Muslim Suicide, A
by Himmich, Bensalem
Award-winning novelist Bensalem Himmich’s third novel to be translated into English is a vertiginous exploration of one of Islam’s most radical thinkers, the Sufi philosopher Ibn Sab’in. Born in Spain, he was forced to immigrate to Africa because of his controversial views. Later expelled from Egypt, Ibn Sab’in made his way to Mecca, where he spent his final years. Himmich follows the philosopher’s journey, outlining an array of characters he meets along the way who usher in debates of identity and personal responsibility through their interactions and relationships with Ibn Sab’in. Set against the backdrop of a politically charged thirteenth–century Islamic world, Himmich’s novel is a rich blend of fact and imagination that re–creates the intellectual debates of the time. As the culture of prosperity and tradition was giving way to the chaos created by political and social instability, many Arabs, as Ibn Sab’in does in the novel, turned inward toward a spiritual search for meaning. In his fictional portrait of Ibn Sab’in, Himmich succeeds in creating a character, with his many virtues and flaws, to whom all readers can relate.