Book Review: Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

A brilliant read!

This book went beyond my expectations and I was hooked from the moment I read the first few pages. It offered more than just the Author’s journey to find love. But there are so many layers – love, history, Islam and culture which added depth to the book. So I was never bored. And I learnt things about the Author’s culture I never knew before which made the book even more interesting and at times quite entertaining, thanks to the Authors sense of humour.

Love in a headscarf is a memoir about the Author’s journey of finding a life partner – ‘The One’as the cover states, through an arranged marriage.

In the process, the Author endured endless matches with several suitors along the way, only to be disappointed, heart-broken and at times frustrated with the arranged marriage process. I felt like I knew her – such a reflective soul – quite like myself in that regard. And for that, I felt a connection with her. And even though I could barely relate to the experience of an arranged marriage, I couldn’t put this book down and I couldn’t wait to know what happened next.

I felt her every emotion. It was like I was right there with her every step of the way. When she cried, I cried; when she laughed I laughed;and when she was angry or sad, excited or disappointed, I felt the same.

I felt the Author is skilled at creating an image in the mind of the reader which makes it easy for the reader to picture themselves present wherever she is or to imagine a scene or place she is talking about. At least this was my experience as I read every page. It didn’t matter what she was talking about, I had images and scenes in my head of the people she met, the places she travelled, her family and the Buxom Aunties whom she often spoke of.

Her experiences during the arranged marriage process, helped her to find a deeper love and understanding of God and her Islamic faith. She also discovered more of who she was and gained new perspective on life and culture. She often reasoned with herself and questioned things she didn’t understand, in a bid to find answers, while trying to navigate between culture and religion and being true to her British culture and identity. Many of her thoughts about the way she sees the world and conversations she had with herself on her quest for Love, I can relate to, because I too share her views and have had similar conversations with myself on my own journey to find my ‘Prince Charming.’

And we see how she matures and gains new perspective on the many complexities religion and cultural norms presented to her and how she coped – never losing a sense of who she was. She also challenged common stereotypes and misconceptions British society had of Muslim women as well as the stereotypes and perceptions of Muslim women and their role within society and marriage that emerged from within the Asian Muslim community. She challenged and questioned her own culture when it collided with Islam. And I admired her parents immensely for guiding and supporting her through the marriage process – putting Islam, rather than culture/ tradition, first. There are also several issues or topics that could be extracted from this book for lively discussions and debates. For example, the wisdom from the Imaam I found in some cases to be thought-provoking. Like the concept of “love comes after marriage, “you know the meaning of love after you’ve made the commitment.” He believed that if love blossoms after the relationship has been formally agreed, then instead of putting all our focus on the ‘finding’ part, more of our emphasis should be on the ‘relationship’ part.

And Even though her Asian culture played a major role in her life and the life of her family; and the rest of the Asian community, the Islamic perspective took precedence. And so, she never separated herself from Islam throughout the book. It was the main source which directed her actions and decisions about many things.

This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it to be an interesting read and would therefore recommend it.

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One response to “Book Review: Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

  1. Pingback: Getting to know the Sexual Muslimah

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