Saving Ami From Hellfire… at the Local Bookstore

Ami’s (my mother in Urdu) behavior suddenly began to change a few weeks ago. She started pulling the blinds down in every room in the late afternoon. The view from her windows is beautiful, but Ami seemed to fear the setting sun and the onset of darkness. Ami is a university graduate whose routine used to be waking up in the wee hours of the morning to offer Fajar before taking a morning walk before sunrise.

Fears of The Dark

Watching too much Zakir Naik on Peace TV hasn’t been good for Ami. But these fears of the dark were new and reminded me of what my daughter once went through. I couldn’t understand what had caused such a dramatic deterioration in my mother’s behaviour… until my recent visit. 

Hellfire In The Afterlife

I walked into her room and found her sitting on the bed reading a book. The cover was a bizarre collage of bursting flames, cactuses, chains, hammers, and handcuffs. What was this??? The cover revealed: a  treatise on hellfire in the afterlife by Muhammad Iqbal Kilani. [You can read the book online in urdu or English if you dare.]

I asked Ami to let me see the book, which is half in Urdu and half in Arabic. I flipped open to a page that listed the various drinks people in hell are given as a form of torture. Another section described how the skin of sinners is burned, scraped off, and then burned again. I shuddered in horror.

The Salafi Bookstore

“Where did you get this?!” I asked. Her answer: the nearby Islamic bookstore, which is run by Deobandis. “It was printed by well-known publishers,” she added softly.

“Ami, why are you reading this?”

“Saving My Soul”

 “It’s about dying and what happens in the afterlife. I’m getting old, and I want to know what happens after you die.”

Everything started to make sense: Her nervousness and lack of interest in life was generated from reading this book. The more details about the book she shared with me, the more fearful I became for my poor mother. 

So I sat by her feet and held her hands. Ami looked pale and frail. I told her the truth.

Intervention On Ami

“Ami, you have been a faithful wife that looked after our ailing grandparents and taught your children well. All your life, you worked hard, you were an active member of society, and you did well for people. I saw you growing up praying and fasting during Ramazan, even preparing for Sahar while having labor pains with me. You have started to fast the six days after Eid ul Fitr. You give charity, pay Zakat and performed Hajj. From your earnings you helped the poor. Why doesn’t this comfort you? Why don’t you believe in what you know you have done and believe in a God who forgives our sins, done intentionally or unintentionally, especially when we seek forgiveness?”

I could see my mother relax a little. She was happy to hear from her daughter that I was proud I of her. We put the book aside, and she went downstairs to have tea with me. 

Saving Ami from Her “Hellfire”

That night, while she was still finishing her Isha prayers, I pulled Kilani’s hellfire book from her bedside table, hid it in my bag, and replaced it with some more relaxing books. I knew that I would not easily be able to convince her to stop reading the book – after all, the owner of the bookshop had recommended it. The best I could do was replace it. I was like a parent protecting their child from evil influences – only this time with the roles of mother and daughter reversed.

Terrifying Read

That night, I couldn’t sleep. What I read in Kilani’s toxic book cycled through my mind. The images of burning and torture. I experienced some of the fear my mother must have felt. Instead of the loving, forgiving Allah who inspires human beings, the book scared us both with a despotic divine preparing a cauldron of fire for us.

Ami never asked about the book. But I know the next time she returns to the local bookstore there will be plenty of similar titles waiting on the shelves to terrorize her.