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
    Paperback:
    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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."
—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Wonder Valley
    by Ivy Pochoda

    A visionary and masterful portrait of contemporary L.A. from the author of Visitation Street.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & 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.