With 1.4 billion practicing Muslims in the world it is necessary for all to better understand the culture and belief system. In The Restless Wind and Shifting Sands, author and Islamic scholar Harry J. Sweeney explains the intricacies and tenets of Islam. The educational discourse provides insight into the religion practiced by one out of five people worldwide.
The Restless Wind and Shifting Sands explores the Islamic culture through a series of fictionalized private conversations between three friends—Modi, Mani, and Radi—who each represents the moderate, mainstream, and radical factions. Through their daily talks, the friends tackle all phases of Muslim life including arranged marriages, Islamic law, female genital mutilation, predestination, honor killing, Palestine, shariah, and the Qur’an.
The men discuss how each belief drives Islamic culture and relations with non-believers. Filled with a wealth of information, the exchanges between friends seek to impart a better understanding of Islam and the challenges it poses for Western civilization.
The Restless Wind and Shifting Sands communicates that the Islamic religion can contain its fundamentalist elements and work toward a peaceful future.
Conversation 55: Unemployment and Marriage. Again, I am departing from the usual dialogues in order to present a look at the lives of other people (fictitious, of course) in the wide, wide world of Islam. Abdul-Samad (lad of 18): Masoud, what shall we do today? Masoud (lad of 19): What did we do yesterday? Abdul-Samad: We looked for jobs. We did not find any. Masoud: There is so much construction going on, somebody must have openings. There must be something soon. Abdul-Samad: You would think so. My older brother is the only one working in our family. He wants to get married, but he cannot because all his money goes to us. Masoud: I would like to get married also, but I am broke with no job. I know the sweetest girl in the world. Abdul-Samad: How could you possibly know anything about her? Masoud: I saw her face while she was in the market. It was angelic. And when she spoke, it was like hearing the angels sing. I saw her pick up some vegetables and her hands looked soft and delicate. I know I am in love with her. Abdul-Samad: But she might be betrothed to someone else. Masoud: I thought of that and asked around. Nobody seems to know. I saw where she lived and heard her name, Falak (Star). I asked father to find out about her, but he said better to forget about it until I find work. Abdul-Samad: Has she noticed you? Masoud: Are you kidding? How can anyone tell? If she so much as smiled at me or even acknowledged my presence, it would be the whip for her. Abdul-Samad: Yes, where is my head? My sister likes a boy that lives down the street, but she cannot tell anyone. I know about it because every time the boy is within view, I look for her and find her gazing at him with those cow eyes of hers. I want so much to tell him, but our whole family would be dishonored and one of us would have to be publicly whipped. Father told older brother that he was going to ask around to marry her off. He said it was not right that brother should carry that burden when he could find a husband for her. Masoud: Your sister is such a good person, Abdul-Samad, that she deserves a good match, not just any old husband. That is not right. What kind of person does he consider acceptable? She should have a husband who will be kind to her. Abdul-Samad: He does not care a whit about that. He would like a match with a shopkeeper or a vegetable seller. He would like to pick up a job out of it or at least see some free vegetables occasionally. He needs to see some profit from giving up his daughter—besides just losing the expense of feeding her. Masoud: Abdul-Samad, I feel so badly about that, if I could, I would marry her just to keep her happy. Abdul-Samad: But what about your Star (Falak)? Masoud: I feel bad about that also. What am I going to do? I have to find a job. Maybe I should join the police or the army. Abdul-Samad: A few months ago, I would have gotten excited and suggested that you forget about such nonsense. But now, after the Americans finally cut loose and got serious about our security, it might be a good idea. It is just that the government is so untrustworthy. Masoud: You don’t think I know that? Every government is dishonest to some extent. One of the arguments I had with myself about being a policeman was, do I have to be dishonest too? If all of the people in my squad are on the take, must I follow their lead? If I do not, will they find a way to do something to me? Abdul-Samad: I can see how that could be a problem for you. You are an honest person. Would military service be any different? Masoud: I would think so. Soldiers generally do not come into contact with civilians. The chief enemies of the soldier are the officers who want quick promotions, and the politicians who think they are all worthless pawns. I really feel bad about the American troops here. It is so obvious that they are here for the best of reasons and they have the greatest of intensions to help us. However, I have watched CNN until I was sick, seeing brave American soldiers treated like tennis balls. Some people in the American congress should be whipped! Abdul-Samad: Hopefully, it will not be so bad in our army. Perhaps we will learn something from the American mistakes. Masoud: Government leaders never seem to learn from the mistakes of others. They make the same mistakes continuously. Remember, you can tell an insane person if he does exactly the same thing over and over again, always looking for a different result. Abdul-Samad: You are becoming cynical. Nonetheless, I find myself agreeing with you. Am I to assume then that you will try to enlist in the army? Masoud: Yes. I will go there as soon as they open. If they will not take me, I will have to try the police. Abdul-Samad: I will accompany you. You know what? If they take you, I will enlist also. You can forget the police, though. Masoud: I would be proud and happy to have you with me. If they take me, Abdul-Samad, I will make you my brother-in-law. Abdul-Samad: But your great love is the Star (Falak)! Masoud: She was until you mentioned your sister. Falak then became great love number 2. I could not stand it if your father traded your little sister for a basket of vegetables. Little sisters must be worth more than that. Abdul-Samad: Masoud, I was thinking that if my little sister were given a raw deal, I would go to the Brigade and be a martyr. As I thought more about it, I know my family would be given a lot of money, but my life would be wasted on blowing up something or somebody that would hurt our people instead of help. Masoud: You are right about that. Those martyrs did more damage to their people and their country and did very little to the enemy. Abdul-Samad: And then people started realizing that the Americans were not the enemy. Al-Qaida and the foreign fighters were the enemies—especially those horrible maniacs from Saudi Arabia. If I were to be a martyr, I would have to go after the Saudis—however; there is no money in it to help my family or my sister. Masoud: Abdul-Samad, future brother-in-law I hope, let us go down and enlist together. If they won’t take us, we will become unpaid martyrs and blow up some Saudi building or group. Abdul-Samad: Where would we get the bombs? Masoud: I don’t know. What a fix we are in. We can’t even blow ourselves up without money. The army better take us. Abdul-Samad: If they take us, Masoud, I will run directly home and tell father to hell with his damned vegetables, I found a good man to marry little sister, and I will move out also. The family will not have me for an expense. I will live with my brother-in-law and share his expenses. Masoud, something tells me this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Masoud: What? Abdul-Samad: Nothing. I just always wanted to say that.
Harry J. Sweeney attended Yale University, studying at the Yale Institute of Far Eastern Languages. He is an experienced researcher, columnist, and radio analyst specializing in the world of Islam and in global terrorism. Sweeney’s columns have received U.S. and foreign praise for technical accuracy and human interest.