Kolna Laila, or is it Khadra?

Funny that this event should coincide with the week in which I completed “Girl in the Tangerine Scarf”, by the Syrian-American academic Mohja Kahf. The heroine of the story, Khadra, is the daughter of Syrian Daaiays (da3iyas) who join a Dawah centre in the middle of Indianapolis. The parents come across as decent folk, who teach their daughter the shariah, and in her childhood few elements of cultural conditining appear. As a result she grows up to become quite an emancipated young lady, who expects other muslims to behave according to the Islamic concepts she was raised with. She wakes up to a harsh reality when she gets married, and her husband requires of her all the traditional services many arab men expect. He bullies and ‘forbids’ her to ride her bicycle, interferes with her activities on campus, and refuses to cook, at one point shouting ‘I am a man I do not cook’ even though both were in the middle of a university course. It all comes to a head when she gets pregnant and he completes his degree, expecting her to drop hers and move with him back to his country. Khadra, already feeling hemmed in by this marriage, rebels. At point she asks herself “Was this what marriage amounted to, compromise after compromise, until you frittered away all the jewels in your red box?”, she felt the ‘future was closing in, the horizon shrinking smaller around her’. She realises that she had lived her life for others, and this phase in her life culminates in abortion and divorce. That is when the dichotomy between religion and culture smack her in the face. Her parents disapprove, her brother is worried that her divorce will dent his chances of getting married. She is effectively left to deal with things on her own, and surprise surprise sinks into depression.


I wont say much more, its a beautiful book that I highly recommend, and in case anyone is wondering, no it is not an anti-islam book, on the contrary. However Mohja does illustrate how Islam is twisted to suit the male desire and ego. At one point we meet her mums friend, who married for love and whose husband took a second wife after over 20 years of marriage, but she stays with him for the kids and puts on the mask of the brave. Yet she admits to our heroine that her love for him was as pure as gold and that ‘you dont do that to love. No. No. It hurts. It hurts’. I cried buckets at this part. 


Its not all doom and gloom, in actuality the fact that an Arab woman is writing about such issues, while still being happily married mum of a few says bucketloads about the status and role of women in what has been a traditionally male dominated society. I refer readers to my post “Arab women of today”    for how arab culture and the status of women has evolved in the span of a generation.

the girl in the tangerine scarf, by mohja kahf. If you do buy it, link from www.dpet.org.uk and support Palestinian students studying in the UK.

Mohja Kahf

the privilege of being a female muslim, also by Mohja Kahf

7 Responses

  1. I have a signed copy of the book 🙂 got it from Mohja herself. You should have heard her say select passages from the book.
    Mohja is a wonderful person, a lovely mom and a great wife, or at least that’s what her daughter said when I was trying to convince her that one day we’ll be walking around with phone and PDA implants 🙂
    -she didn’t believe me-

  2. AAAHHH! <— the primal scream of pure unadulterated jealousy :p!! It was pure coincidence that I came across this book, and am SO glad I did though… I cried at so many parts of the book… it really would make to a list books to read before you, if i ever drew up a list like that 🙂

    I wish she come over to the uk to give a talk!!

  3. Thanks for the review! I think it deals with an issue that a lot of women face, particularly at this time when their priorities have changed . I hope I will be able to lay hands on the book, how large is it?:)

  4. This sounds like such a juicey read! I’ve always wanted to pick it up but just never found the time. Loved your summary. Can I post it on my blog in the near future?

  5. noona i keep meaning to check and then forget, but it isnt very big, maybe 400 pages?

    Mariam It is, and really makes you think 🙂 feel free to post bits of this blog on yours 🙂

  6. I hope to have a post soon on Mohja Kahf … and will include your comments inshallah 🙂 Just trying to piece the article together…

  7. […] • Kolna Laila, or is it Khadra? « Talking Virtually To Myself […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: