“Ayat-ayat Cinta” book review: The beauty of love, tragedy, and hope

Please tell me, how can love be so beautiful?

Reading romance stuff has never been my thing, because I always prefer penning my own love sonnets myself, but truly there is a lot more to expect in the Indonesian-language book Ayat-Ayat Cinta” (Verses of Love).

If you haven’t read the book, I strongly suggest you against continue reading this blog entry any further, because there will be a lot of spoilers ahead. It is going to be translated into English soon (by its own author Habiburrahman El Shirazy), so I think the patience to wait the English version would be quite worthwhile.

To be noted here, I’m writing this review out of pure amazement of the entire story because, as some of you my blog readers might have known, I’m a Catholic. And I haven’t watched the movie yet, which is the reason why my review of the book may differ greatly from the movie synopses you might have read in The Jakarta Post or any other English-language Indonesian tabloids.

The setting...

This book is very worth-reading, with a commendably amount of effort put thru knowing all the intricacies of a life in Egypt, particularly from an Islamic point of view. It also clears up a lot of topics that the West often stereotype of Islam, such as the treatment of women, harmony between Christians and Muslims, and of course, the main issue brought up is how divine and dignified love in Islam is. Islam teaches the utmost respect for women, and this was apparent as the underlining theme throughout the story, from the beginning till the end.

The main characters...

Fahri, the main protagonist. An Indonesian in his 20s who struggles to make his (and his flatmates’) ends meet during their pursuing of Master Degree in the University of Al-Azhar in Cairo. He is a man of true amanah, an Arabic word that means “faithful, honest, and truthful”. That’s what most readers of AAC really admire of him. I was really amazed “seeing him” holding strongly to his principles, which are based on God’s words as written in the holy book of Qur’an, without any doubts whatsoever.

Aisha, the first wife. Actually, most people would agree to call Aisha the second lover here, since it was Maria who is introduced to Fahri first. But she’s his first wife anyway, and hence the title. Despite Fahri’s undying love for her and the way she loves him in retrospect, most readers would undoubtedly agree how altruistic (i.e. selfless) Aisha is. She concedes to Maria’s dying wish to receive Fahri’s love despite her evident jealousy. That is what I call a selfless act, an act of care that does not discriminate human beings by their background.

Maria, the second wife. If I were Fahri, I would no doubt have chosen Maria as my wife. It is quite regrettable that she does not have the courage to declare her love for him, which brings her a lot of misery and pain and in the end, death. But it is a beautiful death anyway, because she has finally gotten what she has yearned for, love for Fahri and love for God. And she could finally enter the gates of Heaven that way…

Nurul, the submissive lover. The Indonesian girl Nurul, has a fate that is more or less the same as Maria’s, only minus all the sickness that Maria has to go through. Despite her undying love for him too, she is more of the submissive (which is called “Pasrah” in Indonesian) type of person, because in the end she finally has the courage to let go of Fahri. And that’s how we readers could see how beautiful her love for him is. She readily accepts the bitter fact of love: that it has to end in pain. And she heals that wound herself by marrying another. Her defending of Fahri in the court proves how she still holds back feelings for him.

Noura, the slanderous lover. It is indeed hard for readers to pity the Egyptian girl Noura. As the Indonesian proverb says, Memfitnah lebih kejam daripada membunuh (Slandering is more evil than killing). Despite her eventual apology in the end of the court, she has returned Fahri’s kindness with misery for both him and all the people around him. Noura has another role to play in the story, which is to help strengthen Fahri’s hold of his faith. He has learned a lot of things during his short imprisonment there, and shown the people around him how to be tough during hardships. The true virtues of Fahri’s life would not have been shown if Noura hasn’t defamed Fahri in the first place. However, we readers find it hard to totally blame her too. She has a very agonizing upbringing, being the least-favoured child amongst the others, and with the apparent fact that she is sold by his father Bahadur as a prostitute, I think it could be understandable somehow that she has not got the courage to stand up to the truth in Fahri’s case.

And the author…

The writer, who is more widely known by his nickname Kang Abik, was born in Semarang, Central Java and holds a degree from Al-Azhar University of Cairo, the oldest institution in the world. Hence his knowledgeableness of both the Islamic world and Egyptian society should not be doubted.

It is readily apparent to me that from the very beginning of the novel, I felt “transported” into the Cairo life. I “became” the main character Fahri because it was written in first-person. And I –together most other readers— could feel all the emotions and pains that accompanied Fahri as he went thru all the heat stroke, pain, betrayal, arduousness, faith, hope, and most importantly, love.

Kudos to Kang Abik. Mengharukan banget deh pokoknya!

Verdict: 8.5 out of 10

yonna –   – (18 April 2008 at 00:01)  

yeah another fan of Ayat-Ayat Cinta :)

i've read it about 4 years ago, but i still remember how the story goes and quite dissapointed knowing (i refuse to watch the movie) that Maria becomes the second wife while she was alive and in good shape. based on the novel, Maria becomes Fahri's wife when she was dying and Aisha lent her the wedding ring. the picture of poligamy practice is written beautifully in this novel, that's why i don't like the movie version which was describing the poligamy practice in just-like-that way. but, once again, i only hear people's opinion after watch it and it was sound that they were upset too. hehe, lucky me then.

well, hearing good opinion from muslim friends is non-special ones, but hearing from Christian/Catholic friends about this novel....it is special and worth to hear, thanks for your honest compliment,

it's true, Islam is not that spooky and Muslims are not scary-being :)

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