Sofia Khan is Not Obliged – Aiysha Malik
Note to self, read more about non white people.
“Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.’ Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. ‘Are your parents quite disappointed?’
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?
How sad is it that I live in a world where I actually have to make a note to self to find diverse literature?
Anyway, I first heard about this book when watching this video:
Basically, Leena (the vlogger in question) has raved about this book, she not only mentioned it in a book haul, but then she also interviewed the author (Aiysha Malik) about being a Muslim woman in Britain. If you’re not familiar with Leena, you should totally check her out, she’s very insightful and articulate and she is part of the Banging Book Club which I have been loving this year. Anyway, I was going to be reviewing Sofia Khan is not Obliged, not Leena’s YouTube channel. Whatever you take away from this post, check out both the book and Leena’s channel. Mmmkay?
Anyway, the above video, much like the book, was kind of eye opening for me. I like to think that I am an accepting person, I kinda live by the you do you mantra, but I do live in a very white, very closed part of the world where it’s more unusual not to hear a bit of casual racism as you go about your day, anyway because I am white and I don’t live in a particularly multi cultural area, I don’t know anyone who is openly Muslim and apart from the few things I was taught for GCSE RE, I don’t know an awful lot about Islam. I do however, know better than to listen to what the mainstream media tell me about Islam. TLDR, Leena’s video is super interesting and ya’ll should watch it.
Aside from being very informative, they talked about Aiysha’s novel, Sofia Khan is not Obliged, which made me immediately add it to my tbr list and do a literal jig for joy when I found it on the recently returned shelf at the library. Seriously, I got some funny looks, which might have been to do with the jig and might have been to do with the fact that I turned up 10 minutes before closing and proceeded to wonder about very slowly choosing things read. Can you tell I haven’t reviewed anything for a while? Since when have I been rambly af?
If you’re still with me, I salute you.
When I was reading it, I was firstly struck at how little I knew about modern Muslim life in Britain and also how few books I’ve read that feature non white protagonists. This is something I need to rectify. Please recommend me things.
Anyway, this book, I implore you all to read this book, diversifying your bookshelves aside, this was frankly genius.
I don’t want to repeat every other review and label this the Muslim Bridget Jones, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it. Sofia Khan is a thirty something Muslim lady who has sworn off men (mostly because her sort of boyfriend wanted her to marry him and live with him in a house next door to his parents with a wall removed, essentially making it one house. Sofia was neither obliged or amused). One review I read of this on goodreads opened with the line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Sofia Khan is in need of a husband. Genius. It turns out, that much like in non-Muslim households, not being married (or at least romantically entangled) before turning thirty, is a really big deal in Sofia’s home. She has to constantly deal with her family not understanding why she is happy to be on her own, as well as trying to deal with being part of this community, but also being a modern woman who has her own thoughts and ideas. Sofia herself was born and raised in London, her parents were not and the clashes in environment and outside influences were so interesting to read.
Anyway, Sofia, who works as a publicist for a publisher accidentally ends up pitching a Muslim dating book to her boss and finds herself given the task of writing it… cue the often hilarious situations she finds herself in as she actually has to join Muslim dating sites and attend Muslim speed dating for research purposes. This is all while battling the idea of being happy being alone vs finding a husband, while hanging out with people she may or may not be developing feelings for, the comings and goings of her ex and his compromises about the hole in the wall and her band of friends, one of whom is dating someone of a different race and another has become a second wife – this concept was kind of alien to me so reading about it was super interesting – and how these two things clash with their upbringings and the world they live in.
Aside from being a fun, heartfelt book about the trials and tribulations of a thirty something navigating the London dating scene, its also super interesting to read about the prospective of a person so completely removed from my background. I had always been under the impression (and honestly, the media doesn’t help this) that Muslim women are oppressed, Leena’s video and Aiysha Malik’s book both contradict this and while there are lots of traditional rules that make it seem that way, from reading this, though there are obvious cultural differences, there are many similarities too. Sofia, her mum and sister are expected to be cooks and run a house hold. That’s true of women whatever their religion, Sofia is in her thirties and feeling pressured to find a man, do you know who else had that? Bridget Jones, the one Sofia Khan is so often compared to in reviews. Other things that were interesting about this book is the idea of hijabs, Sofia, unlike many of her friends and family, chooses to wear a hijab and pray five times a day. She chooses not to drink, she chooses to smoke and swear. She goes to speed dating for goodness sake! And while she is careful to respect the parameters of her families beliefs, ie not allowing a man in the house after hours etc, she is not oppressed. She wears skinny jeans. How can you be oppressed if you wear skinny jeans? I just kind of loved that here is a person that loves their religion and follows its rules (an alien concept for me, the atheist) who was also relatable.
Plus, this was pretty bloody funny. Here is a genuine line from the book, after being called a terrorist while on the tube, Sofia responds with:
Terrorists don’t wear vintage shoes you ignorant wanker!
Come on, that is incredible.
Actually, I liked this so much, its going to get the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.
It’s been a while since he made an appearance hasn’t it?