Following my tradition of announcing books I have worked on, here is a big one.
Dr. Mostafa Badawi, (a medical doctor of Egyptian origin), practices as a psychiatrist in a hospital in Medina and is hidden away in that wonderful city protected from those who might want to elevate him and claim him for their own. He treats the disturbed souls of Saudi as best he can but his real patients are us lot whom he has, over the years, supplied with numerous valuable translations including The Prophetic Invocations, Man and The Universe, Degrees of The Soul, Key to the Garden, Gifts for The Seeker and many more. Which are all a kind of mercy to the confused souls of this western domain and a window into worlds hitherto inaccessible to the non-arabic reader.
His little green handbook, The Prophetic Invocations, I use every day and is almost talismanic in its benefits and used right round the world by many and has been for several centuries. The lesser known Man and the Universe ( second printing much improved) is actually a little gem which I read from cover to cover in Thaxted Church, Essex over ten years ago, waiting for a performance of Holst’s Planets, his cosmic orchestral masterpiece by the National Youth Orchestra as part of the Thaxted Music Festival. This highly rated orchestra was tackling one of the most difficult orchestral works in the repertoire, which utilises just about every instrument in an orchestra’s store cupboard and filled the whole width of this great medieval church. I was bagging choice seats for the concert which was being held barely 100 yards from my house in this enormous cathedral-like space so I took Dr Mostafa’s book with me to pass the time and perfectly primed me for what was to follow. Holst had written most of The Planets Suite actually in Thaxted where he lived for a time, and reading Mostafa Badawi’s book followed by this concert was for me an experience like no other. Anyone who is uncomfortable about music for whatever reason, doesn’t know what they are missing.
I digress into all this just as a warm up before the main act which is Mostafa Badawi’s most ambitious book to date, Ancient Prophets of Arabia and which I started work on some three years ago. Although it is a full colour production, it is not strictly a coffee table book, the kind of tome you place on your coffee table for the Hola photo shoot of your parlour. No this is definitely a work for reading and study as you will realise how little you knew about these great men, your forefathers. Dr Badawi has brought these men back to life, at least he did for me while working on it, not that they are really dead in the first place, and freed them from the prison of our old RE classes at school in which all prophets had large white beards and lived on a parallel planet. It’s also not a coffee table book, because many of the only pictures available were really low quality, some of places now destroyed and others obscure places of importance gleaned off the internet. But also we included some excellent pictures of Hud, in the Yemen, taken by Peter Sanders and pictures of Medina donated by the distinguished Japanese photographer Ali Nomachi. It has maps, digrams and of particular interest to me one measured plan of the ka’ba and a rare photo of its interior. Given the limited resources available, the book has come out remarkably well even though we had enormous problems with the complex text. In my experience I have never seen a book before that was both a coffee table experience and hard-to-put-down academic work.
Aftab Malik of Amal Press says of it
”A sweeping narrative of epic proportions told by a master story-teller. Al-Badawi unearths gems from the archives of the Abrahamic traditions, making this contribution to the sira literature not only welcome, but unique. Reading this book is like taking a step back into ancient history with a learned guide holding your hand. Al-Badawi inspires, moves and leaves the reader in awe, as his erudition unearths the deep spiritual insights into the lives of the ancient Prophets of Arabia.”
This 219 pp hardback full colour book is in pre-press at the time of writing and is expected to be unveiled next month (May 2012). For more information and ordering, visit the publishers’ site at www.islamicvillage.co.uk