It was in 2010 that we took up the project of publishing a biography of the holy prophet in verse: The Soul of the Desert by Omer O Thasneem. The poet was the working as an Assistant Professor in King Saud University. We went through the manuscript and liked the idea. There were 31 brief chapters that narrated the life of the prophet in unrhymed verse. We thought it would help young readers to easily understand and memorise main incidents in the life of the prophet.
The Soul of the Desert represents a poetic effort to capture the life of the prophet in verse. When the book was almost complete, the author sent it to world-renowned author and critic Ziauddin Sardar. Sardar's scholarly articles on the prophetic seera have been unsparing in their criticism of traditional prophetic biographies. So the author was naturally apprehensive of the likely feedback. But contrary to his expectations Sardar praised The Soul of the Desert as a book that would serve as a primer for learners of Islam. Sardar even suggested a UK publisher for the book.
Nujumuddin's design vitally added visual appeal of the book and artist Sagheer's illustrations were used in different places. The book upon publication drew raving reviews from many quarters. Susan Nathan, the reputed Israeli author described it as ethereal and magical. She however expressed strong reservations about what she perceived as an anti-Semetic reference in the context of the Khyber War. She described the introduction as "brilliant" and the verses as riveting.
According to writer Babu Baradwaj, the book was informative not only to the initiates but even to the learned ones since it contained snippets of rare information. The most recent encomium for the book came from the celebrated Malayalam writer and Vayalar Award winner KP Ramanunni. For Ramanunni, the book is like a torch held out to the benighted times in which we live.
Two chapters in the book have been included in the international anthology of poems on prophet brought out by Viva books, Delhi. The volume edited by Dr Masud Khan, former Dean of Languages, University of Aligarh contains poems by such luminaries as Goethe, Coloridge, Alaghmir Hashmi and Kamala Surayya.
The author of the book, Omer O Thasneem is currently working at the Department of English in the University of Calicut. He obtained his PhD from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT, Mumbai, and Masters in Culture and Society from London School of Economics.