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“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini


During the course of the recent decade, it used to be particularly fashionable among political scientists to discuss the present confrontation between the supposedly Christian West and Muslim Middle East/South in terms of ‘clash of civilizations’.

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Nevertheless, as time goes by, more and more people in Western countries come to the realization of a simple fact that the framework ‘civilization vs. tribally-religious barbarianism’ is much more applicable, within the context of discussing this topic. The reason for this is simple – the continuous post-industrialization and secularization of Western societies results in these societies’ members growing to be able to rightly identify one’s strong sense of religiosity as the ultimate proof of such individual’s endowment with a primitive, rurally-based mentality.

In its turn, this explains why the strength of people’s beliefs in God is being counter-exponential to the quality of their living standards – in poor agricultural countries, citizens’ well-being depends almost exclusively on good weather, and the less there is good weather (the poorer are the people), the harder they try to appease God/Gods by following a variety of ‘divine’ but utterly meaningless ‘commandments’.

The reading of Khaled Hosseini’s novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, substantiates the validity of our introductory statement perfectly well because, in this novel, the author had succeeded in exposing the very concept of religion (in this particular case, Islam) as deriving out of people’s existential/anthropological primitivism. Thus, there can be very little doubt as to essentially anti-Islamic sounding of A Thousand Splendid Suns. In our paper, we will aim to explore this thesis even further.

Main part

The reason why today’s Islam is being commonly referred to as ‘alive religion’ (as opposed to the ‘dead religion’ of Christianity), is that Arabic oecumena has never been a part of Roman Empire. As it has been rightly noted in Mansoor Moaddel’s article The Study of Islamic Culture and Politics: An Overview and Assessment: “While Christianity was forced to recognize the authority of Roman law, in Islam, in contrast, there is no such recognition, hence, no legislative function.

And without legislative function, there is no need for legislative institutions nor for any principle of representation” (364). Islam is essentially the religion of rural-dwellers, who were never forced to suppress their animalistic urges in accordance with secular law. For anybody to gain insight into the essence of socio-political realities in Islamic societies, one would simply have to observe the pack of primates for a while – in the ‘society of apes’, physically strong alpha males do not simply go about ensuring their undisputed dominance over females and fighting off the potential rivals, as their full-time occupation, but they also go about ‘strengthening’ such their dominance by subjecting females to a variety of physical and sexual abuses.

Thus, the fact that the character of Rasheed from Hosseini’s novel is being represented to readers as simultaneously both: highly religious and savagely behaving individual, makes perfectly good sense – such Rasheed’s psychological traits cannot be discussed outside of his anthropological atavism: “In the mirror, Mariam had her first glimpse of Rasheed: the big, square, ruddy face; the hooked nose; the flushed cheeks…the watery, bloodshot eyes; the crowded teeth, the front two pushed together like a gabled roof; the impossibly low hairline, barely two finger widths above the bushy eyebrows…” (Hosseini 32).

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Apparently, while working on his novel, Hosseini remained well aware of the methodology of Positive Criminology, as his physical description of Rasheed points out to this character as being nothing but ‘born criminal’, as defined by Cesare Lombroso in his book Criminal Man: “Many of the characteristics of primitive man are also commonly found in the born criminal, including low, sloping foreheads, overdeveloped sinuses, overdevelopment of jaws and cheekbones, prognathism, oblique and large eye sockets, dark skin” (222).

In the same book, Lombroso had observed that born-criminals are being usually instilled with a strong sense of religiosity/morals, which nevertheless does not prevent them from committing gruesome crimes – whatever the improbable it might sound. Sure enough, in A Thousand Splendid Suns, 45 years old Rasheed never ceases to give his 15 years old wife Mariam ‘lessons in morality’.

There is a memorable scene in the novel when Rasheed expresses his contempt towards men who bring their wives to his shoe-repair shop without wearing burqas: “I have customers, Mariam, men, who bring their wives to my shop. The women come uncovered; they talk to me directly, look me in the eye without shame. They wear makeup and skirts that show their knees” (41). Yet, the same ape-like guardian of Islamic morality did not think that there was anything wrong with him keeping the stockpiles of porn-magazines in his room: “Beneath the gun were several magazines with curling corners. Mariam opened one… On every page were women, beautiful women, who wore no shirts, no trousers, no socks or underpants.

They wore nothing at all” (47). In a similar manner, newly arrived Islamic immigrants to Western countries strive to convince naïve natives that they are being ’emotionally sensitive’ to such an extent that they cannot stand the sight of caricatures on Prophet Muhammad in Western newspapers. However, when it comes to setting cars on fire, looting stores, or gang-raping White women, these immigrants’ ‘emotional sensitivity’ disappears, all of a sudden.

Thus, it is not only that Hosseini’s novel features strongly defined anti-Islamic sentiment, but it also provides readers with the insight on out of where Islamic fundamentalists’ behavioral inadequateness derives. From novel’s context, it appears that Islamic fanatics’ inability to indulge in socially productive behavior is being predetermined by:

  1. particulars of their biological constitution (anthropological atavism),
  2. specifics of how their mentality addresses life’s challenges (rurally based perceptional primitivism).

When the number of Muslim immigrants in a particular Western city reaches a critical mass, it becomes only a matter of time before these cities will be turned into Third World slums. The reason for this simple – Muslim immigrants’ rural mentality is being cognitively inflexible, which is why, upon setting their foot into Western urban megalopolises, Muslim believers become preoccupied with reducing these megalopolises into nothing but huge villages, where residents ‘celebrate diversity’ by dumping garbage on their houses’ front lawns as something utterly natural. Therefore, it is not by an accident that in Hosseini’s novel, the character of Rasheed never skips an opportunity to mock the very concepts of education and progress as ‘thing in itself’.

When Rasheed’s second wife Laila had suggested that, there is nothing wrong with Kabul’s women striving to attain social prominence by becoming educated (after all, Kabul is a city), Rasheed’s response to this suggestion was rather rurally moralistic: “Spoken like the arrogant daughter of a poetry-reading university man that you are. How urbane, how Tajik, of you… Have you ever lived outside of your precious little shell in Kabul? Ever cared to visit the real Afghanistan, the south, the east, along the tribal border with Pakistan?” (219).

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Why bother with attaining education and working, if Quran clearly states that merciful Allah is totally in control of people’s fates?: “And Allah createth you, then causeth you to die, and among you is he who is brought back to the most abject stage of life” (Sura 16:70). It is only Western ‘infidels’ who need to work – faithful Islamic believers should be solely preoccupied with praying Allah – sooner or later, the ‘miracle’ will surely come.

In time free from praying, they should entertain themselves by humiliating and abusing helpless women: “If you fear highhandedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them…” (Sura 4:34), “Your women are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like…” (Sura 2:223). Or, even better – in order for a particular Muslim believer to experience a supreme amusement, while ensuring his place in Paradise, where there is plenty of wine and naked women, he should strap explosives across its chest and go about killing as many ‘infidels’ as possible: “O ye who believe! Fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him” (Sura 9:123).

Unlike Whites, who have been continuously trying to re-interpret Bible, so that ‘holy book’ would make at least some sense in their eyes, most rurally minded Muslims, like the character of Rasheed, continue to think of Quran as literally the ‘word of Allah’. This is exactly the reason why A Thousand Splendid Suns is being filled with the accounts of murder, suicide, rape, genocide, sexual abuse, molestation, etc. – all of those things that please merciful Allah the most.


The conclusion of this paper can be formulated as follows: despite the fact that A Thousand Splendid Suns does not contain any explicit bashing of Islam, Hosseini’s novel nevertheless promotes strong anti-Islamic message, as it reveals the very essence of Islam as being nothing but a religious reflection of Afghani rural-dwellers’ tribal mindedness. Therefore, it might only be the matter of time, before author will end up on Islamic fundamentalists’ ‘most wanted’ list, as it happened to Salman Rushdie.

Works cited

Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Riverhead, 2007. Print.

Lombroso, Cesare. Criminal Man. Durham: Duke University Press, (1911) 2006. Print.

Moaddel, Mansoor “The Study of Islamic Culture and Politics: An Overview and Assessment”, Annual Review of Sociology 28.3 (2002): 59-386. Print.

The Holy Quran. London: Society for Islamic Unity, 1999. Print.

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