Writers define success in different ways, and one of the most fascinating things about interviewing writers is observing up close just how passionate people can be about seemingly endless topics.
Occasionally, a topic is really, really important. So it is with Al Fadi, general editor of “The Qur’an Dilemma,” a courageous commentary on Islam’s holy book.
After 9/11, even Westerners are interested in this mysterious religion that emerged from the sands of Arabia 13 centuries ago. A hot topic now and embroiled in misunderstanding, Islam stands today as an object of intense study.
I recently visited with Al Fadi, who opened up about his current life’s work.
Writer’s Bloc: We know that one of the things driving the more extreme Muslims today is the Wahhabi influence, is that correct? (Wahhabi is a branch of Islam developed in the 18th century).
Al Fadi: That’s the sect basically in existence when I grew up in Saudi Arabia, yes. The Wahhabi and Muslim Brotherhood were reformers (founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and Hassan al-Banna, respectively), discovering that others had strayed from the early teachings. They identified the first 100 years of Islam, and decided that people should be able to follow the true, pure Islam. In the case of Wahhab, he said to people, “If you don’t repent, you are infidels.” He ended up killing [“infidels”] all the way to Iraq.
WB: And so you grew up in this culture …
Fadi: When I was growing up in Saudi Arabia, the more I learned about the Koran – I was fascinated that I was born in Saudi Arabia, and that’s where Islam was born. I learned Islam in its purest form. At some point, you wonder, why do I have to kill people?
WB: Tell us your experience as you moved to the West for your undergraduate work.
Fadi: When I moved to the West, I felt that the land of the “infidels” was corrupt. I also felt they had a wrong view of Jesus [considered a prophet in Islam, but not divine].
WB: But you quickly learned about the Christian religion, right?
Fadi: I didn’t know the term “born again,” but within a month, the kindness shown to me by Christians was really an eye opener. I began to question things from that point on. I didn’t want to leave Islam, but to think about things. I began to learn about Christ, the crucifixion and the resurrection. I studied for 12 years! I began to realize there were things that were terribly wrong with my religious upbringing. I made a decision to follow Christ.
WB: A dozen years is a long time to study.
Fadi: It was a process. Evidence, upon evidence, upon evidence.
WB: Given your newfound religious faith, is it possible for you to visit your homeland?
Fadi: I haven’t been back since 1998. I became a believer in November 2001.
WB: “The Qur’an Dilemma” is obviously a controversial project. How has it been received?
Fadi: From people who don’t know anything about the Qur’an, the reaction is very positive. It is really an unveiling of the true teaching of Islam. Academically, at all levels the response has been positive. Some nominal Muslims have yet to make a decision. Some Muslims email and say I am wrong. They are indoctrinated to believe it’s a perfect book, the pure word of God, verbatim from God himself. They are superstitious, believing an accident will befall them if they question the Qur’an.
Muslims in the West don’t know how to read Arabic, so they go on emotional responses.
WB: Other faiths must have a reaction to your work, as well, correct?
Fadi: At church levels, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. They feel like they can now communicate with Muslims. “The Qur’an Dilemma” is not to be used as a weapon against Muslims. We’re not here to create hatred toward Muslims. We are here to create understanding.
WB: “The Qur’an Dilemma” is an ongoing project, correct?
Fadi: The first nine chapters we examine, representing about 30 percent of the Qur’an.
WB: It seems that this will be another multi-year effort for you, yes?
Fadi: We’ve made a lot of headway already. But the problem is this: many Muslims are making efforts to represent a “Western version of Islam.”
WB: A softened version.
Fadi: Yes. It makes it more difficult for the American to discern. Westerners are nice people and want to listen to both sides. We encourage them to do that, but we are hoping our book will show them that the Western version of Islam is not giving you the full truth.
Our fear is this: we don’t want Shariah law in the West.
WB: This project is important, and it sounds like it is an almost all-consuming passion now.
Fadi: This project is my baby, the pinnacle of everything I have done. I blog and research in other areas, as well. We are developing a TV series dealing with issues in the book.
WB: Thank you, Al Fadi, for your important work.