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10 thoughts on “Minaret: A Novel

  1. says:

    This is a simple and clearly written story which takes a different look at the tensions within Islam, between men and women and life as an immigrant Najwa is born into a high ranking family in Sudan she is a Muslim, but a secular one which consists mostly of good works Her father is a business man who is closely connected to the regime Najwa is studying to go to university and her life is westernised and privileged She meets Anwar, also studying, but he is radical and left wing He teases her about her family and connections Then there is a coup and Najwa, her brother and mother flee to Britain her father is arrested and hung Over time Najwa s life disintegrates her mother dies, her brother is imprisoned for drug related offences She meets Anwar again and they have a relationship, but she discovers his view of it is very different to hers and she is left humiliated This takes the story from the mid 80s to the early 90s The narrative jumps between the mid 2000s and earlier so the plot is not revealed in a linear way Najwa becomes increasingly religious and over time takes work as a maid to wealthy Middle Eastern families and starts to wear the hijab Najwa works for one particular family as a maid childminder and becomes involved in some of the complex relationships within the household What I found most interesting was the behind the scenes in the women s side of the mosque, which provided insight in the community of women, which was gentle and supportive This was in contrast to the men s side which although we don t see it, we sense the different atmosphere and the tensions and much competitive and aggressive form of religion This has a particular effect on Tamar, the young man in the household Najwa works for The usual assumptions that a westernised approach to life is always better and that Islam is fundamentally problematic are challenged The growth of Najwa as a character is interesting as is her interactions with the other characters Essentially, apart from being a story of personal change and adaption to circumstance Aboulela reminds us that the issue of extremism is of an issue in the community of men, rather than in the community of women It is also a window into a hidden life in the women s section of the mosque which is communal, supportive and often centred around children It was a refreshing perspective, a well put together novel, which adds a great deal to the general debate about the interface of religion, culture and politics which continues in all mixed societies.

  2. says:

    I accidentally found this book in my college library amongst all the famous writers hiding away.the cover of the book appealed to me so I took it home It was about two years ago and that was when my reading career began was not much of a reader before.Now all I can remember is that I cried through it and didn t quite understand the ending But this book always lingered on in my mind After two years things changed, a lot of things happened, at that point I remembered what I read in this book, I wanted to read it again I went back to the library but could not find it, I frantically searched in the Town library, but I still could not find it.Then I finally got it from online.I read it again and finally understood Najwa s decision at the end, now that I feel like I am at her position in life I loved the character s journey through her life and her personal growth made me love and respect her Najwa s story is very realistic and heart rendering at times but beautifully told which makes it so poetic.She Finds the most important thing in life For me this book was a great eye opener, I learned something from Najwa and it will stay with me for ever I recommend this book to everyone specially to my Muslim sisters, it s a beautiful book

  3. says:

    Like Brick Lane, this book allows us an intimate glimpse inside the life of an expatriate Muslim woman in London But this heroine knew a life of extreme privilege when she was younger, until her family is shattered by a coup that overthrows her father and their security Now she does servant work of the kind she used to have others do for her And as her life evolves, she moves toward the faith that she has always been a part of but has never embraced This is a beautiful, gentle book that raises questions about modern vs traditional values and contests any easy assumptions that modern Muslim women would always choose Western ways and freedom if given the chance.

  4. says:

    I found Aboulela s description of life as a Sudanese woman struggling to make a living in London to be interesting, but Minaret was largely a morality tale There was a hint of ambiguity in the ending which signalled that perhaps Najwa s conversion was not the only thing needed to bring her contentment, but overall this was a book in which the devout were the good guys and the atheists, or even the Muslim women who didn t want to veil, were shallow and venal It was far too two dimensional in its approach, far too sweeping in its generalisations I don t think that all Muslim fundamentalist men are secretly tender and protective with their wives , nor do I think that becoming a hijabi protects you instantly from sexual harassment , and that coupled with somewhat opaque character development made Minaret an unsatisfying read.

  5. says:

    A Review of Minaret By Leila Aboulela for ENGL 358In modern society there seems to be this over arching generalization that Islam is this incredibly oppressive religion for women This is coupled with the large lack of female voices in arguing a counter case of this generalization that has allowed this view to go fairly undiscussed As Mahmudul Hasan writes, Muslim women have often been portrayed as disempowered, oppressed and belittled by Muslim men, subservient to their husbands with no equal rights, utterly neglected by parents and mistreated as daughters in laws, and most notably always kept under the veil of ignorance and at home 90 In general, the literary representations of Muslim women have been in validating this style of assumption and is done with a general lack of insider understanding In modern society there have been few actual examples of female Muslim authors writing in such a way as to elevate the general perspective of Muslim women Hasan continues that often than not there is a huge bulk of literature by women with Muslim names that describes similar misery stories containing accounts of patriarchal oppression in Muslim societies 91 Thankfully Leila Aboulela wrote the novel Minaret in order to truly illustrate how a Muslim woman is able to function within society, and in such an honest way that the story may be misunderstood as flat or uneventful.The story itself opens in the early 1980 s in Khartoum the capital of Sudan with the main character Najwa experiencing a very secular upbringing As a general understanding Sudan at the time represented in the novel was experiencing a certain form of stability after years of civil war This would only hold for so long, both in real life and the novel The realism portrayed is to such an extent that Aboulela s novel could be likened to James Weldon Johnson s Autobiography of an Ex Colored Man The reader is easily able to understanding historic references without the narrator ever having to truly explore them Much like the opening section of the novel the reader is able to understand notes of modern history merely by mentions of the year This adds to the poignancy of the novel and allows the reader to begin to focus their preconceived notions of a Muslim woman in modern Western civilization.One of the most important experiences in the novel comes from the inevitable Sudanese Coup in which resulted in the Sudanese Civil War of the early 1980 s Rich The reader is introduced to Najwa and her family as a well off Sudanese family with government connections, and with a general knowledge of the outcome of the Civil War it is easy enough to infer what the potential conflicts that would shortly present themselves As people began to emigrate from the war torn country it is easy to imagine Najwa s family following in the massive throngs It is not these major moments of history that make this novel important It is the close examination of Muslim culture and religion in such a way as to dispel ideas of oppression and control The reader early on feels sorry for Najwa for the inevitable tragedies that befall her family due to the Civil War, and the assimilation into Western society As the ultimate victim of Westernization Omar, Najwa s twin brother, is incarcerated for dealing drugs once the family moves from Sudan to London after the coup It is only once Najwa becomes a practitioner of Islam that the reader understands the true importance of Omar incarceration, as Najwa states I wish that he Omar had been punished the very first time he took drugs Punished according to the Shariah Aboulela This moment illustrates an incredible change in the personal character of Najwa, a moment nearly three quarters of the way through the novel Najwa begins to consider the greater ramifications of a person s actions through the religious laws of Islam in relation to a past in which did not exist at the time In relation to Najwa s comment, Omar would not have been tried under Sharia law at the time he was doing drugs in Sudan.Omar is meant as a moral understanding, as are most of the men within the novel Each man that Najwa comes into contact with allows herself and the reader to come to a better understanding of Islam Whether it is Najwa s father, who s early fate makes a huge impact on the rest of the novel and allows Najwa to truly reflect on her view of Sudan There is also Anwar who is both present in Najwa s early life in Sudan, and her pre Islamic life in London He can be seen as a major catalyst of Najwa s self discovery In one of the most distressing moments in the novel Najwa is playing cards with Anwar and his friends, as she comes to the realization that Ramadan has already begun Despite her lack of true Islamic practices early in the novel Ramadan was one of the only times Najwa ever acted like a Muslim This type of religious observance is very similar to most Christians who use Christmas and Easter as markers for their religious observance It is not the point of this review to comment on the religious practices of anyone, but it may help to draw this comparison Imagine for a second what it could mean to wake up on December 26 only to realize you had missed Christmas This is exactly the type the of response in which Aboulela wants to illicit The reader is meant to begin to understand the nagging sensation in which Najwa feels early in Sudan as she watches other Muslim women pray at school As a catalyst for Najwa s self discovery the missed Ramadan allows the reader to understand the need for a major change Anwar, much like Omar, becomes merely a moral examination for Najwa that allows her to better understand Islam as a way of living The fact that Najwa is busy gambling as she learns of Ramadan makes the moment all the potent in the readers understanding of Islam.As much of the novel is focused on Najwa life prior to her true conversion and practice of Islam the reader begins to understand a world very similar to their own There is even a very extensive discussion throughout the novel of the wearing of different forms of scarves or body covering for Muslim women Much like the rest of the novel this idea of being covered is both an important part of Islamic practice, as well as a way of connecting and discussing the practice with the reader in order to highlight the very personal decision in which comes with wearing any form of covering In the first section of Minaret Najwa flips through magazines with her friends, a commonality to western young women, as they discuss the Iranian Revolution, and how women were photographed wearing full covering Najwa also states a sentiment that many western countries have said regarding the head coverings, I looked down at the picture and thought of all the girls in university who wore hijab and all the ones who wore tobes Hair and arms covered by our national costume Aboulela At no point is the reader overly surprised by the transition that Najwa comes to as a true convert to Islam as she begins to wear a tobe It is not in the nature of Aboulela s novel to surprise the reader This type of writing is what makes the novel about exploration and understanding than it is about entertainment The reader is constantly given similar instances of misunderstanding of Islam from the perspective of Najwa as a way of commonality Once Najwa develops a better understanding of common practices is the reader also brought to an even greater understanding Luckily Najwa represents an insider, but in such a way as being an observer and a learner.The love affair, even nonsexual, between Najwa and Tamer allows an exploration of love in a very fundamental Islamic form Aboulela s examination of fundamental allows the reader to reexamine their own pre conceived notion of the word There is even a moment of exchange between Doctora Zeinab and Najwa where Doctora admits her fear for Tamer s potential of being recruited into a terrorist organization based on her perceived understanding of his radical Islamic practices, but she reassures Najwa that thankfully he s not interested in politics Aboulela This moment calls into question societies continued assertion that Muslims are all terrorists, allowing for an even greater examination of the representations of Muslims in literature Continually the examination of Islamic practices is from within a closed community of insiders as Najwa Rarely is the reader confronted with societies impression of Muslims, and even when they are Aboulela glosses over it as a common occurrence Much in the vain of the rest novel Najwa subjected to religious discrimination as she is riding a bus in 2004 as a random man pours Tizer on her and calls her Muslim scum Aboulela This moment is not really observed than cursory, but the reader begins to feel a certain indictment on a society in which is very much common place Discrimination of this nature is not surprising, as before acknowledged, Aboulela is not interested in entertaining the reader It is this type of illustration that adds to the continued understanding of Islamic women in society.What truly makes Minaret so important as a novel is its close examination of Islam from the perspective of someone who comes to a new and better understanding of what it truly means to be an Islamic practitioner The reader goes alongside Najwa as a way of truly examining their own personal understanding of Islam, and how women fit into that much misunderstood religion The importance of this self discovery coming from the perspective of a woman is all too easy to understand The very lack of voice given to Islamic women propagates the assumption of oppression Aboulela gives the reader that much needed voice Najwa allows the reader a friend in misunderstanding and assumption, as she begins to transform her own understanding of Islam The fact that Aboulela focuses so much on surface understanding of historical relevance, but a heavy examination of Islamic practices prevents the reader from being bogged down in background information and focus on the important subject of preconceived notion of Islam The background information such as the Sudanese Civil War, migration, or modern terrorist attacks are truly unimportant to the greater understanding of Islam and women Minaret is a must read for our modern society Islam is such a prevalent subject on news and public discourse that it is in the best interest of all to truly examine how we understand the religion and its practitioners Najwa is one of the strongest characters to take the journey of self discovery on and end our misunderstandings of Islamic practitioners Minaret is as much a novel as it is a discourse on modern society In reading it we will all have a much better understanding of Islam than before, which inevitably makes this novel important all on its own. Works CitedAboulela, Leila Minaret Black Cat, 2005.Hasan, Md Mahmudul Seeking Freedom in the Third Space of Diaspora Muslim Women s Identity in Aboulela s Minaret and Janmohamed s Love in a Headscarf Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, vol 35, no 1, Mar 2015, pp 89 105 EBSCOhost, doi 10.1080 13602004.2015.1007666.Rich, Alex K Khartoum, Sudan Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2014 EBSCOhost, ezproxy.umuc.edu login url

  6. says:

    I found this book a quick easy read The story could ve been great but for me it had no substance Basically she was rich then she wasn t She wasn t a practising Muslim, then she was This book for me really isn t for adults Teenagers yes To be honest it just didn t have any oomph SPOILER ALERT I didn t even care when her father or mother died I m not even sure that I cared too much for her either It didn t my emotions going and I felt I was reading it just for the sake of it Sorry I can t recommend this Maybe I would ve liked it when I was 16 but I doubt it.

  7. says:

    I enjoyed this book very much and it was very easy to read The writing is simple and straightforward yet rich at the same time as it s first person, you really get to know Najwa well and watch her grow It flits between Khartoum, where Najwa and her family are rich, her father working in the government, and where they are, for the most part, non practising Muslims..But after a coup which results in her father s execution, Najwa, her brother Omar and her mother are forced to seek asylum in London, where they find their bank account is slowly dwindling and their prospects not as they were in Sudan..I think a lot of books with a focus on Islam recently tend to look at the extremist side, or western influences, so it was nice to read a book where a woman turns to religion to find solace and friendship in other practising Muslim women in her area and grow as a person That was the best part for me, the community of women Najwa finds and their quiet, peaceful friendship..Aboulela addresses other themes too, like class, education, drugs, and politics in an easy to approach way, and I ll definitely be on the lookout for her other books

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  9. says:

    My knowledge of Sudan, the Muslim religion, and those exiled to England after the political upheaval of the 80s is minimal, so I was intrigued by many of the issues in this novel Overall, it was just a so so read for me though Najwa s journey to spiritual fulfillment was the most satisfying part of this novel Her voice was intimate and easy to identify with I was pleasantly surprised to find that she chose to take what is considered a conservative and prudish path in life I think the author, Leila Aboulela, did a good job of showing why a young woman would want to reject prominent Western ideals such as freedom in dress, freedom from family, etc Through Najwa s struggles, it s easy to see how these things can be so oppressive and unfulfilling I thought the comfort and renewal Najwa finds in the Muslim religion was beautiful I m afraid that s where my praise of the novel ends Much as I appreciated her spiritual enlightenment, I wanted from Najwa Even though Najwa has the courage to leave a bad relationship and to follow her desire to know and understand her religion, she never seems to gain any momentum as a character She is unassertive and dull It s as though the author, Leila Aboulela, thinks that women who are religious and conservative must also be thoroughly boring Aboulela s writing style is fairly simple and straightforward There was nothing about it that excited me and I read this in a day I can easily see this being shelved with the YA books The love story was strange and the ending really bothered me It felt incomplete and was completely unsatisfying Overall, I would say that this is a good jumping off point for those who want to learn about the Muslim religion and some contemporary issues in Sudan, but don t set your expectations too high.

  10. says:

    I found this to be an excellent novel, and was a little upset that my local bookshop had filed it under something peculiar like black fiction This is a good story because it s a good story that it illuminates an area of life many of us in the West find mysterious shouldn t lead to it being relegated to the minority interest part of the book world.Aboulela has written about what makes a rather superficial young woman become a devout older one, and how her religious beliefs shape her conduct with a younger man who finds her appealing should she take her chance to be loved and admired, or should she try to guide him into a life that allows harmony between him and his family and wider society Again, the fact that this devotion to faith is Islamic doesn t matter, it could be Hindu or Quaker, the point is that this beautifully observed narrative takes us inside the mind, morals, memories and fears of a woman struggling to make sense of the world, and the nature of the faith that is found is incidental to the delicacy with which Aboulela conveys the changes in one woman s personality and belief system The nature of British society and how it treats Muslim women is sharply delineated and fascinating and makes a good contrast to the subtle internal geography of what it means to be Islamic in the modern world which is explored with calm authority and a certain amount of poetic clarity.

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Minaret: A Novel download Minaret: A Novel, read online Minaret: A Novel, kindle ebook Minaret: A Novel, Minaret: A Novel 79cfa885429e Leila Aboulela S American Debut Is A Provocative, Timely, And Engaging Novel About A Young Muslim Woman Once Privileged And Secular In Her Native Land And Now Impoverished In London Gradually Embracing Her Orthodox Faith With Her Muslim Hijab And Down Turned Gaze, Najwa Is Invisible To Most Eyes, Especially To The Rich Families Whose Houses She Cleans In London Twenty Years Ago, Najwa, Then At University In Khartoum, Would Never Have Imagined That One Day She Would Be A Maid An Upper Class Westernized Sudanese, Her Dreams Were To Marry Well And Raise A Family But A Coup Forces The Young Woman And Her Family Into Political Exile In London Soon Orphaned, She Finds Solace And Companionship Within The Muslim Community Then Najwa Meets Tamer, The Intense, Lonely Younger Brother Of Her Employer They Find A Common Bond In Faith And Slowly, Silently, Begin To Fall In Love Written With Directness And Force, Minaret Is A Lyric And Insightful Novel About Islam And An Alluring Glimpse Into A Culture Westerners Are Only Just Beginning To Understand