Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (Ayisha Malik)

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General Fiction
Publisher: Twenty7
Series: Sofia Khan #1
Publication date: September 3rd, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 456

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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 . . . ?

Sofia Khan is not Obliged is the hilarious and authentic debut novel by Ayisha Malik.

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Imagine my delight when I found out last year that this debut novel was to be published by none other than a British Muslim! I was so psyched when I saw the amazing cover (featuring a hijabi no less!) in bookstores. And to find out this has a sequel was the cherry on top. I put this book on the top of my Ramadan TBR and didn’t regret it one bit.

I truly enjoyed Sofia Khan is Not Obliged in its entirety. From the brilliant Asian family antics that remind me so much of my own Malay culture, to the struggles of finding love or even a date, as a modern Muslim hijabi.

All sorts of emotions coursed me throughout reading this book: entertained, laughing out loud in public transportation, frustration, heartbreak and the immense love for all the wonderful characters in the book.

“Don’t you need an umbrella?”

“Why do you think I wear the hijab? Part religious belief, part common sense.”

This is a book I’d definitely recommend to anyone wanting to know what it’s like to be a Muslim hijabi in today’s modern era of technology and social standards. This book has been dubbed the Muslim version of The Bridget Jones’ Diary and has that saucy yet halal vibe of Sex and the City!

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I think the plot was brilliantly written. We find Sofia struggling to write an expose book about Muslims dating and finding love in the vibrant city of London. Through this we meet Sofia’s fabulous circle of girlfriends and crazy family members. Now, the one thing Malays and Pakistanis have in common is the big family circle we always find ourselves in. Granted my family is smaller and I don’t see them often, but I understand Sofia’s frustrations in dealing with family members’ insistent and more often than not, annoying questions about settling down and finding a husband.

This book had me questioning the trouble with Asian cultures so dead-set on seeing their females settling down and producing offsprings at the quickest moment. We’re in 2017 now for god’s sake! There are going to be Muslim girls not married at the age of 30 or even living independently in the city.

It’s not a crime.

Get with the program my dear uncles and aunties.

But that is how I felt when Sofia describes her family. Pestering her on marriage and not seeing her for this brilliant, smart, quick-wit and obviously talented writer. She’s just someone who needs to get married.

And I find this so troublesome. Because I see it all the time in Malay families too. I count my lucky stars that I have so many females in my family with high-flying careers that landing a husband in your early 20’s is not the most important thing in life. But I do pity friends who have to go through what Sofia did.

So this book not only described how normal we Muslims are: we love, we cry, we curse if you’re being an ass, and we love being sarcastic (who doesn’t?). But this book also brought about the difference between Asian and Western cultures. And how culture and traditions are not something that gets easily buried even when one is thousand of miles away from the roots of said tradition.

Sofia’s little journey in writing a Muslim dating book also brings us to meet so many wonderful and quirky Muslim men. When she seems to be falling in love with one of them when she didn’t plan to, things get a little bit confusing. And this is where I find her to be very real and relatable. Being 30 and falling in love can’t be as simple as when it used to be. And the mixed emotions Sofia feels are something I believe every girl in that age can relate to. Her decisions which will have major consequences in her life had such an impact in making the book turn out to be more real than just a fictional novel.

“Listen, if a man turns up outside a girl’s house he’s probably mad about her… or he’s passing time until something better comes along… All you need to know is if you’re tough enough to live with the worst of the two outcomes.”

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“I’m a marginally intelligent, selectively confident, assertive woman”

There are just so many brilliant female characters in this book! And the one thing that made this book stand out from any other women’s fiction was its characters. The vibrant mix of brown ladies that proved to be Sofia’s wonderful support system was such a breathe of fresh air!

You have ladies who are feminists yet tied to cultural traditions and  the natural wanting of finding a husband and building a family.

You have ladies who go on dates with other Muslim men and find them disastrous, yet believing in Allah’s will that someday they’ll find their soul mate.

You have ladies who defend each other in the toughest of times, proving that even when husbands come and go, your girlfriends are here to stay. And may I note, how I love the amount of divorcees among her friends. Because it is a true reality of Muslim women in their 30’s nowadays, that a good number of them have been divorced.

I loved reading about each and every friend of Sofia, and I think she’s better amidst the chaotic clash of cultures because of them. You have Sofia’s strong personality who’s honest and strong yet still susceptible to life’s unpredictable challenges, and you have her wonderful friends and sister, Maria, saying the most crass of jokes to keep us all laughing throughout the book.

“Remember Sof, be proactive…not ho-active”

Honestly, I think we all wish we could be Sofia when we read about her friends in this book.

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Overall, I was quite surprised by how well I could relate to Sofia. Her independence and her strong personality are what keeps her grounded and while there are moments of infuriation where she can’t seem to get her head around her situation, she somehow figures out a way. I loved how this book ended. I totally did not see it coming! And I’m excited to see what the sequel has in store for me.

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for more diverse reads. This book brings a whole new perception into our Muslim lives, and you’ll realise that putting aside the fussy aunties and nosy cousins pestering about you to settle down, we’re just like any other human being: looking for love and happiness.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (Ayisha Malik)

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