A new English biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),
titled "The Soul of the Desert" has been published in an epic but
fascinating form, narrating the life of the last Messenger of God
from his birth to death.
Written by Umer Thasneem, assistant professor of English at the
Teachers College of King Saud University in Riyadh, the book has
been brought out by Other Books in India, which specializes in the
publication of religious and philosophical titles.
The Prophet and the men and women around him have been sketched so
vividly that it will add to the understanding and pondering about
a great life and the people, landscape and belief influenced by
The book will not only help counter the smear campaign against the
Prophet but also encourage young readers to memorize and
internalize the life of the messenger. Its lyrical quality is seen
in the titles to the thirty odd chapters.
The last section of the book is a
compendium of the Prophet' sayings, highlighting the humanist and
pacifist nature of his noble mission.
Thasneem has a PhD in English
literature from IIT Bombay. His thesis was titled “Portraits of
Artists as Women: A Comparative Study of Sylvia Plath and Kamala
He remembers his meeting with the
famous Indian poetess Surayya, who was considered for a Nobel
Prize, as part of his research. The author was inspired by
Surayya's own poems on the Prophet in the volume titled “Ya
"For Surayya, it was the luminous
presence of the Prophet even after his physical death that made
the world a livable place, which would have otherwise been nothing
but an uninhabitable desert," Thasneem said.
"The title of the book, 'The Soul of
the Desert,' in this sense is suggestive," he added.
Being a graduate of the London School of Economics and having
worked under celebrated sociologist and music critic Paul Gilroy,
Thasneem feels that more needs to be done to promote reading
habits among Saudi students.
With his poetic attempts, he hopes to do his own bit to foster his
students' literary sensibility and aptitude for reading.
Writer and cultural critic Ziauddin Sardar described the poetic
portrait of the Prophet’s life as “an inspiring and heart-warming”
According to Prof. Ahmed Ilyaas
Vilayathullah, the author's colleague at the Riyadh college, the
book will serve the twin purposes of boosting students' English
abilities and reinforcing their spiritual orientation.
“It will also help grown-ups as well, since it throws light on
various aspects and episodes of the 'gem of the desert' in simple
words," said Vilayathullah.