Saturday, December 15

Faith, Books and Esa Khattak: A Think Piece by Riza from All That Is Cultural

This post is part of A Winter's Tale, an event running through December for which we invited eight of our favorite bloggers to talk about their favorite books, authors etc. or share an interesting discussion. They have gone all out and gave us even better, more professional content than we expected, which is to say something. If you're here, don't forget to enter our month-long international giveaway here.

Today, we are happy to welcome: 

Riza from All That Is Cultural

I discovered Riza at a time when I was not really into blogging- but that didn't stop me from following what she's been doing and seeing how she's been growing as a blogger and just how much she's been contributing to the bookish community. It was, therefore, no surprise that her name was one of the first that popped into my mind when when Vera asked me to recommend a blogger for this event. I love what Riza's been doing so far and I'm incredibly excited to see all else she has in store for us in the future- and yes, you need to check out her blog ASAP if you haven't already! I'm super excited about what she's come up with for us because it resonated with me so much, and so without further ado...scroll down already! -Ruzi 💙

The thing that I value perhaps the most in life is my faith as a Muslim. I know that this is not a platform meant for expositions on delicate matters such as faith, nor is this post, by any means, directed towards that end, but here’s the deal – I can never imagine a “me” who does not have herself soaked to the soul in faith. It is, in the simplest of terms, my mainstay, something along the lines of what the poetic language of Urdu names “chiraag” – a lamp whose light fearlessly pierces the forlorn dark.

Much as I speak of my love for faith, it is, very ironically, something that I mostly shy away from making the object of my writing – for fear that I’ll fail miserably at encompassing all my love for it; that I am yet to be so informed as to be sharing any opinions at all. Howbeit, at the moment I find myself a little favoured. Books are come, my friends, to help me. And I’d love to thank The Regal Critiques team for this wonderful opportunity, allowing me to speak about recognising faith in fiction as a Muslim.

I remember the day I picked up Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Unquiet Dead for the first time. The book opens with Inspector Detective Esa Khattak – kind, dear Esa Khattak – offering maghrib prayers. And that scene, that scene! It murmured as though a prayer in itself, with threads of serenity and calm woven along the cusps of each line and every action. How effortlessly the writing seemed to flow and how it soothed my heart, focussing as it was intently on the spiritual side of the prayers and you could visualise very clearly Esa’s bond with Allah and the ease that he received from it.

There is another scene, in the sequel I think (forgive my lousy memory), where a very worried Esa wants nothing more than to press his head against the floor in sujood and seek solace in Allah’s remembrance. This is the point where I saw my own self reflected to the most profound of degrees – that self which is often conflicted and yearning for Allah’s shelter.

What I love about Esa’s character is that his being a Muslim defines him utterly. You can see it in the words he speaks, in the thoughts that waft through his head. Of course, he isn’t perfect, but the endearing thing about him is that he does not set faith and life apart. Faith defines life for him – something, as you might’ve guessed already – resonates with me to a great level. His concern for the global ummah, how he is torn apart hearing stories of pain and loss, and his torment at his own helplessness - all of it echoes throughout the first two books of the series that I’ve read.

There’s two more books that come to my mind when I think of the representation of my faith in fiction – Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali, and The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty. Both have some devout Muslims in them, who are proud of their faith and identity. I’ve talked about my love for them plenty of times and that’s not ever to change. I’ve got my eyes peeled for Uzma Jalaludin’s Ayesha At Last that’s releasing next year. It’s got a Muslim Mr Darcy, after all.

-  Riza from All That Is Cultural blog


  1. I've looked at her site, and found in a May post a very fun picture book called "Billy and the Beast"--I'm going to have to look that up!

  2. I won't lie - I'm not a religious person. But I'm glad there's a book for everyone, where everyone can seen themselves reflected and find a kindred spirit, and realise they don't have to hide what they are. It was about time! It doesn't matter if Esa isn't perfect - no one is. What matters is that he does his best and never stops trying (according to what you said), and his struggle is real, so it speaks to many people whose faith is as deep as his.

    Also, a Muslim Mr. Darcy? Now that's interesting 😀.

  3. I don't mind religion in books, but I know a LOT of people too. My grandfather was studying to be a Catholic priest before WWII and his capture by the Germans, so we grew up with a lot of religion, and I find great comfort in it. I also like learning about other people's faiths, and welcome it in books. Saints & Misfits was one I enjoyed as well, and I am looking forward to Ayesha at Last.

  4. I really like and appreciate your post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.


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