Yusuf Islam in concert eralier this year. Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Yusuf Islam in concert eralier this year. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Yusuf Islam’s new book a brief chronicle of a lifelong spiritual quest



When Yusuf Islam made his return to the music world, the reception was as celebratory as it was controversial.

The news seemingly came out of nowhere with the surprise release of his 2006 album An ­Other Cup, his first since 1978.

Inspiration flowed from the writer of such songs as Words, The First Cut Is the Deepest and Peace Train with the follow ups, 2009's Roadsinger and his latest collection, Tell 'Em I'm Gone, out this week.

For the fans, the re-emergence of Islam (known previously as Cat Stevens) was akin to the return of a long-lost friend.

Despite the time apart, Islam’s recent albums and sold-out tours demonstrated he hasn’t lost his knack to inspire through his reflective lyrics and uplifting melodies.

Not everyone shared the sentiment however.

A significant portion of Islam’s conservative Muslim fan-base, those largely acquired during his non-musical years when he was involved solely in humanitarian causes, were dismayed. Some went as far as labelling his actions un-Islamic.

This constant negative online chatter, not to mention the direct hate mail sent to his management, played a large role behind Islam's penning his debut book, Why I Still Carry a Guitar.

“My abrupt departure from the spotlight confused many of my friends and fans,” he writes in the opening chapter. “Sadly, a few decided to believe strange rumours about my decision based on inaccurate information and myths.”

Published in both English and Arabic, the book is at times a revealing spiritual memoir. Through its brisk 100 pages, Islam details “the spiritual journey” from his conversion in 1977 and his decisions behind his return to music. More powerfully, the book is a pointed message against conservative Muslims promoting the shunning of the arts due to a misconstruing of their faith.

At a time where Muslims are under an unrelenting critical spotlight, he states, the arts can play a healing role in tackling misconceptions and in building bridges with others.

For such broad and important topics, it seems strange that Islam tackles them in such a brief – if immaculately presented – book. The 15 chapters – each little more than four pages and paired with some personal portraits of Islam throughout the years – touch upon the major aspects of his spiritual quest without delving too deeply. This is a pity as it would have been beneficial to fellow Muslim converts facing the same journey.

The end result is a series of revealing yet ultimately frustrating vignettes into Islam’s life.

For instance, that wintry day in December 1977, when Islam strolled into a mosque in London to publicly embrace his new faith, is dealt with in only three paragraphs.

Islam also skips over other potential autobiographical gold mines, such as how his Greek father, Swedish mother and brother all eventually became Muslims.

Another major drawback is the style Islam employs throughout the book. The poetic and reflective prose central to his songwriting is jettisoned for a voice close to polemical.

Initially, one can understand such a decision, particularly in the book’s middle section where Islam details the numerous Quranic passages and Hadiths where music is not expressly banned. “There was not enough undisputed evidence in Islam’s original scriptural sources of divine knowledge to support the complete banning of music from human life and its objectives,” he concludes.

Carefully footnoted, these chapters skilfully deal with the controversial topic and are a worthy addition in carrying the academic conversation forward. However, when the same laboured approach is employed to describing intimate moments, such as playing the guitar for the first time in more than two decades, it becomes cumbersome and robs the moment of any power.

However, it is ultimately the overarching sincerity of the book that makes it a worthwhile enterprise. It also forms the ultimate theme of the book, which is to promote the Islamic principle of intentions.

Throughout Why I Still Carry a Guitar, Islam demonstrates how most of the major decisions in his career – from quitting music to setting up his residence and office in Dubai – are done with the intent to complement the faith.

Such passages should inspire Muslims from all walks of life to keep their focus and encourage Muslim artists struggling to reconcile their faith with their art.

As for Islam himself, the book shows he has come to accept his place as a pop-culture icon, inspirational Muslim figure and a lightning rod for bigots.

Why I Still Carry a Guitar concludes with the message Islam places in a majority of his songs, that peace and resolve are fostered through introspection. "I am not seeking or asking any­one to follow me, or my various conclusions," he states. "But only to look within themselves."

sasaeed@thenational.ae

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Company profile

Company: Rent Your Wardrobe 

Date started: May 2021 

Founder: Mamta Arora 

Based: Dubai 

Sector: Clothes rental subscription 

Stage: Bootstrapped, self-funded 

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COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Scorecard

Scotland 220

K Coetzer 95, J Siddique 3-49, R Mustafa 3-35

UAE 224-3 in 43,5 overs

C Suri 67, B Hameed 63 not out

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

FINAL SCORES

Fujairah 130 for 8 in 20 overs

(Sandy Sandeep 29, Hamdan Tahir 26 no, Umair Ali 2-15)

Sharjah 131 for 8 in 19.3 overs

(Kashif Daud 51, Umair Ali 20, Rohan Mustafa 2-17, Sabir Rao 2-26)

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

'Texas Chainsaw Massacre'

Rating: 1 out of 4

Running time: 81 minutes

Director: David Blue Garcia

Starring: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham

INDIA'S TOP INFLUENCERS

Bhuvan Bam
Instagram followers: 16.1 million
Bhuvan Bam is a 29-year-old comedian and actor from Delhi, who started out with YouTube channel, “BB Ki Vines” in 2015, which propelled the social media star into the limelight and made him sought-after among brands.
Kusha Kapila
Instagram followers: 3.1 million
Kusha Kapila is a fashion editor and actress, who has collaborated with brands including Google. She focuses on sharing light-hearted content and insights into her life as a rising celebrity.
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Diipa Khosla started out as a social media manager before branching out to become one of India's biggest fashion influencers, with collaborations including MAC Cosmetics.
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Komal Pandey is a fashion influencer who has partnered with more than 100 brands, including Olay and smartphone brand Vivo India.
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Nikhil Sharma from Mumbai began his online career through vlogs about his motorcycle trips. He has become a lifestyle influencer and has created his own clothing line.
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SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League, last 16, first leg

Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund, midnight (Thursday), BeIN Sports

FIXTURES (all times UAE)

Sunday
Brescia v Lazio (3.30pm)
SPAL v Verona (6pm)
Genoa v Sassuolo (9pm)
AS Roma v Torino (11.45pm)

Monday
Bologna v Fiorentina (3.30pm)
AC Milan v Sampdoria (6pm)
Juventus v Cagliari (6pm)
Atalanta v Parma (6pm)
Lecce v Udinese (9pm)
Napoli v Inter Milan (11.45pm)

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

The schedule

December 5 - 23: Shooting competition, Al Dhafra Shooting Club

December 9 - 24: Handicrafts competition, from 4pm until 10pm, Heritage Souq

December 11 - 20: Dates competition, from 4pm

December 12 - 20: Sour milk competition

December 13: Falcon beauty competition

December 14 and 20: Saluki races

December 15: Arabian horse races, from 4pm

December 16 - 19: Falconry competition

December 18: Camel milk competition, from 7.30 - 9.30 am

December 20 and 21: Sheep beauty competition, from 10am

December 22: The best herd of 30 camels

Results

6.30pm: Maiden Dh165,000 (Dirt) 1,600m

Winner: Celtic Prince, David Liska (jockey), Rashed Bouresly (trainer).

7.05pm: Conditions Dh240,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner: Commanding, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

7.40pm: Handicap Dh190,000 (D) 2,000m

Winner: Grand Argentier, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

8.15pm: Handicap Dh170,000 (D) 2,200m

Winner: Arch Gold, Sam Hitchcott, Doug Watson.

8.50pm: The Entisar Listed Dh265,000 (D) 2,000m

Winner: Military Law, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi.

9.25pm: The Garhoud Sprint Listed Dh265,000 (D) 1,200m

Winner: Ibn Malik, Dane O’Neill, Musabah Al Muhairi.

10pm: Handicap Dh185,000 (D) 1,400m

Winner: Midnight Sands, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

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'Spies in Disguise'

Director: Nick Bruno and Troy Quane

Stars: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan and Roshida Jones 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

Christopher Robin
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Haley Atwell, Jim Cummings, Peter Capaldi
Three stars

Dr Amal Khalid Alias revealed a recent case of a woman with daughters, who specifically wanted a boy.

A semen analysis of the father showed abnormal sperm so the couple required IVF.

Out of 21 eggs collected, six were unused leaving 15 suitable for IVF.

A specific procedure was used, called intracytoplasmic sperm injection where a single sperm cell is inserted into the egg.

On day three of the process, 14 embryos were biopsied for gender selection.

The next day, a pre-implantation genetic report revealed four normal male embryos, three female and seven abnormal samples.

Day five of the treatment saw two male embryos transferred to the patient.

The woman recorded a positive pregnancy test two weeks later.