If I am being truthful, it took me a very long time to find my feet when reading this book. Once I did, however, I sailed through it, reading it in two easy sittings. It is superbly written, and Lotfy is an extremely professional author – evidently well-educated and academic, yet philosophical.
I already knew what the book was about, and it did indeed go on to confirm the blurb. But, the confusion for me, I felt, was in the structure. For the sum of its parts, Beyond the Prison of Beliefs is a book which aligns science with faith, and fosters human well-being through spirituality – this is all fine, a popular subject and Lotfy does a grand job. The problem for me was that chapter 1 seemed out of place, as he delves straight into Creation, the Big Bang and quantum physics – an intensely scientific subject, and one which inevitably launches a religious author into a discourse of filling the information gaps with God. In turn, as the reader, I was then expecting it to continue in a vein which, if I am being totally honest, was going way over my head, and by which point I was clinging on by my fingernails to keep up. But in chapter 2, Lotfy comes back to Earth, and much more personal besides, with a study of human biology - promoting spiritual and plant-based resources for our general well-being. Following this, the third chapter then delves into psychology, predominantly referencing quotes from notable figures and spiritual affirmations to come to terms with one’s own psyche, and that of others – particularly narcissists, which get a significant word count devoted to them. This is all good, extremely relatable for all of us, and a section of the book which I, as a former student myself, found the most interesting. Lotfy’s advice is good, his approach to spirituality a holistic one; there then follows a foray into yoga and prayer.
But then, chapter 5 plunges the reader straight back into the universe and the vast arena of quantum physics, and on this revisiting – having planted the seeds - Lotfy discourses much more earnestly about the Quran. Any ambiguity about the religious rhetoric of the book is all but wiped out in this and the final chapter, in which he explicitly states that he “wrote a book about Muhammad”. My problem is not the religious aspect: Lotfy is a very good author with wonderful knowledge and insight, not just into his faith, but into the modular sciences; his book is well-balanced. What I felt harmed the book’s structure, and caused me problems early on, was that it is very much a book of two parts; I felt that that any implied connection between the universe and our individual spiritual well-being (however obvious it might seem to be) was not made clear. It was therefore my opinion that chapters 1 and 5 should have been presented together as one self-contained part of the book, and the chapters on the self, together as another. In this way, I think I would certainly have found it much easier to digest from the off; to be frank, I’m not sure to what extent readers would be willing to connect the two very different subjects – the quantum physics debate seems implanted in the book without any obvious link to the personal fulfilment aspect, which is a highly popular subject for a book; it seems that the reason for its presence is to present the religious argument, rather than any spiritual correlation.
Lotfy’s religious message most definitely increases in tempo as the book goes on, which is a clever way to structure it – were he to go straight in with his faith as strongly as he closes, he may have found himself alienating readers. Instead, he manages to present reasonably balanced debate, with some very well-curated referencing to support him. I don’t think Lotfy is going to convert anyone to faith with this book, but I would definitely recommend that readers don’t discard it just because they may reject its religious thesis – there is much, much more to Lotfy’s generally holistic guide to well-being. I would have liked to have seen more human science and less quantum physics, or as I said, perhaps clearer separation of the two. Other than this, however, there is no doubt that this author is an extremely clever, professional and talented writer, and his book is a very good one.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: a-a-lotfy religion spiritual science self-help diet