. I can only hope other's will join me. It is definatly a worthwhile read for both muslims and non- muslims! Shabana Azmi
Guest More than 1 year ago
Instead of simply railing about all the negative press Muslims receive, she creates positive press by stating simply and lovingly, what Islam is about. She doesn't ignore negativity, but refuses to be bowed by it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are four things that I love about this book - 1. Content --- real information about Islam and its history 2. Story ---there's a story told within this book, a strong one, at that 3. Readability --- the book is inviting to anyone! First off, if you're looking for a book about the American Muslim experience, then this one would be it! If you're also looking for a book about Islam, this book would also be a great introduction into what makes Islam such great religion! The author provided facts, historical analysis, and history, all without getting us readers bored! Quite an accomplishment! Secondly, I'm impressed by the books story. I kinda felt like I was reading a fairy tale at times, because it was a well told story about a fair young, Muslim, maiden, and her struggles (and achievements) in balancing her American and Muslim lives......only to see that they are both the same! Lastly, I love this books readability --- in lending itself to a narrative and story-like approach, the book gives an intellectual analysis upon modern day Islam, but through the viewing glass of a very fun story! Believe me, there isn't a funner way to learn about Islam! I've tried, and this book is the best!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about Islam, especially the often neglected positive points. This book is well researched, well written, and educational. I am planning on giving it as a gift to all my non-Muslim friends. Anybody who doesn't like this book either wasn't paying attention, or has some sort of other negative agenda.