Being a young scholar, many of my political and religious books covered immense topics of counter-culture rituals and norms, arriving to the limelight of them all, Islamic and Middle-Eastern traditions. I never found my personal beliefs reflected abundantly in the midst of the most comprehensive details printed by these historic and renowned authors. Rather, I found myself dodging questions about religion, sexuality, and the rituals of the Islamic scripture, almost in defiance, because the true essence of what I was reading was to some effect offensive rather than pleasant. It is almost always the duty of every Muslim, I thought, to debate issues presented in a humiliating manner when Islam is discussed on the table. Luckily, that would be challenged, not by an author covering a topic he was not familiar with, but descriptively by one who originated from the deep roots of Islamic and Arabian culture, bringing with age and years of education wisdom and insight to the most controversial topics of all time- Sexuality and Religion.
Author Qais Ghanem challenged the way I read books, chiefly Final Flight from Sanaa. Perhaps with my young age came my youthful thoughts of cultural taboos and rituals that were intact with my Islamic beliefs – almost allowing me cautiously to reject reading an Islamic book that discussed intimate and sexual details experienced by Muslim characters. That was the challenge; how was I able to continue reading explicit details when everything read went against what I believed was noble? Or so I thought.
Little did I know.
Final Flight from Sanaa was the most intriguing story I have ever read. It discussed topics way above sexuality; and once my sciolism was stripped away, I was able to see clear that the accurate and realistic elements challenge the suppressed ideas one holds against Islam.
It is a compare and contrast, experienced by many Muslims who immigrate to foreign countries, learning to accustom their thoughts and beliefs to the nation’s conduct of behaviour, essentially learning productive liberalism. Tariq, the aged doctor and expert in life, brings the reader through a conventional ride when he experiences culture shock even when returning to his homeland of Yemen. With Tariq you learn to sympathize, when important questions are raised like honour and religion, and the oppression of cultural regimes and lack of political freedoms are examined. Inequality is examined, between men and women and all the right inquiry detailing these liberties- of course by all means outlining the double-standards.
It becomes clear what democracy entails, and what the true definition of this popular word really holds. To Tariq and the friends he made along the way, they are life lessons – each experienced personally in his or her own way. One begins to see the spirit of this individual, and how simple his thoughts and actions really are. How religion is interrupted to satisfy one’s own definitions of right and wrong, and how extremism is indeed corrupting society, allowing people to lash out against their own flesh and blood. Especially during the Arab revolutions of today, where each politically conveyed chapter from the book goes deep into your imagination of the practicality of real life situations. Justice was drawn upon, and I salute Qais Ghanem for not leaving this important topic go unobserved.
Aside from the political and religious features of this book, Qais Ghanem’s own medical education helped in asserting him with the correct knowledge of the character’s (Tariq) profession in this field. Reading along, one is informed of Dr. Ghanem’s own medical wisdom. The brief mention of historic battles and quotes drawn from significant icons such as Mohandas Gandhi, add an informative session surely making it a dialogue with diversity.
Thankfully, the humour inserted from time to time keeps this book light in its nature. Mr. Ghanem`s attentiveness to detail is especially amusing; everything from the clothing to the atmosphere to the destinations are detailed to the depth of element, as if you are there. The language is basic and easy to follow; and the events of the book unfold systematically, allowing you to never lose track or re-read!
Most importantly, Final Flight from Sanaa began long and heated discussions between my friends and me circulating topics about religion and dictatorships. It allowed me to experience a different journey, a liberated one, full of wisdom and perception. With much brag, this book has been requested by many of those who surround me. I hope that you too, go out and experience this alluring, fulfilled, and stimulating challenge.