Salaam Dear Reader,
This week we present Yusuf Islam's children's book, Peace Train. The more cynical among us might question the timing of such an upbeat book; don't you know there is a pandemic going on?!
Looking back at the books I read recently by authors as diverse as Rutger Bregman (Humankind) and Omar Usman (Fiqh of Social Media), I realise that they both write about the importance of cultivating a kind of radical optimism. Yet, acknowledging that today we are faced with multiple setbacks in the fight against COVID-19, the humanitarian crises in places such as Gaza and Yemen, and, here at home, the collective disappointment at the discovery of a coven of audacious misogynists in our midsts, one has to ask: is optimism justifiable?
The answer has to be, 'Yes, absolutely.'
We cannot allow pessimism to dominate for this will lead to negativity, ineffectual bickering, and dejected passivity. We must instead look deeper than the events of the day to consider the bedrock of our existence with its substructure ontologically suffused with mercy and compassion. As Bregman sees it, compassion transforms pessimism into optimism, agency, and growth. Abdal Hakim Murad in Travelling Home puts it more succinctly:
"The Prophetﷺ loved optimism."
And so in this spirit of optimism, we welcome Yusuf Islam's wonderfully optimistic book, Peace Train. The book is based on his eponymous 1971 hit song and is beautifully illustrated. Peace Train is not about wishful thinking. It is about radical optimism and belief in Divine support that change will come, even, as Yusuf sings, when 'I'm on the edge of darkness'.
May we be among the optimists!