I know everyone says that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but that's exactly what I did with The Reluctant Mullah by British-Pakistani writer Sagheer Afzal. With the cartoon drawing of a burka'd boy and the tagline of The clock is ticking for Musa. He has 30 days to escape from an arranged marriage… I was expecting something light, almost like the chick-lit types of books I've never read but for which I have always harbored a morbid curiosity. The Reluctant Mullah is definitely not the book I thought it was going to be though.
The premise of The Reluctant Mullah, the first novel by Afzal is this: Musa, a British-Pakistani Muslim, has 30 days to find himself someone suitable to marry. Otherwise, he has to marry someone who his grandfather from Pakistan has chosen for him. Forced to take a break from his religious studies from his madrasah due to his antics, Musa finds himself back in his family's suburban England home and agreeing to his grandfather's deal.
His siblings, Suleiman and Shabnam readily help their brother try to find a spouse while dealing with their own cultural and religious hangups. Along for the ride are Suleiman's friend and employer Babarr, a Muslim ladie's man with a nickname that can't be reprinted here, and Armila, a friend of Musa's.
Although I didn't think I was going to get a deep look into the marriage crisis that currently plagues the Western Muslim community, I was surprised when I didn't get the comedic story I was expecting either.
I can't speak for what life is like for a British Muslim so I can't comment on whether or not the author captured that, but one may find it hard to believe the reality that The Reluctant Mullah portrays: Characters come out of nowhere or are introduced and never heard from again, people make decisions that have no basis in common sense, and in the end, all of the events seemed all for naught.
Still, The Reluctant Mullah is not without its merits. Musa for instance is an intriguing character who doesn't quite know what he wants in life but does know what he doesn't want. Until the end, I liked Musa relative to all the other characters and was rooting for him to find his one before the end of the 30 days and also was hoping that he would find himself along the way.
The Reluctant Mullah is published by Halban Publishers.