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Children of the Dust by Eteraz Al: Book Review

Updated on November 10, 2017

In the book Children of the dust,Eteraz has proved to be a great story teller. The book is typically delightful to read. Moreover, it is charming, lyrical and humorous with remembrances that are also insightful to the reader. The book is divided into five parts. Each of these parts signifies a different name, which Ali takes up for himself after a particular event. Each name identifies a stage where is he is forced to come to terms with Islam and America taking its place in each of these stages . In essence, the book is concerned on the psyche of a child or children whose thinking are continually influenced by Islamic religion.

A lot more children take upon their parent’s devotion in a methodical and mechanical way. In other words, they lack a desire for deeper understanding for their religion. The aspect of religion is a complicated phenomenon. The dull rituals associated with religion influences the Child’s desire in roaming around the neighborhood as well as interacting with other playmates or in other matters relating with their imaginations. This is a different aspect with Children of theDust.This is because in this book, Eteraz Ali makes us to look the insight of his mind concerning his perspective on religion.

According to his own affirmation, Eteraz explains in his prologue that the book was about what occurred when he embraced Islam with all his heart. He continuous to articulate that the book is about extreme Islamic childhood and theattempt of a boy not to simply know his identity but also assert his sovereignty. Explaining the comical aspects in thebook, he invites us to read it since it is God who taught man how to read.


Eteraz’s Journey

The book typically begins in rural Islam in the interior part of Pakistan during the eighties. The depiction of the rustic village is revealed in the eyes of a young boy while he discovers magic, friendship, and women. Even after emigration together with his family to U.S, Eteraz finds a hard time in adapting to the American life as an Islamic teenager. After he finds it hard to adapt to the American life, he returns to Pakistan, his youthful village and finds the village youth being dominated by the Taliban ideology. This puts his extended family to be under threat. Eteraz himself becomes a target of abduction where he eventually gets abducted in a mysterious way. The reason for this abduction was that he was presumed to be an agent of CIA. This forced him to flee the country into USA under the escort of the military.

Back in America, Eteraz finds his mentalist illusion typically shattered. He however, tries to find a middle way in joining the American Islam. In every stage of his life, the author seems to take a divergent identity to indicate how he has evolved. From the time he was pledged to Islam as a young boy, through the fundamentalism of Salafi, to liberal reformer, Ali explains his desperate struggles in coming to terms regarding is Pakistan identity and being a Muslimn in a foreign country.

Family Influence

As a young child, it is Ali’s parents who evokes hopes in him to a achieve a pious life. His father, specifically made aMannat, which is a covenant with God long before the boy was actually born. “Ya Allah!, if you happen to give me a boy, I swear to become your servant forever and great leader in Islam”. On her part, his mother took him to a Hajj while still a baby and rubbed his chest on the wall of Kaba in Mecca. This is because he had wanted Allah to bless him not only with reverence but also with the resolve of Islamic religion, According to the author, it was the parent’s covenant, which actually guided his life up to the time when he reached 30 years.

As a child and a boy, Ali finds solace in his parents who assists him a great deal in finding his childhood, youthful and manhood identity. His mother whom he identifies in this book as Ammi and his father Pops are portrayed as being a strict but loving Muslim parents in a country that was dominated by the Muslim religion. Uncles, aunties, cousins and grandparents surrounded his extended family. In particular, Ali describes his mother as a “wonderful woman” who used to weave lessons from the holy book, the Koran and who also used to present him with tales concerning Islam, Jinn’s and daily life aspects. His father is the one who gave him an insight that Jinn’s existed both in imagination and reality in a world which he considered to be young. In addition, his parents assisted him to go through a madras education and eventually through his professional career in America. Ali’s family opts to migrate to Alabama (USA) in order to sageguard themselves from the aggression in their homelands.

The Expression of Islam in the Contemporary Pakistan Culture

In Children of the Dust, Ali’s parents are depicted as being poor and living in a condition that can be regarded as squalid. There dwellings were among the poorest in the neighboring districts. Pakistan, which is Ali’s childhood home, is strictly a Muslim nation. Here, the Quran upholds all kinds of physical purity which includes the provision where a single drop of urine on one’s flesh or clothing could make one unfit before God, Allah. The present day perspective inthe Pakistan culture does not condone the Western culture and secularism such as music, dancing, movies, pictures, some television programs, family portraits, paintings and so on. Women are supposed to dress in hijab, which is ahead covering. In this country, women who don’t wear scarves and hijabbs are not regarded as really Muslims. ThePakistan dress code for women was actually restrictive.


Children of the Dust by Eteraz Ali will make any one reading have an insight and the experience of one living in Pakistan. This is especially in the areas that are poverty stricken since the author emanated from this area. It will be very helpful for the reader in gaining the insight regarding frustrations encountered by a true Islam adherent. Essentially, the book depicts the frustrations of an individuals who tries to practice holy life in an alien nation US, despite the fact that his holy religion seems to ignored by those who are ignorant in this alien nation. The book is appalling especially with the harsh task encountered by Ali in the madrassa as he tries to memorize, word by word theholy book.


Eteraz, A (2011), Children of Dust A Portrait of a Muslim as a Young Man, HarperOne: ISBN-13: 978-0061626852


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