“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and the Arab-Islamic world

This article is also available in: Italiano

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is an incredibly similar book to the Sufi world and to the life of Ibn ‘Arabi, able to stimulate you to embark on your Personal Legend

The Alchemist

Learn to listen to your heart: it is the teaching that comes from this spiritual and magical tale. On the border between the tale of a thousand and one nights and the sapiential apologue, “The Alchemist” is the story of an initiation. Santiago is the protagonist, a young Andalusian shepherd boy who, in search of a dreamed treasure, embarks on that adventurous journey, both real and symbolic, which beyond the Strait of Gibraltar and across the entire North African desert will take him to the Egypt of pyramids. And it will be precisely during the journey that the young man, thanks to the meeting with the old alchemist, will climb all the steps of the sapiential ladder: in his progression on the desert sand and, together, in self-knowledge, he will discover the soul of the world, love and universal language, he will learn to speak to the sun and the wind and finally fulfill his personal legend. Here, the mirage is no longer just the mythical philosopher’s stone of alchemy, but the achievement of total concordance with the world, thanks to the understanding of those “signs”, of those secrets that can only be grasped by rediscovering a universal language made of courage, trust and wisdom that men have long forgotten.

A Sufi book written by a Brazilian Christian

“A Sufi book written by a Brazilian Christian”, this is the first sentence that came to my mind when reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, a text that, in its simplicity, is able to transform the concept of “into words” destiny “, so dear to Islam and the Islamic world. It is no coincidence that one of the words most often encountered in the text is “maktub” or “it is written” in Arabic, a phrase that links every line of this work. The story of the young Santiago is in fact very similar and similar both in terms of way and way to the journey made by the Andalusian mystic Ibn ‘Arabi, masterfully told by Mohamed Hassan Alwan in “A small death”. In both the protagonist starts from Andalusia, where he has a sort of “initial enlightenment” and meets both an elderly “sorceress” and a figure similar to al Khidr, in this case called Melchizedek.

Ibn Arabi

From there both will begin a pilgrimage that will take them first to Morocco, where they will linger for some time, aiming however to reach Egypt, the destination of both, where Ibn ‘Arabi will set off definitively on his path, while Santiago will reach the fulfillment of his history. These evidences make it in many ways even more connected to the “Islamic world” than to others, appearing almost as a “simplification” of stories that actually happened.


The conception that “everything is written” and “everything happens for a reason” is something profoundly Islamic and which has its origins in the belief that God / Allah already knows everything that is, has been and will be, making sure that everything happens in the most perfect way possible. Every human being is free to do what he wants and desires, but since God knows everything, he also knows every choice that man will make next. From this point of view, it can be said that God is like someone who is reading a story of which he already knows the ending, but the protagonists do not know it, who can only trust their Supreme Author always doing their best to deserve it. grace.


In Coelho’s novel this idea and conception is extremely present and visible, so much so that it permeates every character and every event of this mystical atmosphere that often becomes the protagonist of the novel. In fact, everything happens because it is written in this way and man’s role is often that of letting himself be carried away by the magic still present in our world, entrusting himself completely to the divine without being afraid to fulfill his own “Personal Legend”. A book that really surprised me for its beauty and affinity and that I’m sure you will like it a lot too.

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