Book review: If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran, by Carla Power

Anybody who forces people to change their beliefs, they are not a teacher. Learning should come from understanding properly, not from being forced.

If you think this is a book about Quran, I’m not going to say that you are wrong, but you are most definitely not right either. This is a book about someone who wants to know more, who loves to discuss, who wants to understand without prejudice, who wants to be a part of something that is foreign from them; ultimately this book is about learning, whether it be about Quran, Islam, acceptance, tolerance, or simply about life.

The book is the results of the author’s discussion with her friend,Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, after a yearlong journey through the Quran. The journey took them all the way from London to the Sheikh’s hometown in Lucknow, covering the topics about the world right down to the most personal discussion of the loss of their parents.


Despite my initial disappointment of this book (on hindsight, it could have been blamed on me, because my initial prediction of this book is far off), I think this has been a brilliant and fascinating book for me. It is such a page turner, even when it gets a bit redundant at times. The book is divided into three parts; The Origin, The Home, and The World. The Origin lay the groundwork in understanding Islam and the Quran, I found myself nodding along the lines, agreeing alternately on how the Sheikh and the author explain and understand Islam. The Home was a bit hard for me to digest, as the topic clashes a lot with how myself have understood Islam, however small it is. The most interesting part was the The World, as it encompasses everything there is.

I really enjoyed the author’s writing very much and appreciate her candor in voicing her opinions. There were times where it is very clear that she does not agree with the Sheik’s view on certain topics, and she does not hesitate in voicing that opinions but was also open to the Sheikh’s explanations, so as not to be judgemental. The open discussions that goes on back and forth between the two gave an open room for the reader to discuss and argue on their own on the topic at hand. It was refreshing to see a healthy discussion without the prejudice and the know-it-all attitude in the process.

The reader can see how opinionated the author was while also able to maintain a level of openness to the topic while the book discusses the topic of women. For some really odd reason, those who have small knowledge of Islam seems to have a keen interest on how Islam view women and/or how women is in Islam, even I am surprised to see myself very keen in reading this topic. I did find myself clashing with the Sheik’s view on certain topic, but the author made it easy to read such delicate topic as she was very open with her thoughts also without being insulting and condescending. The author managed to include several other famous names in Islam in discussing this oddly interesting topic, which I am very grateful for.

While I very much enjoyed the author’s writing and voice, I have to say that amidst those so called people representing Islam in the media (totally using the term lightly), it is very refreshing to see someone like the Sheikh who is very firm in what he believes, never sugarcoating anything, but also very mild-mannered in addressing other people’s questions and curiosities. His openness made it easy for people to ask him questions and to accept his answer, whether or not one actually agreeing to the answers given to them.

At the end of the day, I had hoped that for those who had read this book had enjoyed it as much as I did, and that we came out learning things by the time we close the book. Also worth noting if you want to read this book, you don’t necessarily have to be a Muslim yourself, or that you have to be a non-believer trying to believe in something; if you are curious, if you want to learn, if you like open discussions without prejudice, then you can always give this book a try.


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️☆

Title: If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran

Author: Carla Power

Genre: Nonfiction, Religion

Goodreads link

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