The Devotion of a Hafiz: Background information when reading American Dervish

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

American Dervish

A Novel

by Ayad Akhtar

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar X
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2012, 368 pages
    Sep 2012, 384 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Devotion of a Hafiz

Print Review

In American Dervish, Hayat is distraught over the behavior of his parents as they break with many of the teachings and traditions held in the Quran*. Fearing for their afterlife, Hayat sets out to become a hafiz, or one who memorizes the Quran by heart.

a Quran circa 1400 Originally, memorization of the teachings of the Quran were preferable to the written word. Not only could beautiful recitations be shared with the then largely illiterate population, but the oral tradition also served to protect the sacred verses from enemy capture or ruin.

Today, however, committing the entire text of the Quran to memory is seen as an incredible act of devotion, as the Quran holds some 6,200 verses (approximately 80,000 words). Such a feat takes years of tutelage, repetition, and diligent study to complete.

The hafiz are highly respected within the Islamic community. In addition to presiding over important religious holidays, they are guaranteed entry into a heavenly Paradise called Jannat that awaits after death. It is also believed that the devoted hafiz are allowed to choose ten people to join them in the hereafter.

children learning the Quran

*"Quran" is the modern Arabic spelling of the word, which appears in American Dervish

Top image: a page from a Quran, circa 1400
Bottom image: Children learning the Quran in Mauritania, by Ferdinand Reus

Article by Megan Shaffer

This article was originally published in January 2012, and has been updated for the September 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Women & Power
    Women & Power
    by Mary Beard
    The treatise Women & Power: A Manifesto discusses a scene in Homer's Odyssey in which Odysseus&...
  • Book Jacket: Speak No Evil
    Speak No Evil
    by Uzodinma Iweala
    Young Nigerian American writer Uzodinma Iweala is fast becoming known as a powerful chronicler of ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter
    by Ali Smith
    "God was dead; to begin with." This first sentence of Winter perfectly sets up the dreamy journey ...
  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One N U G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.