2015 Novella

Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel

Kauthar  Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Five words from the blurb: Islam, rituals, love, extremism, terrifying

Kauthar follows a young woman as she converts to Islam and then becomes increasingly radicalised. The subject matter is particularly pertinent to our society today and I’m pleased that I am now more informed about the issues involved. Unfortunately it lacked the emotional power of her debut, Magda and I found the amount of religious information overwhelming.

Kauthar is only 144 pages long, but it crams a lot into such a small space. The writing is deceptively simple, but contains many sections that force the reader to stop and think about the issues raised. 

The book was very well researched and contained a wealth of information that was new to me, but I occasionally found that too much was explained and this detracted from the story. It is a very hard line to tread, especially when the author is aware that the majority of readers are not familiar with the details of the subject matter, but much of the book felt like a lecture in religious studies, rather than a compelling novel:

And I ask Rabia,’Isn’t Islam misogynistic?’
‘For Allah there is no difference between the soul of a man and the soul of a woman. We are all from Him and we will all return to Him. O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from the twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. However, there is a physical difference between men and women. And Islam and we Muslims accept and acknowledge this difference in our earthly appearance.

It was interesting to see the young woman become increasingly devoted to her religion, but I never felt I truly understood what was going on in her head. I failed to connect to the characters and always felt as though I was a distant observer, rather than someone immersed in the action.

If you’re interested in learning the basic principles of Islam and would like an insight into the process of radicalisation then I recommend Kauthar, but if you’re after a more powerful book I suggest you try Magda instead.