Book Reviews

Minaret by Leila Aboulela


When I was leaving for Ukraine I couldn’t decide which books to pack along. I don’t why of all the unread books I picked Minaret by Leila Aboulela. Not only that, I decided to read it on the flight even though I had Jodi Picoult but I still started this one. Anyway, I was reading tonight and I found this part quite, I don’t know how to put it, touching I guess? Not the beautiful kind.. the raw, sad reality kind. It just hit me somewhere and I couldn’t help but share. Here have a read:

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16 thoughts on “Minaret by Leila Aboulela

  1. Hmmmm… Makes me curious where she ended up going with that. Do you like the book? I’m always on the hunt for a book that can take me away from reality for a bit. It is quite a challenge and I finally managed it recently. I found the secret in the library with DUE DATES for return. I was once an avid reader and could get completely lost in a good book. Now it takes a deadline to force me to keep picking it up. I am happy to say that I was finally able stay focused and finish a book for the first time in the few years since my world fell apart. When I read about the new book by Khaled Hosseini (And the Mountains Echoed) I remembered how his other books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, kept my eyes glued to the pages and, although I cried my eyes out reading those books, I had hoped for the same with this new one. It fell a bit short in comparison to The Kite Runner but, with the combination of my love for his past writing and the deadline put on me I did it! Do you think I should I check my local library for this one?

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    • I feel your pain girl! I myself had to work through a ‘reader’s block’ ever since I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire series.

      I am liking Minaret so far. In fact, I absolutely love it but that’s because I connect and understand the journey of the protagonist. I am not sure if you will or if you are very religious. But since you asked t I’d recommend you The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti. It will keep you glued even without the deadline ;-)

      Kite Runner is one of my most favorite books. I enjoyed And the Mountains Echoed but it was no way near his previous books. I loved Abdulllah and Pari’s story though :’)

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  2. A Song of Ice and Fire caused a reading block or you worked through it with that series?

    I am not really very religious at all. As a matter of fact I have more of an aversion to religion since my daughter became a Muslim extremist and I witnessed, first hand, the ugly (divisiveness) that religion has the ability to create. That’s why I was curious which way she was going to go in this book. Is she going to become a ‘better’ Muslim? Is a ‘light bulb’ going to come on for her seeing others dragging themselves out of bed to pray? Is she going to get caught up in the ‘ugly’ or become a better person? Sounds like perhaps I better check the library to find out, eh? ;-)

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    • Oh it definitely caused it! :P Not that I don’t enjoy the books but I need alot of time and patience for it.

      I am sorry to hear that. One question: do you judge her or is she judging you? I know it’s cliche but Islam doesn’t teach extremism. In fact, it is all about balance in every aspect of life. Treating others well is important above everything else. Religion does not create divisiveness, people do.

      In the book she is not caught up in the ugly neither does one call to prayer changes everything. She goes through alot of trials in her life and her journey to her religion begins. I have only reached that far :) Give it a try, you might enjoy it.

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  3. I did get the book from the library so I’m going to give it a try. From what I’ve read about it it sounds like it would be a good one for my daughter to read. Not that she will, simply because I suggest it! Grrrr! Her friend suggested she read No God But God by Reza Aslan but she actually told her she couldn’t read it because I had also suggested it! Crazy eh? lol Perhaps she has since read it, I’m not sure. And, to answer your question, she is the one judging me. When she was 12 years old and in trouble at school I brought her home and sat her at the table to talk about her behavior and she told me that I could not talk to her about morals because ‘ you smoke, drink and are not Muslim’. Over ten years later and she still thinks that she is being a good Muslim yet she can’t trust her child in our care because we are not Muslim although thankfully we are non-smoking, non Muslims these days ;-)

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    • How old is your daughter?

      In Islam, it doesn’t matter what religion your parents belong to, you still have to treat them with love and respect. If they expect you to do something against Islam, then you should politely decline, and this rule also applies to Muslim parents.

      Maybe your daughter feels a little confused? Disconnected maybe? Maybe she think that if she is open with you, you might not understand. Although, I doubt that because I see you are trying in your own way. Religious differences are tough esp. within family. I hope you guys find a way to each other, mother daughter is a beautiful relationship :)

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  4. Thanks, I hope so too. She says she wants that relationship but she doesn’t know how. How do you have a close relationship with someone when you don’t respect them or have consideration for their feelings because they don’t share the same religious beliefs?

    My daughter is 23. You’ve got to know that I know exactly what Islam says about mothers. How she can completely disregard that command yet must follow everything else to the uncompromising extreme baffles me. What is considered to be ‘doing something against Islam’ is in the eye of the believer and not all Muslims believe the same. Right? If she would try to communicate it would make things a whole lot easier but every attempt I make to get her to be open she just shuts down leaving me to speculate. I even took her to a Muslim therapist and she quit that too. She’s just got to figure it out on her own but in the meantime we are very sad for all this lost time with our only surviving child and missing out on a relationship with our grandson who loves us to pieces. I do have to wonder if that is a concern of theirs, that if he loves us non-Muslims too much then how will he ever turn out to be a good Muslim?

    Oh well… sigh. I’ll just try to get lost in this book that you recommended. The other book you mentioned sounded interesting as well but I was not able to find it when I searched the library’s database.

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    • She doesn’t know how? Does she not have any non-Muslim friends? How does she behave with them? On the Day of Judgement “my parents were not Muslims” will not give her a clean chit because it is her duty to respect and love you and if she finds it difficult then as per her religious beliefs it is a trial for her and she should TRY harder and give you your rights for the sake of Allah, if nothing else.

      Tell her to read the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions. They had family, relatives who were non-Muslims.. does she not know how they treated them? It doesn’t matter what religion parents belong to or how they treat you, love, respect and kindness is their right.

      “… do not say even “fie” to them: nor rebuke them, but speak kind words to them; treat them with humility and tenderness and pray: “Lord, be merciful to them just as they brought me up with kindness and affection.” Quran (17:23-24)

      She can only guide her son and lay the ground work but the truth is one day he is going to grow up and make his own decisions and she will have to deal with it whether or not she approves of it. She should keep her own self in mind :)

      I asked one of my revert friends how her relationship with her parents is or if she was worried about her daughter’s religious beliefs. She told me that she politely explained to her parents whenever there was an issue. I am not sure if this is all weird for you but I am feeling sad that you have to deal with this after losing your own son and a sister is ignoring one of her most important duty as a Muslim :(

      Minaret is a journey of an individual. The Almond Tree is a story of a Muslim and a Jew. Of an Israeli and a Palestinian.. I think she should definitely give that one a read!

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      • She doesn’t know how. Yep, those were her own words. No she does not, as far as I know or would expect, have ANY non-Muslim friends. She may not have many Muslim ‘friends’ either for all I know (acquaintances for sure, but friends?) She has always been fairly socially awkward but she got all kinds of praise from the parents of her high school Muslim friends ‘Oh how I wish my daughter was a good Muslimah like you’ (judging her on the mere fact that she studied Islam on her own and wore hijab and then niqab willingly – or should I say defiantly?) I highly doubt that those parents would be pleased to have the kind of daughter that I have, one that refuses to be there for us when we need her the most :'(

        I’m curious about what kind of ‘issues’ your revert friend had with the grandparents of her child and what she had to politely explain to them.

        I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel sad but that is why I don’t get the ‘warm, fuzzies’ when I think of someone ’embracing Islam’.

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        • Don’t you think that’s unfair? Judging the whole religion because of your daughter? See, I told you what Islam says about parents and your daughter is CHOOSING (for whatever reasons) not to follow that part.

          Yes, it is a big deal for Muslims and probably people from other religions too, when converts practice more than people who are actually born into the religion without ever bothering to study it. And why do you think that she wore hijaab/niqaab defiantly? What if you take an active interest in your daughter’s new faith, that she has decided to make her identity, not patronisingly but sincerely, might help you bond?

          Like for example we don’t celebrate Christian holidays :)

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  5. What makes you think I judge the whole religion based on my daughter’s practice of it? I knew about Islam and knew plenty Muslims before my daughter ever became one. However, I was kind of surprised to read in one of her books (a ‘Sunday school’ textbook lent to her by her, also 12 yr old, Muslim friend) and that book told her not to take non-Muslims as friends or ‘protectors’. Likely other religions teach their children the same basics. So that is where the judgment that religions are divisive comes from.

    What does ‘taking an active interest in her new faith’ look like? Reading the Q’uran and seerah of the Prophet and anything else I can get my hands on about the religion or it’s followers? Done, but what was the point of that? She won’t take guidance from me because I’m not Muslim. ;-) Remember I told you about the book suggestions I gave her. I am not the one that needs to understand her religion but SHE is. But, apparently she is having difficulties getting past that whole “Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers (Kuffar) rather than believers; if any do that in nothing will there be help from Allah; except by way of precaution that ye may guard yourselves from them. But God cautions you (to remember) Himself for the final goal is to Allah.” (Qur’an; 3:28). It is unfortunate that she was not getting the proper guidance as she was learning her religion but, considering the fact that she was hiding it from us (another instruction that she’d been given in her internet guided self teaching) there wasn’t much I could do to help guide her.

    What does ‘celebrate’ mean to you? If family gathers for reunions on the dates that holidays fall does that mean that you can’t be there for the party? Is remembering people on their birthdays, or other days special to them,celebrating a Christian holiday? Even if the person is not Christian? Is Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or Thanksgiving Christian holidays or opportunities to bond with family? I had a Muslim friend that used to always be there on Christmas and Thanksgiving and anytime our family was gathered. I had friends that married devout Muslim men and they still had Christmas and other holidays at their houses and their husbands enjoyed it even if only for their wives’ sakes. So, see, there are Muslims that live with the object of ‘peace in the world’ and take their guidance from the Quran and then there are Islamists who are unable take anything except the literal word of the Quran and hadith and strive to keep themselves pure of all things kuffar even if parts of the Quran tell them that paradise is at the feet of their mothers, no matter what. No?

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    • You have to understand the concept of friendship in Islam. It is not going for movies together, eating out or talking on the phone for hours. It is caring for someone in this world as well caring for His Hereafter. In Islam it would be considered betrayal if you see a friend sinning and don’t stop him if you have the means to. Would a Jew friend remind me to offer Salah? Would a Christian friend stop me from drinking alcohol and care if I wear the hijab or not? Would a Hindu friend worry that I maybe committing shirk?

      Quran tells us that non-muslims are not our friends when it comes to religion and it will be very rare that they will side with the truth. And we have several examples, the Israel/Palestine issue, Kashmir issue, Burma issue, how countries are banning Hijab/Niqab etc. My friends who live in foreign countries have told me countless stories of the hate they had to endure. I personally have been insulted and humiliated. So yeah, it is a warning and we are told to take precautions. That doesn’t mean we are told to hate or disrespect. We are simply told to protect our faith. Quran also tells us to never abuse someone else’s God or religion or beliefs. It tells us that if we are in the company of people who make fun of our religion, we simply get up and leave or change the topic instead of retaliating. Islam is also the only religion which recognises Abrahamic religions and calls them People of the Book.

      And to be honest no religion actually teaches it’s followers to hate or fight or make their lives a living hell. It is always about doing good and forbidding evil. Some horrible people just twist and want to spread discord for their own personal agenda.

      I understand why your daughter might be reacting this way but it is not a generalisation. I have a Christian cousin and an atheist cousin as well. I have family members who are extremely practicing and some who don’t practice at all. It varies from people to people. You just have to figure out how to be patient and deal with people. I get snide remarks and comments from my own relatives sometimes but I have learned to ignore it. Maybe she can talk to a proper Scholar who can guide her? Or maybe there is a group of reverts who she can sit with and discuss?

      See, again our basic belief is that there is only one God, Allah. We are told to respect all religions but that doesn’t mean we agree with them. That is why we don’t celebrate ANY religious holidays except our own because we don’t wish to condone what we believe is not true. As for the parties that too varies. If there is music, dance, alcohol, non-halal food, free mingling of sexes then we would not be allowed to attend it or stay for longer than absolutely necessary (in case of family).

      Again at the end of it all, nobody is allowed to break family ties or disrespect parents unless they are being forced to do something that is haram and they wish to avoid it. I am not sure what religion you belong to or if you are simply spiritual or atheist but I feel that if your daughter would give you a chance you would respect her faith.

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