My library is full of Western academic books about Islamic movements. Some of the books are outdated now because books are like human beings — they pass through different stages of life, such as childhood, youth and adulthood, and then become old and die.
Some of the books stay with us for a little longer, while others live just like Noah, with undiminished vitality and youth, as if they drink from the spring of life. These books do not grow old or die, and generations after generations read them. Each generation sees itself through these books and so they live, and that is what they are meant for.
Some of the books narrate the personal experiences of former detainees in the prisons of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, while some others talk about women in Islam.
I used to wonder and enquire about the niqab, so I read about it until I found what I was convinced with, and I do not quarrel with anyone over it, or over life, our perspectives on life, death and the anticipation of death.
I liked religious books containing exhortations and sermons, as during one stage of my life they reassured my heart. I found that books by Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed Al Rashid had a language that I had never read before — a very powerful, sophisticated, convincing and steady language that always leads you to where it wants with full surrender.
Al Rashid’s language is charming and inspires respect. His pen creates a work of art on paper — something many pens lack.
I also read books by Sheikh Ali Al Tantawy, which he wrote with his soul before his pen and with his heart before his mind. His books, Men from History and Stories from History, are still fresh in my mind as they carved their place in it, and I consider myself one of his students although I have never met him. I used to search for his books in every library and bookshop I visited. His works are full of wisdom. I got addicted to his style and fell in love with his writings.
I used to listen to a literary programme called Qawlun alaa Qawl (Saying upon saying) on BBC that focused on literature and history, and I was addicted to a programme called Man Al Qa’el (Who said that?) until I got its folders and read them all. They were like a treasure to me.
I also read Imam Al Ghazali, who had a fighter’s pen unlike his calm and quiet personality. As I was young, I researched and enquired about his writings. He convinced me. When you read his writings without prejudgment, you will find that he writes with his mind.
Al Ghazali set his foot where no one dared to go. You could feel his love for you dripping between the lines.
I read my grandfather (my mother’s father), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zaid Al Mahmoud. I have to admit that I did not read his writings when he was alive, may Allah have mercy on him. He was a Salafist, with a free mind.
On holidays and other special occasions, religious figures would come and visit him, and he welcomed them and talked to them with respect. I learnt from him that all religions must be respected, as people are free to choose their beliefs. He did not get stultified by any opinion, and his arguments were written for whoever wanted to take a look at them.
After he died, I read his writings, and I liked it when he defended his beliefs strongly. I tried to write about him, but my pen did not go along with me. I would see his face on every page, as he had departed recently, so I decided to stop. His fans can help me with what I could not do.
In Washington, my uncle gave me a book, Al ’Iqd Al Farid (The Unique Necklace), which I read. I then got its sequel after I returned to Doha. It was a beautiful experience that added a lot to my vocabulary and knowledge. It is a necklace with various pearls, with each pearl having a unique form, and I did not expect that I would find this necklace in Washington DC.
I sometimes wonder what will intelligence agents find in my library if they break into it. I wonder what they will write in their report. My library has all the aforementioned books, in addition to books by renowned Russian writers such as Leo Tolstoy, so am I an opponent of the Bolshevik Revolution? It includes books about news of the fools and the dupes by Ibn Al Jawzi and others. I like the fools and the dupes, as they add flavour to our lives. What they do makes us laugh and entertains us, as it gets us out of the world of politics to their funny-yet-serious politics, which we are living these days.