Cover Image: The Colour of God

The Colour of God

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Member Reviews

How much of a role does colour play in your life?

Chauvinism. A term that describes a group's feeling of superiority over others.

Humans have a wide history of fighting within ourselves. Do we want a fight? Are we forced to participate due to an obligation towards our community? Neither of these questions matter if  the superiority complex of a so called 'leader' comes into play.

'The Colour of God' is an insightful, beautiful and informative book on race, religion, diaspora, gender and discrimination. It's the author's account, or rather her memoir on life events that shaped her and made her into the empowering woman she is.

It brings into perspective various misconceptions we come across in daily life, and why it is important to question religious/community practices if it doesn't appeal to us. As a person living in a country that is in constant war with a Muslim country, people are indeed very outright in throwing around allegations and accusations against the very Muslims who live around us.

There's so much more for us to learn and understand. If we see the world in a singular mind without allowing room for thought and improvement, we might as well declare war on people who seem different to us.

Read this book. Please.
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The Colour of God is Ayesha S. Chaudhry’s memoir on God, family, and feminism. She is a child of Pakistani immigrants who move to Canada and become fundamentalist Muslims. This book openingly discusses patriarchy in Canadian and Islamic societies, Western and Islamic ideals and expectations of women, and racism against Muslims in the backdrop of 9/11 and beyond. 

I found some of Chaudhry’s statements and experiences eye-opening, especially the portions about different levels of coverings and the hair removal expectations for women. I found myself questioning my own ideas of how I view and perceive others with strong binding religious faith. 

Unfortunately, this one was not for me. She included simple restatements of what she experienced instead of bringing her readers in and showing what happened. Her arguments and observations, although insightful at times, were also somewhat contradictory. I didn’t question so much her choice to practice her religious the way she does, but more why she continues to justify it in her book to the extent she needs to.
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The Colour of God is the story of a Canadian Muslim girl who is brought up in a fundamentalist family.

Overall, I enjoyed this book but I feel it could have been structured a lot better and it raised more questions than it answered. The author goes off on many tangents which can make it confusing for the reader as you sometimes have no idea what the ramble has to do with the original point being made.  It reads as if the author realises that the original point needs to be made and she swerves back.

Despite this, the book is very interesting, showing why the family chose fundamentalism and how they deal with the prejudice they faced.  The book firmly has one foot in the past and one in the present.   It smashed some preconceived notions I had about why families turn to fundamentalism. 

The author explains certain things which ring a bell with me, for example, growing up in the shadow of colonialism and how the patriarchy stops women from achieving everything that they can.

Parts of the book did cause me some confusion, however, the author states at many instances how strict her upbringing was and how they were not allowed to mix with "outside" kids but then there is no barrier to her moving out to carry on her studies. 

The biggest positive about this book is that the author does not bow down to a Western "white" audience.  I really like the way the book is full of Arabic and words that brown people would understand.  I really really like this about this book. 

Despite the negative aspects noted above, I did really like this book.  It opened my eyes to a world I had never seen (Muslim fundamentalists) and it shattered many of the ideas that I had in my head as to how people "fell" into fundamentalism.
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It's publication day! The Colour of God is a memoir written by Ayesha Chaudhry and looks at the experience of a Canadian Muslim and how she navigates her life. 

I learnt that Ayesha S. Chaudhry is a Professor of Islamic and Gender Studies, so naturally I was expecting an academic text. However, I was shocked to see that it was actually a memoir and a South Asian one at that. I really hate spoilers but there are a few moments in the book that really stuck with me that can embody a female Muslim experience. 

Chaudhry is brutally honest and very down-to-earth in her manner of speaking. I don't know if everyone would find her that way or if it's because I am also a South Asian woman trying to make sense of my dual identity. She takes us to some very personal moments and makes us question contentious subjects. 

The title itself became my first inquiry point into the text. I had never heard the term 'The Colour of God' and was shocked to find it in the Qur'an. 

Interestingly, looking at the translation of this passage - some scholars take the literal meaning of colour, some refer to it as design, hue, belief, dye and a painting. It has both a literal and metaphorical use and is also the name of Ayesha's little nephew. 

The text begins with: 

My name is Sibghatullah.
What does your name mean?
The colour of God.
And what is the colour of God?, I think ... or maybe light brown. 

The concept of colour returns several times throughout the text - in relation to grief, words, Islam and hope showing that her faith in God remains even though she questions certain practices. 
She also refers to God as Herself several times too, which again put me on edge. Logically, I know that that the Arabic language - like most others - tends to use the male pronoun as an identifier even though God has no gender. However, hearing that just seemed wrong somehow and that is why Ayesha does it. Her purpose is to make us question what we have been told and find the equality in Islam - rather than the patriarchal Islam she had been exposed to growing up. 

Another incident mentions her struggle with the niqab - and her birth into a cult that her parents had joined because of how they had been rejected by Western society after years of trying to assimilate. She makes it clear that this cult had nothing to do with violence or 'creeping shari'a' but rather a patriarchal force that sought to steal her imagination instead of its promise to be a 'free and liberating Islam'. 

The niqab is a topic that is being debated heavily in the news given France's new laws and it should be noted that Chaudhry had been pressured into wearing the niqab before she adopted it into her own value system BUT this is not the case for all women. Her decision to remove it came from a quest for her own personal identity after being analysed under the human gaze. This is where Chaudhry's writing shines as she openly addresses the insecurities many women face in the West for looking outwardly Islamic. We realise she is just like us - trying to find her way in the world - free from the expectations that come from being a South Asian Muslim and wanting to reach our own version of Islam. I'm not saying I agree with everything she has said but I respect her right to feel like that without judgement. Mostly, it showed me the dangers of being too restrictive. She says, 

"If we'd been raised with another, richer, more colourful Islam, the entire experience could have been different."

I would definitely be encouraging everyone to buy this - especially if you come from a similar background to the author. If you chose to discuss this in a book club you could look at: 

•	religion
•	gender
•	sexual trauma
•	maternity
•	death
•	marriage 
•	integration 

 Thank you to #NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 
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The Colour of God is about bravery, personal story, and testimony. It’s a beautifully written exploration of faith and self — highly recommended.
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I’ve been trying to figure out for quite a while what to say about this memoir and still don’t really know how to put into words how I felt while reading it. To start, I’ll say that it is a memoir about belonging, or sometimes feeling like you don’t belong, about wanting to fit in, but also trying your best not to fit in in a country that will never accept you for who you are. It is about Islam and a sense of belonging to a certain community and it is about racism and how religion can help protect you from racism - to paraphrase Chaudhry’s mother, it’s better they hate us for our religion which is something we have chosen at least, that for them to hate us for our race which we can’t change. 
“Enduring religious persecution is noble, honourable, principled, meritorious; it is heroic”.

When Chaudhry’s parents moved to Canada from Pakistan, they turned to a puritanical form of Islam to shield themselves from the hate and racism they experienced in Canada. Throughout the book, Chaudhry does talk about her experiences growing up in Canada, growing up in a very religious family, what it was like wearing a niqab etc while also exploring the shared experiences of oppression women have to endure in a patriarchal society. Rather than it being “us” or “Western” women against “them” or “Muslim” women, it should be everyone against the patriarchy and anyone who tries to uphold it. 
“Focusing on superficial things like clothing is a way of covering up the deeper similarities, the shared systemic oppressions, between “us” and “them”.

Throughout the book, Chaudhry ensures that people who are just looking for “proof” of how oppressed Muslim women are, will not find it in her story. Many parents try to make their teenagers cover up more (I personally know some non-Muslim Irish girls who brought a second outfit to change into after leaving the house) and it is certainly not a uniquely Muslim experience. Chaudhry brings up many other topics, such as who are “extremists” - was Queen Victoria an extremist because of her willingness to destroy the earth and kill humans to achieve her goals? She also discusses ridiculous body standards imposed on women and the right of everybody, especially women, to not want to bring a child into this world.
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Chaudhry’s memoir traces her family’s roots in Pakistan and her parent’s two-ing and froying from Canada as they try and assimilate into the white western settler environment. Ultimately they (rightfully) reject, assimilation. They choose instead to align with fundamental Islam and a puritanical view of a religious life. From her she regales stories of wearing niqab, interacting with white feminists who want to ‘free her’ and men who want to take advantage. 

Woven throughout are Quranic verses, historic retelling and present-day stories, combined it is compulsively readable in tone, reminding me the memoir can teach much more than a family history. 

Most notable was her smart look at patriarchal systems in both her fundamentalist Islamic upbringing and white western culture, she’s clear on that. Patriarchy has infiltrated almost all facets of human existence, it is impossible to escape and is not inherent to one religion or group. It must be abolished as a collective. Her writing shines with humility as she delves into her own mistakes and looks back on a life that feels like many. 

It is a book of multitudes, simultaneously Chandhry interrogates her position as a woman, a daughter of immigrants, a sister of a grieving sibling, a member of Islam, a wife of a Muslim man. Here she is, case and point, demonstrating why we must take each story as a singular and each person as an individual. There is no us and them.
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When @sofiareading mentioned that Ayesha S. Chaudhry is going to publish a book, I immediately check it up and it turned that the book is not an academic text but a memoir! It is always compelling that the scholar that you used to read their works for education purpose is writing something less theoretical but more personal one. So I was enthusiastic to read it.

I was hoping to find out how she became a Professor of Islamic Studies and Gender Studies. Yet book is beyond Ayesha S. Chaudhry’s personal memoir. This book is not only a South Asian descent woman’s memoir. This book is Muslim woman’s memoir. I could highlight every page as they all resonates with me.

She recollects her and her family’s lived experiences: as a Canadian Muslim woman from Pakistani parents who embrace puritanical Islam after failed attempt on assimilation because of racial discrimination. She explores the desire of belonging to the community where she lives in with her hijab and niqab on, patriarchal tyrants, her ideal of state & citizenship, taking ownership of one’s own body, typical (South) Asian mother-daughter relationship, and the loss of her loved one.

The book is fiercely honest, it lays bare the bitter truth of being raised in the fundamentalist Muslim household. Her voice here is many women’s voice out there which sometimes seen as oppressed by the West when it is actually their rejection to these people that then they decide to amplify their religious identities. She uncovers the stories of resistance to the patriarchal Islam and Islamophobic society and institution.
I was repeatedly heartbroken and entertained as she tells the stories eloquently from beginning to end. Could you imagine how a story of body hair could move from personal, philosophical, religious to political? She places Qur’anic verse, Prophetic and Urdu sayings making them relevant to the story she is telling, making the historical universal.

Behind her intellectual state today lays a long chain of distinctive spiritual events that is heartening to learn from. There no denying it goes into my Favourites List 2021, a very memorable one!

Thank you @oneworldpublications for sending me the e-ARC through @netgalley. If you reading a memoir from Muslim woman is on your #ReadingToChallenge list, then this book is unquestionably for you. It will be published on May 11th 2021 so you can pre-order now.
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