The Reluctant Mullah by Sagheer Afzal is an enchanting book not purely about finding love but about finding the life you want to live. It is aimed at younger people and touches on many of the subjects which affect young Muslims growing up in Britain. It is a book that will make you laugh and make you cry but keeps you captivated from beginning to end.
Musa’s struggle begins when he leaves the Madrasah where he had been studying to become a Mullah. He tries on the garb of a woman (the abaya to cover the body, the hijab to cover the head, a scarf and gloves) as an experiment to see how it would feel to be covered in public. Unfortunately trying to gain this knowledge leads to Musa having to leave the Madrasah. The chief of the Madrasah tells him he is not suited to being there. He said, “You hunger for the colour of experience” and adds that Musa needs to go out and satisfy this hunger before it consumes him.
When he arrives home his brother gets him a job working as a builder for one of his friends. Musa’s grandfather, who is the patriarch of the family, tries to arrange a marriage for Musa. He wants him to marry his cousin from Pakistan.
But Musa wants to marry for love. Musa’s grandfather gives him a month to find a woman to marry. If he does not succeed he must marry his cousin.
Musa’s sister, boss, brother and friend all try and help him to find a bride. Between the five of them they come up with a list of qualities Musa is looking for in a bride. She must be good looking, decent and pure.
At the same time, Musa starts leading a discussion between young boys at an Islamic Centre. This is where the author discusses issues which affect young Muslims growing up in Britain. A similar group for girls is led by a religious young Muslim woman, Khadija. The two don’t get along because Khadija’s unquestioning sense of duty and obedience disagrees with Musa’s need to find happiness in life.
Musa meets four potential brides. One of them is too childish, another too aggressive. The third is, ‘a nice person but not the one for him’. He falls in love with the other potential bride but her parents say no to his request to marriage.
Then his sister realises the person Musa is looking for has been there all along – Khadija.
They fall in love but Musa’s happy ending doesn’t turn out how he hopes it would.
Alongside the main plotline of Musa trying to find love are several sub-plots about young Muslims in Britain. Musa’s sister has to give up a man who loves her for a man who her family thinks is more suitable for her. Musa’s brother deals heroine to make money for his family. And Musa’s father has to realise that his children will do what they want.
A thoroughly compelling read which sheds light on humanity, youth culture and the Muslim faith.
The Reluctant Mullah is available from www.ebay.co.uk