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The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War Hardcover – September 24, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Mufti , incorporates the stories of his family and ancestors into a larger history of Pakistan and its post-9/11 political turmoil. He begins on the eve of his parents' wedding in 1971, which coincides with the day India intervened in Pakistan's civil war. This story is followed by discussions of clashes between supporters of Socialist Zulfiqar Bhutto and the devout Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose followers incited violence at Punjab University where Mufti's father was a professor. The author discusses the complicated relationship between Pakistan and America, focusing on the Cold War and the Reagan administration's funding of the guerrilla mujahideen, as well as the more recent wave of attacks ordered by President Obama. Moving toward the personal, Mufti describes his family's alienation and harassment while briefly living in Ohio at a time rife with anti-Muslim sentiment and memories of acclimating when they moved back to Pakistan. He recalls living in Pakistan during the deadly protest at the Red Mosque and the hotel bombing that was an attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first female prime minister. Mufti takes readers on a tour of Lahore, his parents' hometown, Sodhra, the town where his grandfather was born, and Islamabad, the nation's capital, sharing his remarkable family tree, which includes an ancestor who was a close adviser to the prophet Muhammad. This astonishingly detailed, well-researched history is brought to life by the addition of Mufti's personal story' and journalistic acumen.

Review

"The Faithful Scribe is an impassioned and insightful look into the heart of a troubled but vital country. This is a history of Pakistan from the pen of a keen observer, whose own story represents Pakistan's past and whose vision reflects its hope for the future." —Vali Nasr, New York Times bestselling author of The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat

"In The Faithful Scribe, Shahan Mufti, who calls himself '100 percent American and 100 percent Pakistani,' sets out to explain the country's present-day turbulence through the prism of its history…. Mr. Mufti deserves credit for framing Pakistan's story in terms of ideas, not merely events. He intuitively grasps that, though Pakistan is no theocracy, it shares some of the Saudi and Iranian sense of a larger Islamic mission." —Wall Street Journal

"[Mufti's] talent for explaining the political through the personal—particularly the "tormented embrace" between his home countries—benefits from the uncanny convergence of his family's milestones with Pakistan's." —New Yorker

"A penetrating,  carefully crafted, and sometimes moving account that presents Pakistan through the lens of Mufti's family's history, offering a vivid new perspective on a troubled country that is at once intimate and sweeping." —Declan Walsh, New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief

“Journalist Mufti incorporates the stories of his family and ancestors into a larger history of Pakistan and its post-9/11 political turmoil…This astonishingly detailed, well-researched history is brought to life by the addition of Mufti’s personal story and journalistic acumen.” Publishers Weekly

"The rich cultural and religious history of Pakistan dictated through a journalist’s personal stories...An undeniable visionary, Mufti insightfully glances back at Pakistan’s past and nods hopefully toward its precarious future." —Kirkus

"Mufti’s incisive, sensitive book—half memoir, about his family’s deep roots in
Pakistan, and half history of the state, which he tells through the discovery of his own sprawling family tree—describes a place that might as well be invisible in that explosive analogy: a country with a unique, founding mission to merge constitutional democracy and Islam; a county defined today not by its peoples’ extremism but their shared history." —Daily Beast

"[A]n enlightened perspective on the history of Pakistan." —University of Richmond Newsroom   

If you want to understand Pakistan and the Pakistani-American relationship, read this book. Mufti combines the personal, familial, national and international, narratives in a uniquely revealing manner. He is Pakistani and an American. And he brings that special blend to a brilliant work.” —Ryan Crocker, American Ambassador to Pakistan, 2004-2007.

"After reading Shahan Mufti, a political junke like me feels as though she's begun to understand Pakistan for the first time. Movingly and compellingly written, The Faithful Scribe is invaluable reading for anyone who's ever asked 'What's really happening there?'" —Lesley Hazleton, author of The First Muslim and After The Prophet

“[Mufti] has written a book that takes you from the beginning of Pakistan in 1947 to now. He does this effortlessly, telling the story through his family’s experience.” The Chester Telegraph

"Recounting the way the Islamic legal system was integrated with religion but was then plucked away as Western influence grew, discovering at the same time his own family’s connection to that system, are Mufti’s twin foci as he takes us back through the lives of his parents and then his ancestors and at the same time his country’s complicated history, its relationship to the Western world and the world at large.  Mufti manages to let us see Pakistan from its own perspective and from ours—something of vital importance to all of us if we are to understand the world as it exists today.” —The Inkslinger

“Doing complete justice to the title, this book gives you detailed circumstantial evidences of the past and current political situations in Pakistan. Mufti has intelligently used his family as the protagonist with the political instability of a merely 66-year-old nation as the backdrop… A good read for those who have an interest in history, and for those who want to know more about the first Islamic republic of the world, Pakistan.” —Hindustan Times

"Recommended...for those interested in Pakistan's history or in how politcal decisions impact citizens." —Library Journal

"Both a personal and political memoir, The Faithful Scribe brilliantly blends the history of one family with the history of a nation as a whole. As he traces his family's past, Mufti writes with deep insight into the relationship between the two countries during the Reagan, Bush and Obama eras without ever feeling overly dogmatic. He is able to point out specific parallels between Pakistan and the United States that could have fell flat in a strictly historical text, making The Faithful Scribe a readable, fascinating peek into the hidden connections binding the countries from around the globe." —River City Reading

"A very lucid book that clarifies much of Pakistan’s history and gives us food for thought." —Arab Spring News

"Mufti really shines...[His] curiosity leads him to come up with a very interesting narrative, one that will go a long way towards helping Pakistanis (and people outside Pakistan) make sense of the nation." —Medium

"With clarity and depth, [Mufti] penetrates [Pakistan's] complex history." —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Heart-felt and beautifully written." —Book News

"[The Faithful Scribe] is unique because Mufti’s perspective is pretty unusual...[T]his book is ultimately about humanity, and how ordinary lives are played out against a backdrop of violence and struggle." —TouchBASE
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515056
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515051
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shahan Mufti is a journalist and the author of "The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War." His work has been published by Harper's Magazine, WIRED, The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, and many others.

Shahan is a graduate of New York University, Middlebury College, and the United World College of the American West and he has also served as a Fulbright scholar in India. He lives with his wife in Richmond, Virginia, where he is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Richmond.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Barry O'Toole on October 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The author has been candid about the weakness and strengths of Pakistan, which he calls a 'laboratory for merging Islam with democracy'. As a person interested in the wellbeing of Pakistan, I found it to be an interesting read, unputdownable.

While he has tried to be upbeat at times, and noncommittal at others, he does seem to downplay the realpolitik that resulted in Partition: while Islam was often used as an excuse and to rouse the masses, it was the landowners that basically financed the activities of Muslim League because they didn't want to stay within India which had already decided on a centrally controlled socialism after independence from Britain.

Mr. Jinnah was the most un-Islamic of people: he chose to be a clean-shaven, tailored-suit donning gent with all manners English, and enjoyed a daily glass of Scotch. He was once a proponent of Hindu-Muslim unity, against Partition and abhorred the Islamic clergy with a zeal. Even the Muslim League, and madrasahs like Deoband, were for a united India after the British left.

How did he get hoodwinked by the Muslim League and the landowners should have been investigated by the author, since that would give an important answer to the actual reasons of creation of Pakistan, instead of repeating the official line that it was separated to serve as a nation for Muslims - although more than half of them chose to stay in India in 1947 anyways.

Mr. Mufti gives only a couple of paragraphs each of factors that are mainly responsible for the current chaos in Pakistan. I'd like to expand.

First, the entire political class is feudal, unless it is disposed by the Army in a coup - and the Army has ruled for more than half the time since the nation's inception.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Mingle on April 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book offers an insight into Pakistan's history, present and possible future that you can find nowhere else. As a keen-eyed observer and skilled journalist - and a citizen of both the United States and Pakistan - Mufti is able to weave the personal and the political together in a way that illuminates the contradictions and yearning at the heart of modern Pakistan.

He skillfully juxtaposes his own family's long and intriguing history (with a tradition of scholars and Islamic jurists in both his paternal and maternal lineages) with the often torturous political transitions that have taken place since Partition. Mufti doesn't offer prescriptions or point fingers. His goal is to simply tell his own story, and by telling it, help readers gain a more textured understanding of the place, its history and its people. He writes movingly about his own parents, and how their aspirations and decisions and disappointments reflected the currents of the troubled times they lived in. He tells the little-known tale of the democratic ideals of those involved in the founding and creation of Pakistan (alongside the more cynical motives often imputed to figures like Jinnah), even as he is disarmingly honest about his own frustration at leaders' failure to live up to those ideals, and about his own uncertainty as to where the country is heading.

Apart from the new window it opens onto a little-understood but hugely consequential part of the world, this book is noteworthy for its heartfelt and understated writing (several passages are quite lyrical) and for its attempt to merge the personal with the political.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Raye Spear on October 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
By Mike Spear

"The Faithful Scribe" is a fascinating book about a country that most Americans continue to be confused about. If you want to know the details about the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, read this book. If you want to know why Pakistan is what it is, read this book. Shahan Mufti weaves his family history in Pakistan into the book with a penetrating account of the efforts by Pakistan leaders to develop an effective Islamic democracy. He describes in lucid prose their repeated failures in this on-going effort since that country was formed after World War II. One of the questions Mufti raises is whether Pakistan, a nuclear power, will ever be able to sustain such a democracy given its culture of violence, corruption, varied Islamic factions and large uneducated citizenry. In tracing his family roots in Pakistan back hundreds of years with an easy-flowing prose style, he keeps you glued to the book. Because of Mufti's unique situation, that of being an American citizen who has spent years in Pakistan with strong family ties there, he provides insights into that country that go to the heart of its problems that have caused much concern among American observers. Don't miss this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TSS on May 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book - a good history of Pakistan told within a family history - both very interesting, told with honesty, love and respect. I highly recommend reading this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great story and a great book. You can really feel yourself walking back into history and you will come away with a new view of Pakistan. Not all roses but also not all violence.
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