Dr. Rayna Flye
Surrendering to God: Understanding Islam in the Modern Age
Tughra Publications, 2012
In this post-9/11 world, the word "Muslim" conjures up many images and has many connotations. Real knowledge or understanding of Islam and Muslims however, is few and far between.
In her book Surrendering to God, Dr. Tatari starts by expounding on the literal meaning of what it means to be a muslim, which we find is the verbal noun “submitter.” She explains that a person is a submitter (muslim) if and when he or she submits their mind, heart, and actions to the Will of God. From this perspective, the book not only appeals to those who profess a Muslim identity, but to everyone who strive to find answers to their existential questions and submit to their Creator.
The book addresses the basic existential questions that torment us when they remain unanswered. For those who are swept amidst the chores of life and feel they are about to drown without meaning, the book gives them the opportunity to pause and reset.
This book helps bridge the divide between what we know as Islam and what really is Islam. As a Christian, I found the overlap in the principles of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism comforting in an era when there is all too much emphasis on our differences.
Surrendering to God is not a how-to, nor is it an academic text. Instead, it is an occasionally biographical account of one woman's journey deeper into her religion that manages to address the larger points of what being a follower of Islam means. Tatari is clear in emphasizing that this is her account, and should not be seen as the definitive guide. She also emphasizes that the relationship one fosters with their Creator is a personal one, that "Faith is a personal matter between a believer and her Creator."
While very grounded, Surrendering to God frequently makes reference to beautiful passages that illustrate the beauty the author finds in her devotion. One example is when she states: "In Islam, human beings are not deemed to be intrinsically evil. We have the potential to be higher than angels or lower than animals."
Dr. Tatari makes an important point that religion and science are not incompatible, and that questioning one's religion is not a sin: "I have learned that this natural ... questioning is a gift of God to find Him and that in numerous Qur'anic verses He urges us to question everything." This is important because all too often to express curiosity, to question, and yes, to occasionally doubt is seen as the currency of the faithless or the "doubters" when in reality it is often the means of getting closer to God.
This book opens a fresh and insightful window into Islam as a practical lifestyle and way of life. Although it deals with theoretical concepts, it is wholly practical. It sheds light on Islam as a religion that is lived rather than just read.
While perhaps intended for Muslims (or muslims, as I have learned from the book that there is a distinction), this book makes great reading for those early on in their relationship with Islam, and for those who are just generally curious about Islam and what it means to be a muslim.
Surrendering to God is a thought-provoking read, no matter what one's background is. This book will be inspiring to anyone who is trying to grow closer to God and reflect on what is truly important in life.
Dr. Rayna Flye is Research and Evaluation Specialist at Beaverton School District in Oregon.