Friday, August 07, 2015

Review- Orphan of Islam by Alexander Khan

Goodreads Summary:

"I've told you before, and I will tell you again, if you are unable to read the Holy Book you will be punished." The teacher’s face was a mask of anger. "Understand?"

Born in 1975 in the UK to a Pakistani father and an English mother, Alexander Khan spent his early years as a Muslim in the north of England. But at the age of three his family was torn apart when his father took him to Pakistan. Despite his desperate cries, that was the last he saw of his mother – he was told she had walked out and abandoned them; many years later he learned she was told he’d died in a car crash in Pakistan.

Three years on Alex is brought back to England, but kept hidden at all times. His father disappears to Pakistan again, leaving Alex in the care of a stepmother and her cruel brother. And it is then that his troubles really begin. Seen as an outsider by both the white kids and the Pakistani kids, Alex is lost and alone.

When his father dies unexpectedly, Alex is sent back to Pakistan to stay with his ‘family’ and learn to behave like a ‘good Muslim’. Now alone in a strange, hostile country, with nobody to protect him, Alex realises what it is to be truly orphaned. No one would listen. No one would help. And no one cared when he was kidnapped by men from his own family and sent to a fundamentalist Madrassa on the Afghanistan border.

A fascinating and compelling account of young boy caught between two cultures, this book tells the true story of a child desperately searching for his place in the world; the tale of a boy, lost and alone, trying to find a way to repair a life shattered by the shocking event he witnessed through a crack in the door of a house in an isolated village in Pakistan.


It has been a long time since I read a book that was moving and touching, which is why I find myself at a loss for words. If I am to sum up Orphan of Islam in two words, I would say that the book is a sad beauty. A sad beauty that made me contemplate about Islam more than what I do on a normal basis. A reflective, deep and raw story, this book has instantly and easily found a place in my heart, right alongside marvels like The Kite Runner and The Almond Tree. 

We all know what a brave soul Malala is. What she did, continues to do and will eventually do is admirable. If you like Malala, you will love Mohammed. He was a brave child who went through something that no adult, let alone child, should ever go through. I admired his courage and determination for never once did he accept what was thrown his way without questioning and reasoning- albeit in his own head- why it was being thrown his way. What I admired most about him was his righteousness, even when all his religion and his people gave him was harm and hurt. Never once did I pity this innocent child, but I only respected and valued his spirit throughout the length of the book.  

A beautiful story of an innocent child, an imposing religion, two interesting cultures and two idyllic countries, Orphan of Islam is a sad story about impressive character development which is what made the book really amazing for me. There are books in which characters are on the last page just the way they were on the first page. And then there are books like Orphan of Islam that show intense and incredible personal change. Mohammed grew so much as a man and as a human over the span of the book that it was hard yet amazing to believe how the lost child had grown to become such a wonderful man. 

What added to the beauty of the book was what I learnt from it as a reader, and that makes me want to genuinely and literally bow down to author Alexander Khan. I really felt like I travelled with Mohammed and that I was a part of his journey. Right from England to Pakistan and back again, I felt like I was living the story, almost feeling it, and when an author manages to do that through his writing, it is simply wonderful. After saying all that I have said, I feel that I am still speechless and I will never be able to convey how beautiful Orphan of Islam really is, and that is a shame, because the simplicity and beauty in Alexander Khan's storytelling demand to be conveyed. 


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