Book Review of Prodigal: Not an apologist’s account of Islam

Book: Prodigal

Author: Irshad Abdulkadir

Publisher: Picador India

Pages: 303; Price: Rs 399

At the outset, it’s imperative to make it clear that the book Prodigal is not an apologist’s account of Islam, though many readers might infer this just by flipping through it. That’ll be a disservice to this book written by a practising Muslim scholar Irshad Abdulkadir.

Before reviewing this book, it’s necessary to know the religio-ethnic background of a book belonging to this genre. At the crossroads of human civilisation, all religions are now almost equally exposed to getting scrutinized. Among them, Islam is having to bear the brunt of all sorts of misinformation and misconceptions that have engulfed it.

Enveloped by erroneous perceptions of people, most of the Muslim scholars are either turning a Nelson’s eye to the inflammable issues, plaguing their religion or preferring to play possum. They often feign ignorance or utter insouciance when their faith is questioned.

At times, they militantly oppose. In such a volatile scenario, Irshad’s Prodigal appears as a whiff of fresh air that’s bound to drive away the miasma of stale religiosity. ‘All art is autobiographical’ is a cliche that must be avoided in quest of a new metaphor. Yet, for the want of an apposite metaphor, this adage can be applied to Irshad’s book. Irshad is not an iconoclast. He has a reformist’s streak to his persona and is open to a tracery of varied views. The semi-autobiographical nature of the book lends authenticity to Prodigal.

The protagonist of the book is patterned after the author himself. Irshad doesn’t take his religion for granted. He’s ready to reform it, albeit through dialogues and narratives. He also questions many tenets of Islam. Yet, he doesn’t go berserk and run amok. Prodigal exemplifies Josh Malihabadi’s famous couplet: Bashar ke zehan pe qarnon se jo musallat hain/Badal raha hoon gumaanon mein un yaqeenon ko (I’m turning the so-called truths into doubts that have clouded the human minds for ages). The author’s Panglossian view of Islam is infectious. Read it for a fresh and thoughtful perspective on Islam.

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