Over The Tightrope
Over The Tightrope is the debut novel from Asif Ismael in the Humor Fiction genre. Only recommended for those with a funny bone, the author paints a comic picture of extremism in the religion of Islam.
The novel opens with protagonist Ismaeel going to a session where the attendees undergo spiritual and physical detox by ingesting the medicinal substance “ayahuasca.” Upon ingestion, Ismaeel is encountered by the prophet Khidr, who instructs him to return home to Lahore, Pakistan, for he has been chosen for a mission. Upon Ismaeel’s arrival, he receives a letter from Pir Pullsiraat, inviting him to the path of guidance.
Having severed his ties with his father when he was 18, Ismaeel returns to Pakistan in 2050, to a transformed, more radicalized country. Under the rule of the Khalifa, Pakistan is now a caliphate with shrewd concepts of Islam: where boys are given suicide vests as a birthday present, where cricket depends on the body-count of teams, and where a certain drink brings hallucinations of beautiful women for your pleasure (Hoor Afza).
After a tumultuous first day in Lahore, Ismaeel encounters Tarzan, a teenage street urchin, whose cunning ways get Ismaeel out of more than one fickle. Tarzan ultimately leads Ismaeel to the abode of Pir Pullsiraat, who then explains the purpose of Ismaeel’s mission. A land now marred by conservatives and outdated principles, Pir Pullsiraat aims aims to bring down the caliphate and save the world from a catastrophe. His father’s political influence is a key role for this mission, hence Ismaeel was chosen to infiltrate the ranks of the Khalifa. Read on as Ismaeel goes from writing a thesis on the realities of Paradise and Hell to undergoing a spiritual journey, one which clarifies his beliefs and disbeliefs.
Mr. Ismael subtly mocks the conservatives and their shallow principles, simultaneously explaining the intricate details of Islam. The novel is tinkered with hilarious encounters with fundamentalists, where, again, he points out the error in their logic. Few authors have the ability to write about religion without showing bias or infuriating its followers, but this author has done so brilliantly.