From time to time I come across books that I wish existed when I was a teenager. Books that would have helped me develop my self-identity and answered many of the burning questions that confused my head. The War Within Our Hearts is one such book that I encountered recently. It’s filled with almost all the kinds of questions young adults have these days. And it gives the answers too, realistically from an Islamic viewpoint, without being preachy and overbearing. Today I don’t think there are any books on the market quite like this for Muslim teens and early adults.
A bit hefty, its 183 pages, the book is divided into two main parts; the first part outlines problems and challenges facing young people in today’s world whilst the second part presents solutions. Each chapter in the book comes with attractive titles, using the language teenagers use these days. So there is “In Da Club” which is a chapter on partying, “Who Dat?” which is a chapter about lowering your gaze and “”I’ve Been Thinkin’ About You” which looks at the importance of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Other interesting chapter titles include “The Deadliest Weapon” which concerns guarding what we say (i.e. use of the tongue), “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” which is about suicide, depression and abuse and “See You at the Crossroads” which looks at why we must remember death.
Each chapter takes its flavor from its title. Issues, problems and concerns are examined in most cases from the young person’s point of view and also from the parent’s point of view. This lends a balance to the discussion.
Quotes from the Qur’an and Ahadith occur throughout the book. Stories from the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his companions and the Prophets are used to illustrate a point and are seamlessly integrated into the text. A box at the end of each chapter provides helpful summaries of the main action points or reminders to note.
However I do believe that there are a few areas the book could have improved upon. For one, there is a need for graphics, photographs, diagrams and other illustrations (for example, comic or manga) to help break up large blocks of text and provide visual interest. It’s true that in some cases a picture is worth a thousand words and young people of the Internet generation in which we live respond readily to visuals.
I wished there were more examples of the author’s experiences aside from the few that I read. I think the stories that are interspersed in the text really brought the message home that the authors, like readers had challenging times. But a book like The War Within Our Hearts also needs a great deal more examples of youth struggling and striving in varying situations. Results from interviews or surveys with Muslim youth could have added another dimension to the book.
I was surprised to find that the book did not have an index. Indexes are useful for quick referral on a subject.
This book is a must-read for all Muslim teenagers and interestingly, even adults into their late 20’s will find much within the pages of this book that would speak to them. There is a great deal in the book that would help bolster a young person’s self-esteem and self-identity as a Muslim. This is also the kind of book every teacher, counselor, imam and leader involved with youth should read.
I definitely recommend this as a book to initiate discussion in Islamic Studies classes within full-time Islamic or weekend Islamic schools. But I think the real benefit of this book can come from both parents and children in the home reading and discussing its contents together.
Title: The War Within Our Hearts
Author: Habeeb Quadri and Sa’ad Quadri
Publisher: Kube Publishing
Reading Level: 13 and up