Book Review: Unimagined

by Bushra on June 20, 2007

In Unimagined: A Muslim Boy Meets the West, Imran Ahmad narrates life growing up Pakistani and Muslim in England. Born in Karachi, he migrated to England with his family as a very young boy. Ahmad did his best to fit in a land dominated by those with a different religion and color of skin who were wary of the influx of immigrants living in their land. He weaves a heart-wrenching tale in which his struggles to overcome prejudices will surely leave you in tears.

Well, actually, not really.

Ahmad tells the tale of his life with an ever present humor which is evident from the start, beginning with mention of his entry in the “Bonnie Baby” contest in Karachi. He ended up losing to a boy who was the judges son, a sure sign of nepotism. It was that incident, Ahmad wrote, that began his lifelong struggle against corruption. In the recollection of his life, Ahmad weaves in humor so we may laugh, or at least smile, at all the good or bad that happens in his life.

At the bottom of every page, Ahmad includes the time period and his age so the reader can know exactly how old the author was at any particular point in the book. The reader follows Ahmad along while he learns about Islam, his experience in the different schools he’s been to, his struggles with women, and encounters with Evangelical Christians.


Those who were ‘born Muslim’ to immigrants in a place like American or England may find something in common with Ahmad, as he didn’t even know about the fundamentals of Islam until he was put in Islamic school. There, he learned the ‘why’ of all the things that he was doing or supposed to be doing. Before that, he was oblivious of the facts of Islam. Ahmad then shares his knowledge of Islam in a few of his sub chapters, obviously meant for readers who have little or no knowledge of the subject to aid in their understanding of what Ahmad believes in. Unfortunately, at times Ahmad passes on something he learned in Islamic School that isn’t quite right, such as the belief that Satan, Iblis to Muslims, was a fallen angel while Satan is actually a jinn.

Generally, I really liked the book. However, I took offense at one part as a Muslim. Close to the end, Imran Ahmad stated that he was lucky to have grown up the way he had, by parents who were not ignorant or fundamentalists. He then followed the line by stating that his dad was always clean shaven and that his mom never wore the hijab. Those two sentences one after the other suggests that Ahmad equates a bearded man and a woman wearing hijab as ignorant. Whether or not Ahmad thinks a beard or hijab are necessary, he shouldn’t pass judgment on those who choose to adopt them.

I do think Unimagined: A Muslim Boy Meets the West is worth reading since it’s funny and entertaining. It was also incredibly ‘readable.’ I wanted to keep on reading it and find out what was going to happen next. Do keep in mind that these are memoirs and not a religious book. With that in mind, Unimagined is a good read.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Imran Ahmad June 23, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Dear Bushra,

Salaam Alaikum.

Thank you very much for your kind words about ‘Unimagined’.

You are right about the Shaitan issue. The trouble with a book narrated in the moment, as mine is (rather than looking back decades later, older, wiser and with hindsight), is that one has to convey what one thought to be true at that moment, rather than what turned out to be true later. This is the unique quality of ‘Unimagined’ – whatever age the narrator is at the time is reflected in his thoughts and analysis at that moment.

But I think I will fix this particular issue in future editions.

On the hijab and beard issue, I was trying to convey that I do not consider these to be mandatory religious requirements, but if someone wants to wear one as a sign of faith and dignity (like wearing a crucifix), I have no issue with that. But I won’t tolerate being told that it is my duty to have a beard.

I was wondering how you came upon ‘Unimagined’, as currently it is only available in the US from Amazon Canada, and not being marketed much over there yet.

I do believe ‘Unimagined’ has a role to play in re-humanizing Muslims in these times of fear and hysteria.

Best regards,

Imran

http://www.unimagined.co.uk/

Bushra June 25, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Wa alaykum Assalam,

Thanks for your comment!. I really did enjoy your book and welcomed your clarifications.

I listen to Guardian Unlimited’s ‘Islamophonic’ podcast and heard the one about Muslims in literature that featured you as a guest. I looked up the book and thought it looked interesting, so I ordered it from Amazon.com’s Canadian site.

Thanks again for checking out this site and the review. I wish you luck on further marketing this book in the U.S. and with your future writing endeavors.

Bushra

hiutopor September 19, 2007 at 4:07 pm

Hi all!

Very interesting information! Thanks!

Bye

pinky March 31, 2008 at 5:26 am

Hello Imran,

I love it and i hate it. I love it is beacuse it’s very endering it makes me go back to my childhood with all the no nonsense questions in my head. It’s more like a telegram, the message is short and precise. I hate it is because Mr. Peldman exists in reality.

My parents are with a different religions, I’m a Christian at birth, but really never practise it. I married a Buddish man, my friends are with mixed religions, and i don’t see a big deal out of it. I believe the saying that, “It’s not the religion that will save you to go to heaven, but it’s your faith. Let’s face it there’s only ONE God. Don’t think too much, stick to Islam, it might save you one day, ha ha ha !!!

Good luck for a new begining and all your future undertakings.

Best regards,
Pinky Tan

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