I am just about to finish Ziauddin Sardar's wonderful book "Desperately Seeking Paradise". It speaks to me more than it would to non-ME readers, simply because I have been through one of his rejected "paradises" and managed to get out of it alive with only the shirt on my back.
There are passages in his book which had me in stitches: his description of Sister Sophie as a "bundle of clothes", his wistful remark about Merryl Davies when he met her for the first time after her conversion, saying that "the brain was still intact", his conversation with the Taliban student in Peshwar about camels and shaving, and his description of obtaining an exit visa from Saudi Arabia. Each of these were so apt - and if they weren't depicting reality, they may have been funny.
I had borrowed the book from my local library (my personal gain from 9/11 is the sudden raised awareness and interest about Islam, which means I finally get to read what I need). But today, after reading the chapter on Satanic Verses (which incidentally I found lying around at a bookfest yesterday, spine to spine with the Protocols), I decided to purchase my own copy. It is well worth adorning my shelf, being read and re-read.
I wonder if Maulvi is still looking for paradise for the Ummah. As far as I can see, and I may be short-sighted, the Ummah is in Gehenna. Is there an achievable paradise in Islam, really, or has the religion gone too far in its ossification process as to have achieved a rigor mortis? That is has millions of believers is not an indication of its health - 99% of these believers are clinically brain-dead. I used to say that hope lay in people like Sardar, Ashmawi, Jabri, Shahrour and Abu Zeid. But can 1% achieve a paradise among the current brainless gore that Islam has descended to? I am not optimistic. But keep writing, Zia.