37 pages 1 hour read

Eboo Patel

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2007

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Symbols & Motifs

“Ya Ali, Ya Muhammad”

Patel’s mother teaches him her favorite Ismaili chant when he is a child, telling him that it will protect him. He learns it because it pleases her, but then it is difficult for him to forget it, given the amount of repetition. But he doesn’t think of the chant for many years, until he is in India, feeling that he is failing at Buddhist meditation. Thoughts arise, and he is unable to keep them at bay, but the chant is the thought that arises more than any other. An Ismaili chant coming to him in the midst of a Buddhist practice is a sign to Patel that he is oriented toward Islam more than Buddhism. It is also an example of religious pluralism in practice. 


Ubuntu is a word and concept that Patel hears for the first time in South Africa. It translates roughly as “people are people through other people” (115). The work of the IFYC, and of all pluralism, is to help people learn about who they are through other people. The conference in South Africa is an example of ubuntu in action, as is the works of Patel’s wife, Shehnaz, a civil rights lawyer fighting for the rights of a mosque; Brother Wayne Teasdale, who finds the positives in all religious practices; the Dalai Lama; and the faith heroes like Martin Luther King, who Patel discusses throughout the book.