In the book Children of Dust, Ali Eteraz goes through five tumultuous stages in life. These stages are The Promised, The American, The Fundamentalist, The Postmodern, and The Reformer. Each stage he takes on a new identity and name in order to give relevance to each stage he is going through as a way of reinventing who he is at that given time. During the first stage he is born Abir ul Islam, which means “Perfume of Islam”. As a baby his mother took him on Hajj.
As a child he grew up in a Pakistan desert village, where he was surrounded by family members and great amounts of love in a strict Muslim setting. His mother would tell lessons from the Koran and Islamic folk stories. He also received a very short and brutal education. However, this came to an end when his father received a visa to work in the United States. He and his family pack up and leave Pakistan for America. The second stage he takes on the name Amir. During this time the family moves numerous times as they constantly sought opportunities.
Eventually they settled in the Bible Belt of Alabama. It wasn’t until his entrance into high school that he decided to change his name legally. This is also a critical time for him as he begins to greatly struggle with who he is and the ideals of his parents’ fundamentalism. He also finds struggle with the growth and development of being a teenager, such as shyness and in sexual encounters. This is also the shortest stage he goes through. By stage three he is set to go off to college in Manhattan, New York.
At this time he believes he has an idea of who he is as he learns he is a descendant of Abu Bakr Siddiq, who was known as the truth-teller. Again, he changes his name to Abu Bakr Ramaq —”spark of light”. This understanding sparks his own fundamentalism. He explores his faith and begins to represent a passion he developed for Islam. During the process though he goes through confrontations of extremism and secularism. He decides to venture back to Pakistan with his mother and younger brother to the village he was born and grew up in. He finds a wife and begins to trace his lineage.
He discovers he is not who he thought he was and turns out he is descendant of a Hindu convert named Savekhi, who had also changed his name to Siddique. Shortly after this discovery he and his family is threatened by Taliban-like thugs and escorted out of the country through the assistance of his uncle. In the fourth stage he combines his given name and the name he assumed in the second stage-Amir ul Islam. He transfers to a Christian University in Atlanta, Georgia to begin studying philosophy, Islam, Postmodernism, and religion in a general sense.
He was greatly conflicted as he saw himself as Islamic, but others did not. He began to lay blame on the closed mindedness and a country that he felt failed him in Pakistan. He begins to seek revenge through postmodernism and through a great deal of sexual encounters. He also begins to take on a greater leadership role on campus for Muslims by leading Friday night prayers, giving lectures, and providing advice as needed. He becomes desperate to validate himself as Islamic, and not only convince himself of this, but everyone else as well.
Upon graduation he moves to Washington D. C. and within a few short months the terror attacks of 9/11 occur. It is in this final stage of the book that he becomes Ali Eteraz, which means “Noble Protest”. After the terrorist attacks 9/11 he stepped away from his legal work to research and form friendships online through the internet. He had an obsession to save Islam from the closed-minded fools that had taken it over. The end result is that he loses everything from his job to his wife and family.
He also completely abandoned what faith he had left and ultimately moved to Las Vegas. After a few short months in Las Vegas he begins to ponder his faith once again and begins the road to reformation. He travels to Kuwait in an attempt to convince the Arabs to be a bigger part of the reformation of Islam, and to combat the extremism that was taking place. He attempts to reinvent Islam in a good standing as a religion of equality, peace, and justice. In the end he was able to find very little success in doing so.