Isolation Of Islamic Families Essay

1216 words - 5 pages

The presence of European thought could be observed in most societies throughout the world's history. Therefore, from a historical aspect, European culture has affected the Islamic society, although not as intensely as it was in the case with other non-Western cultures. In the novel Palace Walk, Naguib Mahfouz helps to understand how the people of Egypt were affected by the country's status as a British protectorate. In the novel, Mahfouz presents a portrait of the Abd al-Jawad clan, a devoutly Muslim family living in the old section of Cairo. It is also a portrait of a country in transition. The whole family is a relic of the old Islamic society, which like the country as a whole is being forcibly dragged into the 20th century. One may argue, however, about the extent of influence on middle-class Islamic families, and, as in this case, the influence on the family of Ahmad Abd al-Jawad. The isolation of this particular family from the Western culture evolves from the differences in personalities, religious beliefs and customs, political and economic circumstances between them.Much of the novel is concerned with the manner in which Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, the head of the household, well-respected and likable outside the home, conducts his affairs, both in the home and outside it. He, an aggressive, controlling father, allows no challenge to his authority or any bending of the strict rules of Islam and society, and practically dominates the family. In his treatment of the members of the household, Abd al-Jawad displays an inflexible cast of mind that most Western people have come to consider characteristic of Islam and Muslims. The father permits himself any level of excess. He is prone to drunken partying and carries on with cabaret girls. He is also more concerned with his reputation in the city than he is with the well-being of his family. Abd al-Jawad seemed to be almost terrorizing and threatening in his warning to his wife when she tried to object to his numerous nights out: "I'm a man. I'm the one who commands and forbids. I will not accept any criticism of my behavior. All I ask of you is to obey me. Don't force me to discipline you." Abd al-Jawad communicated to his children in the same way as in the case with his wife. He would check if his son, Kamal, has washed his hands, and "if Kamal answered in the affirmative, he would order him, 'Show me!' Terrified, the boy would spread his palms out," but, "instead of commending him for cleanliness, the father would threaten him." The author presents Ahmad Abd al-Jawad as a strict, unsmiling traditionalist, known for his anger and his devotion to the teachings of the Qur'an inside of his own home. Outside of the family, however, he is a much-loved storekeeper who spends his evenings pursuing women, drinks, and laughter: "The truth was that he was dreaded and feared only in his own family. With everyone else - friends, acquaintances, and customers - he was a different person." While the entire family...

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