The Islamic Enlightenment

This book tells the story of islamic enlightenment beginning with the collision of East and Eest following Napoleon’s arrival in Egypt and continuing through 200 years of Middle Easter history. It has had many good reviews and had been on my reading list for a few years before I finally made the time for it. My expectations were high and in terms of writing style and subject content, those expectations were met.


As a former journalist, Cambridge graduate of Iranian and Indian Studies and author of several books, Christopher de Bellaigue approaches the mountainous topic of islamic enlightenment with a valiant attempt. The book begins with a thought provoking analysis of Jayne Eyre in the Muslim world: “From the perspective of a Muslim at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the character of Jayne Eyre was a rank impossibility accessible to almost no one and the story of her life so preposterous as to approach derangement.” The book then continues, country by country region by region providing in depth analysis and a recount from history of valuable individuals took momentous strides towards a more modern Islam. In Cairo for example, we learn of Jabarti and his contribution. Bellaigue is careful to provide the reader with a glimpse of mindset not just tangible achievements. His writing is not without his stance on certain issues. For example, when speaking of the belie around jinns, Bellaigue states: “The existence of djinns, for example, living alongside human beings and partial to damp places such as latrines and wells, was well beyond debate.” Such opinions that flow with subtlety in factual works are precisely what leans me more towards authors of a Muslim background when seeking knowledge on Islamic history. The lens with which Bellaigue views the Islamic world and Muslim beliefs is different to some of its readership.


I enjoyed the chapter on Tehran the most. Perhaps for me, it is because as a modern state, Iran intrigues me the most. Therefore, it’s history in Islamic enlightenment has a valuable position towards a greater understanding. To know what Iran is now, on must know what it once was. One of the questions Bellaigue asks is why Iran was so far behind? This is answered in part by it’s isolation. It is not clear here whether Bellaigue is referring to a geographical isolation or ideological, or even both. The second reason provided is due to it being a shia country. I am not entirely convinced with this. It was interesting to read about Abbas Mirza in 1811 sending two young Persians to England to study but instead of them learning anything of substance they were responsible for racking up large wine and tailoring bills. This could be true of any age and culture. The young will adventure, explore and flirt perilously with boundaries. Bellaigue concludes with giving much credence to globalisation for the emergence of modernity in Islam we see today.



Book Review: Sofia Khan is NOT Obliged

I always enjoy reading good fiction work by Muslim authors because they are something of a rarity. I have waited a long time for a piece of work as contemporary and fresh as this from a British Muslim.

The book follows a year in the life of Sofia Khan, a 30 year-old British Muslim who works in publishing. She lives with her family in London and the book documents the happenings of that year including her search for Mr Right (blurring line between research for her book and reality). The character is likeable and relatable. If we do not see ourselves in Sofia Khan then we all know a Sofia Khan.

Writing a story in a chronological timeline such as a diary entry can sometimes feel linear and somewhat clinical. Despite delivering her book in the form of chronological blog entries, Ayisha Malik’s storyline is neither linear nor clinical. One of the advantages to the outlay is that it can be picked up and put down easily, especially if you are a busy Mum and need to find snatches of time to be able to read.

Most of the reviews have concentrated on the humour, and without doubt the humour is by far the most obvious asset to Malik’s writing. The laugh out loud moments (Conall’s T Shirt on her head instead of her hijab), the Punjabi words (Le, Hain, Hai etc) all add to the quality. However, for me the unsaid and subtle sorrow that emanated as the character matured following the loss of her father towards the end of the book spoke volumes. It is the hallmark of a multi-dimensional author who has the skill to pen both humour and sorrow in an equal and powerful measure.

“We write to taste life twice.” Anais Nin. And Ayisha Mailk, “We read to know we are not alone.” William Nicholson, Shadowlands. Well written, funny and subtly serious. I would thoroughly recommend this book. By far, my favourite Summer 2017 read.


Perfect Breakfast (Suhoor)

Each year, Ramadhan brings with it a unique favourite dish. This year it was the porridge and flapjacks for suhoor which went down a treat.

Creamy Porridge 

Organic oats prepared in the usual way but add honey, chopped dates and walnuts. Sprinkle some coconut power. I made the porridge the night before and chilled in the fridge. You can top with seasonal fruit before serving. We topped ours with organic raspberries from the allotment.



I used the recipe above and added pecan nuts, chopped dates and chopped walnuts. They were the tastiest flapjacks we ever had and brilliant to keep you going through the day.





I knew a Terrorist

I have thought long and hard about this post and decided I must speak out.

The terrorists behind the London attacks have now been identified. First and foremost, my heart goes out to the victims and their families. The terror that unfolded on that awful night is unimaginable.  Since these attacks, many people have been engrossed in discussions about why these men are driven to attack innocent people in this way. Some cite Islam. Others cite immigration. A few cite drugs. I have another theory.

There is an image in mainstream media which has been circulating depicting one of the terrorist praying in a park alongside others when he was aired on a documentary about extremists. The image has stuck in my mind for two reasons:

  1. Muslim do not pray to a flag. By placing the flag before them in prayer, these young men are making a POLITICAL statement not a religious or spiritual one. This is not about their connection to God, this is about their political beliefs.
  2. I have seen this flag before in the home of one of the wives of 7/7 bombers. I was 21 years old at the time. I began to have difficulties with this woman because of her increasingly intolerant views. I visited her home on one occasion and found this flag dominating the decor of their main room.


So what does this flag mean and what does it have to do with terrorism? I am not an expert in what drives young Muslim men to commit acts of terror, but I am an observant tolerant Muslim who has seen my religion hijacked by morons. This flag has been used by members of Hizb ut Tahrir (HT) just like the terrorist I knew who displayed it proudly in his home. I have often wondered why the media have not made the link between terrorists and their political affiliations because for me each time a moron is identified after an attack, their political affiliation is obvious (al muhajiroun, HT or any other variant of these).

We need to stand together and rid ourselves of this extremist political party that calls for an islamic state, justifies suicide bombings and spreads hatred for the West. This party is banned in 13 countries and has been behind attempted coups in a number of countries.

The terrorists might happen to be Muslims. But a decade of blaming Islam has not resolved anything. The terrorists might happen to be immigrants. But a decade of a more vigilant immigration has not resolved anything.

Maybe it is their political affiliation? Maybe we need to diagnose this illness correctly before we can treat it.

As Muslims, we need to drive out abhorrent views about the country in which we live. We would not tolerate the National Front asking us to leave the country which we love and are part of. So why do we tolerate a Muslim spreading hate about the country which we love and are part of? It works both ways.

As a society, we need to unite and diagnose this properly. It’s not a Muslim problem. It’s a problem for us all and currently, there is no solution, only blame.


Healthy Iftar

We will have dates, sweet lassi and fruit chaat to break our fast and then after maghrib we will have feta cheese and couscous salad with scallops and home-made humous. There is no dessert but we will have some delicious mint tea.

Fruit Chaat: Banana, Pomegranate, Blueberries, Strawberries and Kiwi with fruit chaat spice and lemon.

Salad: Parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumber, pomegranate, red onion, chickpeas, couscous, feta cheese finished with a sprinkling of sumac spice and lemon.



Good Deed Jar

My 4 year old finally got round to completing his Ramadhan Good Deed Jar.

We upcycled an old jar and used the print-out below. My son decorated the jar with some gold ribbon and golden crescents. He did all the cutting himself (with some tidying up by Mummy!).

This was supposed to be part of a playgroup activity but it had to be cancelled so we decided to do it together at home.

We have used pompoms at the bottom of the jar and he gets one if he completes a good deed. Five pompoms will give him treat such as feeding the ducks in the park.




Click on this link to download the worksheet 30daysramadangooddeeds