If the Oceans Were Ink : An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran
by Power, Carla

Introduction: A Map for the Journey1(24)
1 The Quran in Twenty-Five Words
2 An American in the East
3 A Muslim in the West
4 Road Trip to the Indian Madrasa
5 A Migrant's Prayer Mat
6 Pioneer Life in Oxford
7 Nine Thousand Hidden Women
8 "The Little Rosy One"
9 Veiling and Unveiling
10 Reading "The Women"
11 A Pilgrim's Progress
12 Jesus, Mary, and the Quran
13 Beyond Politics
14 The Pharaoh and His Wife
15 War Stories
16 The Last Lesson
Conclusion: Everlasting Return290(11)
Author's Note301(2)

A foreign correspondent relates how she and her longtime friend, a madrasa-trained sheikh, confronted stereotypes and misconceptions in their communities by drawing on the Quran's messages of peace and respect.

Carla Power writes for TIME and was a foreign correspondent for Newsweek. Her writing has appeared in Vogue, Glamour, The New York Times Magazine, and Foreign Policy. Her work has been recognized with an Overseas Press Club award, a Women in Media Award, and the National Women's Political Caucus's EMMA Award. She holds a graduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford, as well as degrees from Yale and Columbia.

Power, a secular American journalist who had seen firsthand the clumsy attempts by the media to cover Muslims in the West, partnered with Mohammad Akram Nadwi, a madrasa-trained sheikh, to delve into the true teachings of the Qur'an. They already knew that the ancient text went far beyond the out-of-context passages used to justify violence and oppression of women. For one year, Power met with Akram for personal lessons, shadowed his lectures at Oxford, and followed him on a trip home to his ancestral village in India for deeper lessons on the teachings of the Qur'an and his scholarly work challenging the marginality of women in Islam, uncovering histories of thousands of learned Islamic women, from the time of the prophet Muhammad to today. Akram taught her the differences between cultural and religious traditions and the resistance to change even when the Qur'an is cited as the authority. Their yearlong debates on issues ranging from the veiling of women to calls for fatwas challenged their own understandings of religion, culture, politics, and friendship and offer powerful new insights into Islam. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

An award-winning journalist's account of the year she spent probing the meaning of the Quran with a conservative Muslim religious scholar.St. Louis native Power spent many years living in cities like Tehran, Kabul, Delhi and Cairo when she was a child and teenager. Eventually, she went on to study Middle Eastern societies in college and graduate school and file news reports about Islamic culture and politics for magazines like Time and Newsweek. But the more she wrote about the Middle East, the more she realized how little she really knew about "the piety [Muslims] claimed inspired them." So she went to a friend and Oxford professor of religion, Mohammad Akram Nadwi, and asked him to enlighten her on the Quran. The lively dialogue that ensued between them covered such hot-button Western obsessions as women's rights, polygamy and Sharia law. At the same time, it also delved into more personal topics, such as which Quranic themes her friend found the most important in his own l ife. The journalist and her friend debated each other in Oxford cafes, lecture halls and Indian madrassas and bonded over shared human experiences, like the deaths of their respective mothers. While Nadwi made God the center of his world, he also supported basic human rights and the importance of "individual conscience over state-mandated laws." His religious expansiveness had its limits, however, especially where women's domestic roles and homosexuality were concerned. Power eventually came to see that her friend's faith derived from understanding the letter of the Quran as bound to historical context and its spirit to evolving human truths. By the end of their year together, she realized that "opposition between [her] own post-Enlightenment worldview and [Nadwi's] Muslim one" was a false construction that not only prevented her from seeing her friend's world clearly, but also her own. Intelligent and exceptionally informative. Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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