Book Review: Minaret by Leila Aboulela


My thoughts :

I was captivated by this novel from beginning to end. As a Muslim and a woman I really related to the character Najwa. Her gradual transformation from a spoiled, somewhat shallow teen, to a pensive, observant Muslim is a pleasure to observe. This story is fictional, but the message is definitely real and it’s something that could affect anyone. Najwa loses everything and hits rock bottom, but through faith in God, she’s able to gain strength and not lose hope. This novel was wholly entertaining and superbly written. The characters were well developed, especially the despicable Anwar, one of Najwa’s chief antagonists. I would recommend Minaret to anyone, especially Muslim women. I look forward to Aboulela’s future novels.

This is a book about one woman — Najwa — dealing with loss: the loss of her family, her home, her status, her country, and her sense of self. The only time “Islam” comes into play here is that it is with her faith that Najwa finds some answers for herself. The book doesn’t bash you over the head with Islam. Any Christian, Jew, Buddhist, etc. who has found their own sense of peace through their faith will relate to Najwa.

Minaret is a very insightful novel about the inner worldview and frame of mind that Muslims experience. I am sure many Muslim readers (especially converts, and those who weren’t practicing in their past) can relate to Najwa’s reversion to Islam. During Najwa’s youth, while she was always intrigued with Islam, she nonetheless lived a normal modern life under the influence of her family and friends. But once she realized the significance of Allah, only then did she truly understand the meaning of life. The novel also brings up many common issues faced by Muslims today, regarding the supposed hypocritical double-standardness for men and women in the Muslim world, having “blind” faith in religion, gender relations in Islam, varying Muslim attitudes to Islam, and the importance of repentance and the grand mercy of Allah. Through Najwa, Ms. Aboulela is able to portray the psyche of a true Muslim in ways most people, especially with the common western-modern/scientistic world view would otherwise be unable to grasp. Excellent Read, as I completed reading the (almost 300 page) book in 3 sittings, as I couldnt put it down.

The icing on the cake, and truly the saddest part of the novel is the ending. It defies all clichés and really makes this novel genuine work of art. Who ever said happy endings make a book good


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