Book Reviews

Here you will find all the book reviews that I have done on this blog so that its easy to find, and all in once place.

Hope you enjoy! Please feel free to add your own comments and opinions about the books. 

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Book Discussion: Noble Brother

Knowledge is a fundamental part of Islam and indeed of humanity as a whole, but the reason that I say it's particularly a fundamental part of Islam is because Islam basically began with knowledge. Most of us know that the first words uttered by the angel Jibraeel (Gabriel) to our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was "Read!". And the Prophet (PBUH) urged all Muslims, both male and female to seek beneficial knowledge "from the cradle to the grave". 

I find it strange that so many people readily admit that they do not read! Maybe this is because I grew up loving reading, my father has always loved books and has always read a variety of different books, so I grew up reading all sorts of things, and having books in our home was a norm. Till now, even though you can read so many different things on the Internet, I still have to admit that I love books in the old fashioned way, with its shiny new covers and interesting pictures. I love to see how the cover represents what's inside the book, basically I prefer having an actual book in front of me and its very sad that reading books is something that people are doing less and less. 

The latest book that I am reading is a beautiful and different one. I somehow came across the write-up about it (on the Internet, as you'd all agree Internet reading is simply unavoidable, especially when you're a blogger so I say its best to have both). Anyway, this book sounded interesting. The first thing I read about it was that it tells the story of the life of the Prophet (PBUH) completely in poetry. That was enough to get me intrigued. 

So Alhamdullillah I managed to get a copy of the book and I have to tell you that it lives up to its reviews. It's simply heartfelt, honest and true but told in a way that almost forces you to love the amazing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). I love the cover of this book also, it takes me back to earlier times, and it's just eloquent, and in this case, the cover truly depicts what's inside the book, so yeah, this is a book you can judge by the cover!

So here's a link to the book for any of you who might be interested, and if you do get to read it or already have, please share your thoughts. 

But the other thing I'd like to hear about is what books are other people reading. So please feel free to share, tell us what's the last book you've read and whether its worth reading, or share any thoughts on the topic. A friend of mine used to run a book club and I think this idea is so great and a while back I considered having a cyber book club, but that never happened, I do still think it's a nice idea though, its always good to discuss important topics and people all come with their own perspectives. 

Anyway, I'm off to read some more of "Noble Brother" now, I know I'm going to enjoy it and I hope that you all enjoy your reading too! 


I just finished read a book called “Roots” written by Alex Haley (the author of the Autobiography of Malcolm X). It's an old book, published in 1976. This book tells the story about an African man who was captured in his native village in West Africa and sold into slavery in America. It’s a distressing book because it focuses on the atrociousness of slavery, but at the same time, it’s a book which makes you realize the importance of knowing where you come from, and where your family comes from. A person’s roots plays a huge role in the development of their own identity, and this is one of the important lessons of this book.

There are actually so many important insights from this book and that’s why I decided to write about it here:

-          Firstly, in my previous post I wrote briefly about how people don’t have any value for others. Well, if I thought I knew what I was talking about then that’s nothing compared to the sufferings that people had to endure in the time of slavery. People were stolen away from their families, their lives and their culture and treated worse than animals. This is such a deep issue, the systematic and continuous devaluing of people’s lives was so intense that I could probably go on about it forever, but all I will say is that it was purely evil.

-          Secondly, the native people of different lands, were people with a culture, value system, social and religious system, and all this was replaced through oppressive regimes such as slavery and later on colonialism and imperialism. Now as a result, we have meagre traces of those rich cultures which once existed as most people are forced to “assimilate” within a Euro-American culture which is pale in comparison to the native cultures.

-          As a result so many of us do not know our own family roots and obviously this means that we cannot form solid identities and that’s why most people seem to be always in search of something.

-          Even in today’s times, people who attempt to hold on to their cultures and roots are regarded as people who are “backwards”. A “civilized nation” has somehow come to represent people who speak English, who live in cities, who work in office buildings and who basically have no connection with nature, except of course for the occasional spectator role we tend to take on. Yet the people who are regarded as “uncivilized” have this deep connection with nature. They can tell their way by the use of stars and the sun and moon (they don’t need any modern day navigation devices). They can determine things by focusing on the animals. They understand the language of nature and their communication is intricate and advanced, but still they will be regarded in all the negative terms because they don’t fit dominant ideas of civilization.

-          Finally, modern day slavery still exists, it’s all around us, it’s just that it’s disguised and made to look glamorous. Think about the soccer players who get traded and sold at will. Yes surely they get paid a lot to do what they do, but are they really “free”? What about the models or actresses who cannot afford to even eat things that they would like to, who have to look a and dress a certain way all the time, are they completely “free”? And what about the rest of us who find ourselves stuck within a system that determines what time we have to go to work, which days we have to work, how we live, how we dress (that is if we care about following fashion), how we speak, what we buy, what we watch and so on, can we say that we are really free? Or are the people who live in villages and work each day without having to worry about paying off debts or meeting deadlines or buying the latest things, actually the ones who are “free”?
- Sadly, you can easily see how events of the past have shaped the world today. So many things of today can be explained easily if we turn to the past, so the actions of our ancestors actually impacts on us directly and although many of us might regard history as something very boring, it is in effect an important key that opens so many doors of understanding.

Besides these issues, I think the thing that stuck with me from the book is that In order to understand where we are going; we need to know where we came from, this statement is made so much more profound after reading “Roots”.

So yes, I guess that even though it was distressing to read this book, and some parts really left me feeling so despondent about human beings that I was filled with anger, nonetheless, the lessons I’ve learnt are crucial and I hope that I am able to hold on to some of them.
The thing that I needed to focus on throughout the book is that Allah sees everything and although it may seem as if things have gone unseen, in fact Allah has only given people some time before they have to reckon for their deeds. In truth Allah Almighty sees and hears everything and nothing has gone unseen.

And Allah is the Knower of all things, the Greatest. Glory be to Allah !

May Allah help us all to leave behind us goodness wherever we go, and may Allah help us never to harm another person in any way at all.  
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The Killing of the Imam

I just completed reading a book called ‘The Killing of the Imam’ which chronicles the life of a South African Imam, by the name of Abdullah Haron who was killed in prison by the apartheid police in 1969. The book was initially published in 1978, but was banned in South Africa and it has recently been reprinted. I won’t speak about how horrendous apartheid was, we all know about that already, and the Imam’s story is not very different from many others. He was held in detention by the then security police, for 131 days in which he was relentlessly questioned, left in solitary confinement and eventually physically beaten to such an extent that he passed away because of his injuries. All through this he did not give up the people he was working with and insisted on not giving the police any names. Today he goes down as a struggle hero, and his story has been a motivation and inspiration to many. 

While reading this book I naturally contemplated on some things. Firstly, we will never know what the capture and the death of the Imam did to his family. Years later the effects of this event is still dominant in their lives. This illustrates how every action has a ripple effect, whether positive or negative and most times people don’t even consider the consequences of their actions and who it will affect.

Secondly, the claim of superiority by any person or group of person’s always needs to be looked on with scepticism because those who are truly superior will never show their superiority; in fact they will not even believe that they are superior. The example of our beloved messenger, Muhammad (pbuh) comes to mind once again. There can be no person who is more superior than Muhammad (pbuh), no King, no Prince, and definitely no President. Allah Almighty himself has asserted the superiority of Muhammad (pbuh). Yet this Blessed man never once believed that he was superior nor did he behave in a superior manner at any point. On the contrary he insisted on remaining humble, a slave of Allah who slept on the floor, ate on the floor, stayed hungry for days and gave to others before even thinking of himself. What a perfect example this is for us all. Through humility everyone benefits and everyone is treated with respect, and through pride and arrogance the opposite occurs. 

These were important reflections, no doubt, but it was the Imam’s assertiveness that his fight against apartheid, (which he regarded as a fight for the people) was the right thing to do as Muslim, that really stood out for me. It was related that Imam Abdullah emphasized the social responsibility of Muslims, how we are supposed to care about others, see to those in need and stand up for the oppressed. He provided charity and assistance to families of those who were convicted and called “terrorists” simply because they dared to stand up against the oppressive white apartheid government. He did this with full knowledge that he himself might be implicated and regarded as assisting “terrorists”; and this is exactly what had happened. When he was arrested his charity work was questioned, his motivation for freedom and equality was questioned, and basically his humanitarian efforts were regarded as “terrorist activity”. But he stood firm, because he believed that as an Imam his duty to the people extended far beyond the minbar (pulpit) and the Friday sermon. Many hailed him as a martyr when he was killed, Allah knows best about everything, but I can definitely look upon this man as a role model for us all. 

And then I can’t help but feel saddened by our generation. We have a rich legacy, but we don’t even have knowledge about this legacy. What would people like Imam Abdullah say to us today? How would he feel about our level of apathy and selfishness? I feel like we have been deprived- we do not know the importance of many things, including other people because our lives are mainly virtual and this means that we are mainly individualistic. We have everything in terms of material things, but we have very little in terms of human morals and values!

Here in South Africa the new generation has been given freedom on a golden platter. We have fooled ourselves into believing that the struggle is over! Yes, apartheid may be over, but the struggle is far from over!  Just the other day a horrible rape of a young 17-year-old schoolgirl occurred here in our country! Not to mention the many more rapes which were reported on subsequent to that. We are losing our youth to drugs and crime. Our streets are filled with beggars, education is dismal- children are in Grade 7 but they cannot read and the literacy rate of the country is so poor it’s embarrassing. These are only but a few of the many struggles we have to deal with.

 How can anyone say that the struggle is over when we have so many battles on our very doorstep? How can we continue to live in our comfort zones when the world is going mad around us? Where’s our sense of caring, our sense of social responsibility? If only we had the outlook and conviction of people like Imam Abdullah Haron, perhaps our country would be better and perhaps we would be able to leave behind our own legacy which could one day be admired and followed by others.  

May Almighty Allah help us all to do what pleases Him, to care about others to the point that we will protect them no matter what, to be a benefit to those around us (because obviously we cannot help everyone). May Allah help us to become aware and awake to the things that really matter so that we too can become people of substance and honour! Inshaa-Allah Ameen

Book Image from here
To read more about Imam Abdullah Haron you can also visit:

Book Review: Sandcastles & Snowmen by Sahar el-Nadi

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the title. Sandcastles & Snowmen is an intriguing title and it’s almost as if it immediately invites the reader into a world of adventure. True to the title, the book did provide an interesting journey of discovery and even rediscovery, highlighting the fact that there are many different perspectives in the world, all worth learning and understanding.  

As a workshop facilitator and psychologist I would like to regard this book as a manual of sorts, something that I am sure will prove to be an important reference guide which I can refer to over again, for self-development as well as to assist other people with their own self development.

As a Muslim woman and researcher of issues relating to Muslim women, this book has personal significance and it sheds light on issues that are universal and applicable to Muslim women in diverse settings.

Yet the book is so much more than what it initially seems to be. Although written by a Muslim woman, it does not exclusively focus on issues relating to Muslims. Instead it offers information on a variety of topics, and helps the reader understand Islam as a whole system, and it does this in the most refreshing of ways.

The topics of discussion range from spiritual intelligence, the basics of Islam, ethics and morality to politics, trade and business and science, to arts and culture, and of course gender relations. Each chapter is written in a way that draws the reader in, making you want to read more.

Not only are the topics extremely well researched, but the author has somehow managed to bring it back to the average person’s everyday life experience in a manner that is practical and applicable to modern day times. After reading this book, no one can make the claim that Islam is a religion stuck in ancient times and that it does not relate to modern day people or societies.

The thing that stood out the most for me however, was Sahar el-Nadi’s insistence on unity. Not only did she consistently come back to the idea of all human beings as a unified race, as descendants of the same ancestors (i.e. Adam and Eve- may Allah’s peace be on them), but she focused on the unity of people and other creatures, and the unity of people and the environment. Moreover, she managed to eloquently present Islam as a unified and holistic system. A system which fits the natural inclinations of mankind, leaving the reader to think that if Islam is adopted and practised correctly then the end result can only be complete unity and of course peace would be the resultant effect.

To call this book inspiring would be doing an injustice to it, and I think that it was the appeal not only made to the readers emotions, but their intellect as well that provided the impetus for me to want to be a better person. That Islam appeals to people as whole beings to make use of their various talents, to research, study and learn, and mostly to ask about things that are uncertain was enlightening and a great reminder to me that as a Muslim it is my duty to be the best that I can be.

I have to admit that I felt sad when I read through the rich historical accounts detailing remarkable achievements by Muslims. Sad, that Muslims today have divorced what they call “secular education” from “religious education”. I particularly enjoyed how the author revered knowledge and how she emphasised that Muslims should have knowledge in all fields and that in fact our love for the Quraan in itself should naturally incline us towards gaining knowledge in all fields. Perhaps in keeping with the theme of unity, this highlights the need for unity in knowledge as well. Knowledge in all areas of life is important for us to excel, not only as Muslims but as human beings. The author’s insistence that knowledge and good education is the key to many of the world’s problems today is something that vividly stands out for me.

At the same time, I was pleased that she did not leave out the causes of some of the problems we are faced with today, and the roots of the inferior education systems and some of the warped ideas that have become popular.

This book illustrates perfectly that values such as love, peace, caring for others, respect and tolerance is something that all human beings have in common, something that can connect us as fellow humans. In an atmosphere filled with negativity and division, it is refreshing to read a book which focuses on so many ways in which the people of the world can find common ground. Sahar el-Nadi gives credibility to her ideas because she actually lives and practices what she speaks about, emphasizing that her discussions are not merely idealistic discourses.

I cannot classify exactly what type of a book this is, but I think that’s a good thing. In keeping with its ever so dominant theme of unity, this book unites genres so it is all at once a book on spirituality and religion, self-discovery and motivational, a history book, a book on politics, science, art and culture.

The journey that Sandcastles & Snowmen takes you on is definitely a worthwhile one and I would recommend this book to anyone.

Book Review- ‘Reclaim your heart’, by Yasmin Mogahed

It is said that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I have found a book which is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. The yellow autumn leaves and the sun shining through reminding us that through the changes of life, through happiness, grief, loss and even in death, there is hope shining through, that hope is the connection to the One Creator, that hope is undeniable and for me this book echoes this above anything else.

What was deceiving however, was the fact that it looks like a book that you can read very quickly. A thin book of 168 pages shouldn’t take that long to read, this was my initial thoughts. Yet I was wrong in this regard, because the topics of discussion and the way in which it is discussed is so intense that it requires reflection and contemplation, thus taking me much longer to finish the book.

The book in a way promises the reader a journey of enlightenment, where the heart will be set free from the shackles of life, and it has indeed kept its promise. The only thing left to do is to implement the wonderful principles mentioned here in.

I particularly enjoyed the style of writing. It’s the type of writing that does not confuse the reader, nor do the words get lost. Instead, it’s written in a straightforward and conversational manner, easy for anyone to grasp. It begins with discussing the attachments or rather false attachments that we so easily form and it tells you how to go about forming a real and everlasting attachment with Allah (exalted is He). Similarly, the reality of issues such as Love or Hardships or even our relationship with the Creator is discussed in a manner which allows the reader to reflect on what the reality is, as opposed to all the false illusion in our lives. The book ends off beautifully with poetry, but it is not just any poetry, it is poetry which speaks of true connection to the Lord, connection as a spiritual being, and this in itself is extremely moving.

The words in this book are not meagre words, they are words that have the ability to elicit tears, tears which come from knowing and recognizing the truth and then attempting to find this truth within yourself. Each time I picked up this book to read, I looked forward to crying as much as I did to reading, because the words, coupled with tears led to some sort of real understanding of my true purpose as a human being in this temporary world.

As humans we have many questions, and I believe that this book provides the answers to most of those questions. If you are not willing to face the truth though, and if you are reluctant to introspect and work through the illusion in your own life, then this book will not be of benefit to you.

I commend Yasmin Mogahed for writing a book which is a real treasure. In the book she urges people to ‘Reclaim their hearts’, to move it away from everything that is false and direct it towards that which is real. This book is an eye opener and a reminder at the same time, and it speaks more to the heart than anything else. It’s taken me a while to read, but I hope that this means I have been able to implement these lessons in my life, and moreover, I hope that I can continue to work on reclaiming my heart, because one day I will have to return ‘home’ to a place better than this earth as Sister Yasmin reminds us, and I truly wish that my return home will be a joyous one, In sha Allah! 


To read more from Yasmin Mogahed's check out her website:


Book Review- The Imam and his Diary

 There’s two types of heroes in life, the heroes who have somehow been catapulted into the limelight, thus amassing fame and fortune, and then you get the ‘unsung heroes’. Those who silently go about making a difference in the world, changing lives and inevitably the course of history, without even expecting to be recognized. For me, this latter group of heroes are more important, because without these silent heroes, societies would not be able to survive and thrive. Yet these are the very heroes who are often not given enough credit and easily overlooked, though they work tirelessly and effortlessly.

I think it is for this reason that I enjoyed reading this book, because it manages to shed light on one such hero, through the analysis and in-depth discussion of a personal diary. The book’s main focus is on the diary of Imām Muhammad Sālih Saban who served as the Imam of Simonstown (a small Town in Cape Town, South Africa) during the years 1904-1928.

In my opinion. the keeping of an in-depth diary by a local Imam at that time was something remarkable in itself, and as the book points out so well, this diary is not just a personal account of an Imam’s life, but instead, it can be regarded as a historical artefact, so brilliantly shedding light on what life really was like in the Simonstown and extended to the Cape Town Muslim community at that time. It is not often that history is told from such a perspective, and as the author illustrates, this diary helps to fill some gaps and holes in the common accounts of history, accounts which are almost always Eurocentric and biased.

I learnt so much about what the Muslim community was like in Simonstown at the time of Imam Saban and through his own words, coupled with the author’s discussion I could create a vivid image of life at that time, which is a wonderful thing in its own. It also helped me to understand and contextualize some of the social issues that we are experiencing today in the South African Muslim community.

I enjoyed reading direct excerpts of the Imam’s diary, even though the English was confusing at times. I think it was the realness of his words which was able to bring everything home for me, emphasizing that Imam Saban was an integral part of his community. It was great to read accounts from an “insider”, and this approach was refreshing as opposed to the “outsider” views that we are so accustomed to reading. Here was a member of the community, who lived and served his community, and getting insight into his diary was a rare privilege, one that I feel so happy to have received.

Another thing that’s so crucial about this book is that, as the author points out, this account is given by someone from the so-called “underclass” during the Colonial period in South Africa. This book reminds us that people from so-called lower classes play just an important role in a society as the so-called upper classes do. Basically through Imam Saban’s diary and this book, a voice has been given to people who would otherwise have been passed by as unimportant. That all people who live in a society inevitably shape that society, is something that is emphasized in this book. It’s also very interesting to read about how members of different cultural groups were able to live together and form some sort of reciprocal relationship. I think there are many lessons that we can learn from this and perhaps if we applied some of these lessons to our present day societies then we would be able to thrive as one society with people from different cultural groups.

One issue that may arise for diverse readers however is the very local flavour of the book. People from different backgrounds may initially find it difficult to relate to the mention of local customs and practices such as rampies sny, ratiep or tamatt for instance. However, these practices are nicely explained and contextualized within Cape Malay Muslim society, so readers should be able to adjust to this without hassle.

I was introduced to this book by a good friend of mine who happens to have the privilege of being a relative of Imam Saban. Shortly thereafter, I was glad to see the book being sold in a bookstore in Johannesburg because although I am not from Cape Town, I hold the belief that the history of Cape Muslims is or should be central to all South African Muslims, because this history speaks to all of us and has helped to shape present day history in all parts of South Africa. Hence, this book is a puzzle piece in the larger puzzle which makes up Muslim society in South Africa as a country. 

Images from here 

Watch a short video about the book here

Book Review- “Normal Calm” by Hend Hegazi

This book tells the story of Amina, a young Arab-American woman. Amina is ambitious and hardworking and leaves home to study at one of the best universities in America. Very early on in the book she is raped by one of her college friends and this sets the scene for the rest of the book. Not only does Amina have to deal with the ordeal of her rape, but she also has to live through the after effects, the biggest one being how her rape has affected her marriage prospects.

The author delves into the usual stigmas associated with rape and focuses on how this is interpreted and understood in the Arab American community. It was also interesting to be given some insight into how Amina’s rape affected her parents.

One thing I really liked about the book is how the author attempts to shed light on the other perspective by occasionally shifting the spotlight onto the thoughts of the other characters. She also briefly touches on the feelings of the rapist, after he had committed this heinous act. Although this focus was very brief, it nonetheless provided an opportunity for the reader to try to understand the thoughts and reactions of an attacker, something that most of us are not very willing to do.

The relationship that was the most emotional for me was the friendship between Amina, and her non-Muslim best friend Kayla. Although Amina has a close knit group of college friends, it is Kayla, her childhood best friend that she turns to in all her times of need. The respect and support the two women give each other and the love they share for one another reminds us that as human beings we have the ability to connect to each other, despite cultural and religious differences. This relationship in the book also brings about opportunity for religious dialogue, which is included in a coherent and natural way.

Amina’s relationship with her parents however is also a very interesting one. For me there was a shift or growth in their relationship from the beginning of the book until the end. For some people, Amina’s parents may be perceived as unnecessarily overprotective, however, it is slowly revealed how their protectiveness stems from their deep love for their only daughter. At times her parents reactions to her may seem harsh and unemotional, but as the book progresses it can be seen how her parents act according to what they think is in her best interest and finally towards the end we begin to understand their strong love.

Issues relating to love and marriage are of course the most vivid in the book, and while these issues are usually selling points, the context of Amina’s rape provides an even more interesting discussion. The age old debate of passionate love versus a mutual respect and understanding is brought to the fore as Amina grapples with trying to find the most suitable spouse for her.  

I experienced Amina to be a practical and level-headed character, who always looked for positivity, even when faced with the most difficult of trials. It was her honesty and insistence on holding on to her values that made her a strong character, someone who could easily be called a role-model.

The book was generally an interesting read, which shed light on cultural understandings of issues which are pertinent to all people. In my opinion it has opened up the dialogue on issues that are often swept under the carpet in Muslim societies. I would say that the educational value of this book supersedes the entertainment value, and I would therefore describe it as a book with vision and purpose. 

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Read more from the author:

Book Review- “How to be a Happy Muslim- Insha’Allah”

When reading this book I couldn’t help but approach it from two different perspectives. Firstly, as a counsellor myself I automatically tended to read the book from the perspective of a counsellor. From this viewpoint I can sum this book up as an extremely valuable resource. It is definitely a book that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to all my clients. Throughout the book I felt almost as if the author was echoing my own thoughts and speaking my own mind.

What I found the most useful was that the book was written in such a simple and practical manner, there is no room for confusion or misunderstanding. The advice's are so clear and to the point that anyone can read it and implement the skills and lessons brought about, and further useful links to websites, videos and other resources are provided so that the experience of implementing change doesn't have to end with this book. Which brings me to the thing I loved the most about this book. The author takes an active stance instead of a passive/victim one and she encourages everyone to take control of their own lives and their own feelings. Instead of waiting for someone else to do something, she shows people how they need to do something themselves to become happy and she gives them the basic tools with which to do this. If anything, the thing that should be taken away from this book is that happiness (in terms of contentment and inner peace) is not something which only a few people can achieve, it is something attainable for everyone, but it involves some sort of action to be taken in order to maintain it.

In addition, the approach the book takes is holistic and it focuses on all aspects of human functioning and combines the different levels of functioning to show that happiness is a holistic thing in itself. In doing this, it highlights the need for us to view our lives holistically and from there to make the necessary changes on a more meaningful level.

My second approach to reading this book was from a personal level, with the constant awareness that this book applies to me as much as it does to any other person. On this level too, I was not disappointed. With every topic I found myself easily able to apply this to my own life. The thing that stood out for me personally was the discussion on gratitude and focusing on the positive in our lives over the negative. I can vouch that becoming more grateful leads to feelings of contentment and peace and the tools provided in the book to become more grateful and positive was very helpful in emphasizing this. I also found the Happiness Reflections and Happiness Hints to be very beneficial in bringing the topics back to my own life, thereby making the reading of this book a personal experience of reflection and self-understanding.

People often ask me the question, “but how can I become happy?” While reading this book I felt like I was getting a very in-depth answer to that question and I think that the next time I get asked this question, my answer should simply be to recommend them to read How to be a Happy Muslim-Insha’Allah. It is indeed a book which provides solutions to issues that many people are attempting to deal with and I am certain that many others will find it as helpful as I have, Insha’Allah. 

Image from here

You can read more on the author's website here

Book Review- Brick Walls

I began reading this book with the intention of reading it casually over some time, but this was not to be. I was immediately hooked at the first story already, and subsequent stories easily managed to maintain my interest, keeping me intrigued and unable to wait to read more.

The book is a collection of short fictional stories set in Pakistan. Each story documents a different sort of struggle, but with the struggle comes perseverance, endurance and eventual triumph. I have always had a strong belief that important social and political issues can be conveyed effectively through literature, and Saadia Faruqi proves this belief to be right in ‘Brick Walls’. Through the stories in this book, the social, political and economic climate of Pakistan is vividly portrayed giving the reader a much deeper understanding and awareness of the dynamics that are present in a country like Pakistan.

The main characters in each story are multi-dimensional and I enjoyed how their emotions and conflicts were explored. It reminded me of the intensity that is the human experience.

Coming from a developing country myself, I could identify with the central themes of poverty and inequality, crime and corruption and abuse of power. The thing that stood out for me though, was that social, economic and even political barriers cannot hold back the human spirit.  Faruqi managed to show that things like morality, kindness, selflessness, ambition and perseverance are not restricted to those who are in power, and thus although the world is rife with inequalities, the odds can be beaten and overcome. I particularly like how she portrayed this in a story entitled ‘Making the Team’ about a little girl who desperately wants to play cricket with the boys in her community. This story was one of my favourites because it manages to successfully focus on power roles and bias in a non-conventional manner.

What was evident throughout the book were the themes of love and hope. The author seems to have a deep love and identification to Pakistan and the hope that she has for the people of this country is clear. Hope prevails in each story, and the potential for change and growth is a constant reminder. After reading this book, I have being made to understand Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in a different manner. There may be many issues to deal with in this country (as is the case in all countries), but as long as there are people who are willing to make a difference, no matter how small, the hope for a better future will continue to prevail.

In the end I am left with the distinct feeling that it is those people who work silently in the shadows to give of themselves, their wealth and their time to bring about positive change, who are the real heroes and role models of the world. Saadia Faruqi has illustrated this beautifully in this gripping collection of short stories.

Image from here 

Read more about the author and her work here  -

Get a sneak peek of the book here


Book Review- Best of Creation by Abu Muawiyah Ismail Kamdar

To be honest I have generally come to regard self-help books with some pessimism, mainly because a common trend is the focus on unlimited power of the individual. Frankly, some of these books put forth assertions that are just way off the mark, and people may easily find themselves in deeper despondency in their attempt to follow what these books put forth. Also, my work as a counsellor has shown me that many popular trends are attempted by people, but there is no sustainability and people often find themselves back where they began, thereby rendering self-help books to be not very helpful at all.

This is why “Best of Creation” by Abu Muawiyah Ismail Kamdar is such a refreshing read. It goes to the core of things by firstly establishing the importance of realising our reason for existence. Once this is discussed, the book moves on to focus on how we can become confident individuals and what is stopping us from reaching our potential. The entire book works within the framework of our lives as the Creation of Almighty Allah, and it is within this context that we are encouraged to find our potential and become self-confident and productive individuals. I think this understanding is crucial for us to find the balance between self-confidence and arrogance, and this is a point that is brilliantly covered within the book. In fact, the author takes the time to explain the difference between self-confidence and arrogance so that people are able to embrace confidence as an essential part of living a meaningful life.

At the same time though, the individual is not ignored. On the contrary, individual differences are embraced and encouraged and the author makes it a point to show exactly how we limit ourselves when we decide to blindly follow the society in which we live. He reminds us that we all have different capabilities, interests and potential, but it is through these various differences that we can have a society that thrives.

The book is practical and puts forth easy to implement skills. Most of the chapters end with “Action Points”, which are practical suggestions for working on the issues discussed in the chapter. This is a very helpful addition as it provides the direction in which to go, it also forces people to take action and in this way it becomes easier to remember and act upon what was discussed in the book.

I found myself needing to highlight some of the sentences as it just resonated with me. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

“True Self- Confidence comes from understanding the purpose of our lives and our relationship with Allah.”  

“We must also understand that we are Allah’s creation and we are not allowed to mistreat the Creation of Allah, and that includes our own selves.”

“One of the ways that parents ruin their children’s confidence is by expecting perfection from them.”

“It is our duty as believers to never stop learning, growing and becoming better Muslims.”  

“The Self-Confidence of a believer is also free from arrogance. It is a humble acceptance that as a servant of Allah, we have great gifts that need to be used for a greater purpose. With this in mind, we develop our gifts and use them productively.”  

There are many other quotes that stood out for me, but it needs to be read within the larger context of the book in order for it to be effective. The thing I liked the most about this book is that it emphasizes that Self-Confidence is not only for some people, but everyone should be confident, because after all, we all have the responsibility to live up to the title of “The Best of Creation.”

I would recommend this book as a must-read for everyone, anyone who reads this is certain to gain some sort of benefit from it. 

Image from here 

To find out more about  the author, this book, and to purcahse it, here are some links below:



Book Review- ‘Travels in a Veil’, by April Fonti

‘Travels in a Veil’, could perhaps be described as a social anthropological study, although it does not intend to be this exactly. April Fonti writes about her travel experiences in Pakistan, Sweden and Iran. Her encounters with Muslims are described and more specifically the book centres on her experiences and observations of Muslim women and the issues faced by them. But I found that this book was not only a journey of discovery of Muslim women, but also a journey of discovery of herself and her own views regarding Muslims in general and women in specific.

Now, we all know that issues regarding Muslim women have become a very controversial and much debated discussion, and it is for this reason that I find books like these to be extremely important to read. As a Muslim woman myself I obviously have a vested interest in this topic and a need to know what is being discussed. This book has reminded me of something crucial and that is, that it is extremely dangerous to make generalizations about Muslim women. I have to admit that some of the things that April describes in her book are alien to me, which further emphasises the need for understanding, even amongst Muslims from different countries and regions. I like that April makes mention of the fact that generalizations cannot be made, and she backs up her own experiences with other studies and expert opinions, which I felt grounded the book within a broader context.  

The book is divided into 3 parts, and the chapters are named after women that April met in her travels, thus each chapter focuses on the experiences of those women.

The first part discusses April’s travels as a single woman travelling through conservative Pakistan. Here she experiences intense seclusion of Muslim women in a way that seems to really disturb her. She also experiences what it is like to transgress the social and cultural laws. Of significance is that this is the place where she meets Shaheen, an Iranian man who is someone who she initially admires for his liberal views. Shaheen is an important person in this book, not because of the relationship that develops between April and him, but because of how he allows April to come to certain conclusions about Muslims and gender issues.

The second part of the book focuses on April’s time spent living in Sweden with Shaheen, and mixing mainly with his Iranian friends. She becomes a sort of participant observer in Sweden, because as much as she is part of the Iranian Muslim community there, she still largely ends up feeling like she doesn’t exactly fit in.

The third and final part of the book I regard as a sort of re-discovery period. Here April travels alone to Iran and through Pakistan and India again, and she sees things through the eyes of someone who is older and much more experienced.

I have to admit that I liked reading the book, it was sort of like reading someone’s travel diary and it had a personal touch to it. I also like that the complexities involved in the discussion of Muslim women and liberation, freedom, seclusion and so on, was highlighted through experiences. Nonetheless, I still have some issues with this book.

My biggest issue with this book is that at times I find that April tends to judge women a bit too harshly. As much as she attempts to be open-minded and ready to empathize with the experiences of Muslim women, she still tends to view them from a Western ideological perspective. Her own ideas of empowerment and liberation still seem to take the foreground even when she makes mention of the fact that perhaps Western liberation is not such an easy answer.

I would have liked it more if she had met and observed these women without prior ideas of what it means to be a liberated and independent woman, but of course, I understand that this is not easily achievable. The reason that this is one of my biggest issues though, is that it is generally expected that everyone’s ideas of liberation and empowerment should be similar. However, studies have proved that people from different cultures have different understandings of what empowerment means. In my own Masters study conducted on the empowerment of Muslim women, I found that the Muslim women I studied generally would not be regarded as empowered in accordance with dominant empowerment theory, and the reason for this is because they see empowerment in very different terms. For instance, for the women in my study empowerment was not about individual independence but about being part of a group and giving back to the community through this group interaction.
I understand fully that April’s travels took her to particular parts of the Muslim world and she thus came to view Muslim women in a certain way. Perhaps if she had traveled to other parts and met different Muslim women then her ideas would have differed vastly. But, be that as it may, her encounters have left her with the belief that a reinterpretation of Islam is necessary in modern times. This again is a topic which has become debatable, I personally am of the opinion that Islam needs to be understood for what it really is, instead of observing Muslim practices (which most of the time are so closely linked to cultural practices that it’s hard to tell the difference between what is religious and what is cultural). I think that a true and unbiased understanding of Islam in its entirety and not the way Islam is being practiced by certain people is essential before making claims of the need to reinterpret, but this is just my opinion.

I admire April because unlike many other people, she has decided to write based on experience, but as a Muslim woman, I do not believe that the actions or reactions of the people that she encountered is representative of the real teachings of Islam. Islam emphasizes respect for women, it insists on no compulsion in religion, its rules and punishments are the same for both men and women (despite what many people practice and believe). In Islam it is not acceptable for a man to take advantage of any woman, it is not even permissible for him to touch an unrelated woman. Men are also not supposed to be mixing with women on an intimate level, and men also have a dress code. There are so many other things I can mention here, but I think it diverts from what is relevant to this book.

I will end by saying that there were certain parts of this book that left me feeling uneasy, and I couldn’t understand why it did, because after all, this is a book about someone’s experiences and it shouldn’t have to match my understanding of things, in fact, I wouldn’t learn from it if it did match my understanding. I took some time out to try and make sense of why I felt this way and I realized that it’s because for me and the women I know, Islam is about our personal religious beliefs, rather than only being a social, cultural or political system. So you will find me wearing the black abaya and not finding it stifling at all (yes even in the midst of summer), and you will find me content when I am wearing my headscarf, and you will find my friends happy to cover their faces, and many of us have made the choice to be stay at home mothers and wives without regarding ourselves as dependent, but the difference here is that we have made the choice ourselves.  I think that these choices we have made is the defining thing, perhaps if we had not made the choice ourselves then we wouldn’t be regarding these things as liberating while other Muslim women regard it as stifling or oppressive.

So again, one of the biggest things that this book has reminded me is that generalizations are extremely dangerous; just like generalizations of Muslim women are dangerous, so are generalizations of things like empowerment, liberation and independence. I’ve written this before on my blog and I will mention it now, I do not feel the need for any particular ideology to be “The Standard” by which everyone in the world lives their lives. I think that people should be allowed to make their own choices of what makes them happy, and I think that people should be allowed to define their own “Standard”.

All in all, I would recommend that you get this book and read it, look how much discussion it has generated in just one review. If anything, it is a book that brings about discussion, a book that has an intention of asking the difficult questions and a book that focuses on experiences instead of simply accepting hearsay, and for these reasons I recommend you to read it.

Read more about April and her travels here and here

Images from here  


My first opinion of this book was that it was going to focus on the typical discussions of women and shame. Set in a predominantly Muslim society, I expected something much more stereotypical and clichéd. So I was quite pleasantly surprised when the book turned out to be very different from my expectations.

Let me say at the outset that many of the cultural aspects in the book seemed foreign to me, despite me sharing the same religion as the characters. There were certain beliefs and practices in the book that would not be regarded as part of Islam for many Muslims. To give one example, the rules of Islam forbid a man to be married to two sisters at the same time. Similarly, some of the practices described with regards to illness and magic would also be frowned upon by many Muslims. Nevertheless, at the same time I do understand that this is simply just a portrayal of Islam, as observed by an individual and perhaps as it has been practised by a particular group of people. I have to at least commend the author for making an attempt to portray different angles and viewpoints. Having said that, I will now focus on what I liked about the book.

The book is set at a time in history when Bangladesh was still known as East Pakistan and when that country still didn’t gain independence, towards the late 1960s, early 1970s. The historic and political discussion which underpins the story in this book thus makes for interesting reading. I personally did not know much about the history of Bangladesh and reading this book encouraged me to research more into this. In this regard I think the author has managed to start a discussion on very crucial topics, topics that are still, if not more, relevant in today’s times.

For instance, she brings up pertinent issues of culture and language and how Colonialism affected people’s lives on these different levels. Moreover, she begs the question as to whether foreign education in developing countries actually works for the people or against them. I particularly enjoyed the intellectual debates between characters in the novel. One of the main characters Sajib, for instance puts forth the question as to whether English really is the language of progression and whether American education in East Pakistan was valuable or if it served to further strip the people from their culture. Interestingly I could relate to these discussions so easily as we are still having the same debates and discussions today, this is relevant to me as a South African as well and we often find ourselves having to grapple with issues of cultural identity in the global world.

The political angle of the book did not overshadow the narrative and because it was so naturally written as part of the main story, it was not boring at all, instead it proved to be insightful.

The most important focus of this book though was on female liberation and independence. The protagonist is a young woman named Sariyah. Sariyah has always been different to the women around her. She is a woman of spirit an adventure, always interested in pushing boundaries and obviously this doesn’t sit very well with the people in her small rural village, especially her immediate family members. Sariya is destined to meet Rodney, an American volunteer who comes to teach in her village. The relationship that develops between these two characters brings out some of the most pertinent issues in the book. This is where Russell focuses personal issues of female freedom and what liberation means to different people and I think the friendship between these two characters also gives us insight into the need to develop an understanding of other people as opposed to simply making assumptions.

All in all I found this book to be a worthwhile read. Not only was it an educational experience but the story was intriguing as well.

Image 1 from here 
Image 2 from here 

The book comes out soon, to find out more see the publishers website:

Read more of the authors work here:

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