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Religious Themes in Khaled Hossein’s Books Essay

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Updated: Nov 22nd, 2021

  • Introduction
  • Faith and Daily living
  • Faith and character
  • Sin
  • Redemption
  • Destiny and Character
  • Forgiveness

This paper is a personal reflection on two novels “a thousand Splendid Suns” and “the Kite Runner”, both written by Khaled Hosseini. This essay is a personal appreciation of how the two novels compare. It also responds to inquiry into how a character’s faith interacts, supports or opposes the people’s culture. Further, the essay delves into and illustrates how faith impacts on the characters’ day to day living as portrayed in the books.

From reading the two novels, it occurred to me that people’s daily lives in Afghanistan or Islamic world in general are strongly influenced by their faith. In part one of “A thousand Splendid Suns” the writer focuses on Marriam the illegitimate daughter of filth rich and polygamous Jalil (Hossein, 2). Upon her mother’s death, Marriam is taken in by Jalil who later marries her off to Rasheed. All their actions, even Jalil’s not taking care of her daughter, are informed by their faith. This is very exciting when compared with life in western cultures. As an individual, I believe more in personal freedom based on self discerned and appropriated truth. The Islamic faith seems not to have this flexibility as everyone has to follow the given codes of behavior.

In the second part of “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, the writer focuses on Laila; a young lady from Rasheed’s neighborhood (Hossein, 31). Laila has a very close friend named Tariq. The two are respectable young people and observe the social teachings of their faith. This is an admirable and enviable aspect of the faith based culture of the people of Afghanistan. Unlike my neighborhoods, people do not believe in the kind of strict self respect that calls for chastity. Matters of sexuality are taken more like a language i.e. in the same way a child has to learn a language, parents do not restrict children. They are left to explore and discover their sexual identity (not necessarily gender identity) at a very young age.

In the third and fourth part, the expected happy marriage between Rasheed and Laila is shattered by her bearing a daughter. This is an interesting aspect of the culture in which the novel is set. Unlike in my culture where a child is a child; it appears Muslims value boy children more than girls. This is a faith based paradigm i.e. people believe God created things to be the way they are. They have no inkling that much of the social order in which they participate is a social construct.

It appears justice systems based on faith may not necessarily be just. The Taliban rises and ascends to power in Kabul instituting a tyrannical rule based on strict Sharia observance. Tarig returns to Kabul and meets Laila. A love affair flares between them and is revealed to Rasheed by the only son born to him by Laila. Rasheed unleashes his wrath on Laila and Marriam who comes to the help of her co-wife kills Rasheed with a shovel. Marriam is executed for killing Rasheed (Hossein, 124). This is not just in my view as I feel manslaughter is confused with murder in the faith based justice system.

In “The Kite Runner” some paradoxes leave one wondering. It is paradoxical and ironical that Baba is actually the father of Hassan. The key character suffers from guilty due to conflicting values. It is the faith that distinguishes between the races while the same faith advocates for fairness. Amir is a boy from a well to do family and he has a friend named Hassan (Hossein, 1). In their neighborhood, lives Assef, the antagonist who is portrayed as having sadistic tendencies. Assef is angry with Amir who associates with Hassan who is from an inferior race (Hossein, 19). Although Amir has a faith based justification for not intervening as it would be expected when he comes across Assef and his group raping Hassan, it still troubles him because his conscience is clear that he is wrong. He rationalizes that it does not matter given Hassan is just a Hazara; an inferior race. This is a good indicator as to how faith based values can contradict and conflict leading to much confusion and suffering within an individual.

In part three of “The Kite Runner”, Amir learns of Hassan’s son called Sohrab (Hossein, 335). He goes back to Kabul, which is under Taliban control in search of Sohrab. The Taliban rule is characterized by strict Sharia adherence. It later happens that Assef had picked Sohrab from orphanage and was using him as a dancer and for sexual molestation. Amir courageously faces Assef and is able to return with Sohrab to the USA. For me this turn of evident is a good illustration of what religious change of heart is about. It is about awakening to facts and realization of own weakness.

A number of predominant religious themes are discernible in both the Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. The theme of Sin and how to redeem oneself from sin is central in both books. The theme of justice and how one’s character determines his or her end is also well illustrated. The other theme that is well illustrated is forgiveness.

In “The Kite Runner”, major characters such as Baba and Amir are shown to have sinned or erred. Amir betrays his friend Hassan out of jealousy while Baba is shown to have engaged in illicit sexual behavior with Ali’s wife. This was a betrayal of Ali and later by not revealing the truth he is unjust towards his son Hassan. In the “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, Jalil sinned thus siring an illegitimate daughter. He further betrays the daughter by marrying her off to Rasheed. Khaled, through both Novels, portrays that sin brings punishment or regret upon the sinner.

Redemption, in both novels, comes in terms of changing heart and doing moral actions. For example, Tarig and Laila are repentant and do good acts by reviving the orphanage once they return from Pakistan. Jalil in search of redemption looks for her daughter (Marriam) and leaves her a note expressing his regret. Amir had to travel back to Afghanistan and bravely save Hassan’s son Sohrab from the hands of the Taliban diabolic Assef. In my opinion, sin and redemption as portrayed by Khaled is kind of an awakening to the first principle of morality. People should basically do good acts and avoid evil. When one has sinned, only doing good acts can redeem him or her.

Justice and destiny as embodied and defined by one’s character is another religious theme I deciphered from the two books. Taking the example of Assef, in “The Kite Runner”, from a young age he believed that people of his race were not allowed to interact with the kinds of Hassan; a Hazara. In his adulthood, he joins the Taliban and is accused of sodomizing young children like Sohrab. Character, it is clear, is highly dependent on cultural background. The culture of afghans is portrayed as hierarchical, class based. Those in the upper classes enjoy all privileges while those in the lower classes are relegated to servitude. Such like a culture leads to people taking advantage of each other. The dictates of culture renege on the personal intentions that would allow for fairness and justice. For fear of societal disapproval, Jalil does not care for his daughter and hurriedly marries her off to Rasheed.

Forgiveness as a theme also runs in both novels. In the final part of “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, Jalil’s wish to be forgiven by the daughter is expressed in a letter that Laila comes across. Rasheed is very unforgiving knows only violence as the way of dealing with his disappointment or frustrations. In “The Kite Runner”, Amir is advised by his father’s friend Rahim Khan to forgive all others and forgive himself. The kind of advice Rahim gives Amir is very sound. It is never late to start doing good acts. Forgiveness is an important aspect of living; it is an integral requirement in human interactions. Due to competing interests among human beings, stepping on each other’s toes is inevitable. Due to social interests being in conflict with personal interests, wrong doing is always a possibility. However, the wronged and those who wrong have to find a way towards forgiveness. The wrong doer has to forgive self and forgive others who might have misled him or her. The wronged one also has to forgive self in as he forgives others. I am personally persuaded by the idea that forgiveness is what augments the possibility for redemption

Works Cited

Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. Indonesia: Qanita, 2007

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Indonesia: Qanita, 2008

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