‘But unfortunately, again,we have failed’, writes late Dr. Javaid Iqbal, after reading the manuscript, about the book under review. The regular background noise in our lives echo the ‘failures’ of all hues and tints, in all imagined and stark realms. We are told by every screen, every speaker, day in day out, that we breath, live, work, sleep and rise in a ‘failed’ state. Newspapers celebrate the grandness of our inimitable ‘failure’ at all fronts, in all fonts, every morning.  

Mr. Bughio heard the echoes of this defeatist bent of mind, chanting incessantly the mantras of gloom and gore, foreboding the Armageddon. He decided to counter these by arming his only soldier, paper, with the only weapon he had, pen. The result of his scholarly research, to find the lost meaning of Islam’s message behind all the smog and haze, is this book titled The True face of Islam.

Dr. Bughio, for oblivious ones, is a renowned scholar of Arabic, Sindhi and English, he carries a zest for many  ‘literary, political, journalistic and religious’ pursuits. In the past he has edited monthly magazines ‘Emancipation’ and ‘Kashmir Insight’ and also served as a speechwriter to a former Prime Minister. Beyond all these prolific feats, Dr. Bughio belongs  to a vanishing creed of through and through educationists who live to learn, to teach, to mentor mankind and to prepare them to fight the dark spectres of bias and savagery.  

We all have heard the idiom, and used it often for a comic effect, don’t judge a book by its cover (or title). It serves as a befitting phrase for The True Face of Islam, the title feels and sounds a bit prosaic and hackneyed.  Like the ones seen at book shops, stacked in an endless array of books titled Islam and Modern World, Islam:A Fresh Outlook, Islam: Beyond Rituals and Rites, Islam: A New Perspective, etc.

Most of these books are published for the sheer thrill of being published, or to satiate a warped craving for becoming an author of a ‘research work on Islam’ by a person waiting for his turn to kick the bucket, or a retired bureaucrat who has got religion (mysteriously and immediately after retirement) and chugs out a hefty work aimed to make ‘hazir service’ sinners pious and God-fearing, or maybe simply because it is an attempt to register the author’s name in the annals of literature for eternity and beyond.

From the very onset I would like to declare The True Face of Islam does not belong to any of the aforementioned categories of so-called ‘Research-based Islamic’ books that reek of nothing but intellectual indolence, academic buncombe, and are blighted by shameless plagiarism.

The True Face of Islam is a sheer tour de force of an educationist, who burned the proverbial midnight oil all his life to become a teacher, a journalist, a researcher and ultimately a matchless scholar of things both celestial and earthly.

I, both as a person and a reviewer, am in no position to comment on the intricacies and subtleties of religion, that being said, The True Face of Islam, in my opinion, tries to cover the age old rivalry between those who use religion as a tool to domesticate the lot of mankind and shove dumbed down version of Islam, replete with misconstrued rules of ‘pious conduct’, baseless notions of pride and honor and platitudes on stilts down their throats on one hand. On the other, Dr. Bughio counterweights this position by presenting the essence, the soul, the meaning of Islam as preached and practiced by sufis, saints, poets, intellectuals, and men of merit throughout history. Dr. Bughio draws hugely from various reservoirs of knowledge, be it history, literature or poetry, and this makes for an engaging read even for a topic that is not in vogue.

The beauty of the book lies in the fact that it can be read either as a whole or in parts. Every chapter is self-contained and addresses a particular facet of life and existence in the light of Quranic verses. Topics and themes as diverse as democracy, women empowerment, inter-faith dialogue, human rights, and Ijtihad have been elucidated in such a fashion that reader sees Islam in a new guise, emanating new light. And in this lies achievement of Dr. Bughio, he has tried passionately to present Islam as a religion that provides for every need of man, and tackles every facet of human existence.

It would be an unpardonable omission to not pinpoint the shortcomings of the book. Firstly, the book has been poorly proof read, if ever it has seen the table of some proofreader, he has failed utterly to perform his duty. Secondly, the typo errors and spelling mistakes are so ubiquitous they induce ire. The book, again in my opinion, needs to be remedied by a good proofread, a fine editor and a different cover for later editions.  

Sir Francis Bacon once likened himself to a ‘bell-ringer’ whose duty is to wake others up from their slumber. Dr. Bughio rationale for this book seems the same. I started the review by quoting Dr. Javaid Iqbal's take on the book, I’ll also conclude by quoting from his letter: 

"I have also written a book in English to project this very idealism. The book is titled ‘Islam and Pakistan’s identity’. Its Urdu translation has recently been published by Iqbal Academy, Pakistan. But, nobody reads such books’. You have put in a lot of efforts in completing this book. Let us hope you succeed where I have failed." 

Dr. Javaid Iqbal left the torch with Dr. Aziz Ur Rehman Bughio, Dr Bughio is looking for someone to hand it over. The man in his twilight years craves to go down in the annals of history and be remembered. Any candidate who could help? Any aspirant? Anyone at all?  To read books that nobody reads?