Compiled by: Stephen J. McGrane
Publisher: Llumina Press
Publication Date: October 2009
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 23, 2009
With international tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds increasing on an almost daily basis, it is imperative that the two cultures understand each other. One of the best ways to truly comprehend how a people think is by studying their language, including both daily usage as well as proverbs. Enter Stephen J. McGrane, businessman and seasoned traveler to the Arab world. McGrane has compiled an extremely thorough volume of Arab proverbs that opens the eyes of Westerners to the views of Arabs. Broken down into categories from “fear” to “patience” to “marriage, love, and beauty,” to “fate and luck,” this book will teach the Westerner much about Arab culture.
Trust In God But Tie Your Camel is a very simply laid out book, with just three proverbs per page. You could easily read it in one sitting but I’d suggest taking your time, digesting the meaning of each proverb as you slowly make your way through the pages. Many of the proverbs have subtle meanings that could easily be lost with a cursory glance.
There is a Preface that notes the importance of learning about a culture through their proverbs as well as an explanation as to how the author arranged the text, noting that Western counterparts, if they exist, are included.
It is interesting to see the frequent Bible quotes that coincide with the various proverbs as it truly gives the reader insight into how various cultures share similar beliefs. For example, a proverb attributed to the prophet Mohammed states, “None of you will be considered believers if you do not love your neighbor as yourself.” Sound familiar? It should if you’ve read Leviticus 19:18 (the New King James version of the Bible), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
As mentioned above, many Arab proverbs have a Western equivalent and McGrane points them out whenever possible. “A thousand curses do not tear a robe,” may not at first sound familiar until you read the Western version, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Of course, some proverbs have no direct link to the Western world and may leave the reader stumped. “The camel limped from its split lip,” offers no immediate clue as it its meaning but McGrane provides a Western translation “A bad workman blames his tools,” which elicits an immediate “oh, yes, I get it,” from the reader.
Quill says: Trust In God But Tie Your Camel should be required reading for anybody who wishes to understand how the Islamic world thinks.
For more information on Trust In God But Tie Your Camel: and Other Arab Proverbs, please visit the book's website at Llumina Press.