Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged

By: Ayisha Malik

For my mum and dad.



I Was Told There’d Be Light

Thursday 1 September

‘Fight the Good Fight’ by Yes, I’m Muslim, Please Get Over It


You’d have thought that a break-up just before Ramadan would have inspired some kind of empathy from extended family members.

‘O-ho,’ one auntie might’ve said, ‘I’m sorry that your potential husband wanted you to live with his family and a hole-in-the-wall.’

Perhaps even a show of shock – a gasp, a hand to the chest or to the mouth . . . ‘Hain? A hole-in-the wall? What is this?’

Nope. An entire month and all my aunties (even the occasional uncle) felt compassion was redundant. For spiritual sustenance, they used their obsession with marriage instead. There was no sympathy at the mention of my no longer marrying the lawyer, and no shock when I explained why the hole-in-the-wall was an impediment to marital bliss. At every iftari party to break fast, all I did was wait seventeen hours to have a decent samosa, and instead I had nothing but the question of marriage shoved down my throat.

‘Maria is getting married, Sofia. Now it is your turn, nah?’

I tried! I did! But what normal human being would ask another human being to live with a cohort of mother, father, brother and sister-in-law with two children, complete with a sister and brother-in-law and three children next door, and a hole-in-the-wall joining the two houses? (Just writing that sentence about so many people confused me; imagine living with them.) I had to pretend it was the chilli sauce that made my eyes water.

Every time someone mentions the ‘M’ word, they become monochrome to me – like the first half of The Wizard of Oz – and at least Dorothy was looking for something more interesting. Home. If little old Dot was Muslim (and not that much older, to be honest), that wizard would be an eligible husband, they’d get married and she’d spend her days popping out babies and choosing suitable flooring. (Not that I have anything against babies or flooring – both are reasonable pastimes if you’re into that kind of thing.) On the plus side, she’d not have to worry about things like pouring water into authors’ champagne, or being thirty and waking up to her parents clattering around the house.

But it seems that this is life. The yellow brick road is paved with babies and just too many questions about the ‘M’ word . . .

7 a.m. The truth is, if your (ex) boyfriend has a habit of shaking his leg and all you want to do is chop off the limb in question, you’re probably not that in love with him – despite any affection that might bubble to the surface. (Incidentally, if you don’t have any kind of physical relationship with someone, can they really be your boyfriend? Shouldn’t there be a word for someone between a friend and a potential husband?) And then of course there’s the hole-in-the-wall. After a month of fasting and praying, and praying and fasting, I decided to write a list, because as Anaïs Nin said, ‘We write to taste life twice.’ I’m not sure she knew what she was talking about: we write to get rid of the taste certain morsels of life leave us with. But I don’t think I should be accused of never giving things a chance and writing is very useful for reference’s sake. Now where the hell is it. Ah, here we are:

Post-Ramadan/Hole-In-The-Wall resolutions:

•Give up smoking. Especially when Hannah says, ‘Some Islamic scholars say it’s haram. “Haram” is just “harm” without an extra “a”.’ Sigh. Knowledge is so inconvenient sometimes. (I do think it’s rather good of me not to judge her potential poly-gamous marriage given her raised eyebrows whenever I decide to get a fag out.)

•I’ll maintain my philosophical take on the entire Imran and hole-in-the-wall situ. There are people who like walls, and there are people who like holes-in-the-wall, and that is that.

•I’ll also unglue the phone from my hand. One should be selective with their obsessions and mine should be my job rather than social media and checking if Imran has emailed/Facebooked/texted/whatsapped/tweeted/instagrammed/pinterested etc.

•Which leads me to the importance of being a brilliant publicist. I won’t PR my way into a comfortable afterlife, but surely serving literature is like serving education, and education is the pinnacle of Islamic philosophy. Not sure how my current campaign for Shain Murphy’s Facts About Hippos book fits in, but then life is mysterious sometimes. Also I can prove that wearing a hijab does not make me a social pariah. I will not get sacked for being a practising Muslim. Getting sacked for being a shit book publicist, however, may be unavoidable.

Top Books