Stranger to History. A Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands. Aatish Taseer. Stranger to History. download cover image. “Stranger to History is a. I met Aatish Taseer. in New York last year, at the prize-giving ceremony of the National Book Awards of the USA. (my wife’s book, The Convert. Stranger to History – A Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands by Aatish Taseer – ebook () published by Canongate 19 March The story of a .

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Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Stranger to Histor by Aatish Taseer. Raised by his Sikh mother in Delhi, his father, a Pakistani Muslim, remained a distant figure. Stranger to History is the story of the journey he made to try to understand what it means to jistory Muslim in the twenty-firstcentury.

Recent events have added a coda to Stranger to Historyas his father was murdered by a political assassin. A new introduction by the author reflects on how this event changes the impact of the book, and why its message is more relevant than ever. Paperbackpages. Published November 13th by Graywolf Press first published November 2nd To agish what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Stranger to Historyplease sign up. There is a Mandarin translated version. See 1 question about Stranger to History…. Lists with This Book. Jan 24, Sairam Krishnan rated it really liked it. I discovered travel writing when Stranget was well into my 20s. One of the travel quotes that keeps making its way across Facebook timelines talks about how though a traveler may be making the journey, the journey might be making him.

This is a journey to try to understand his making; its very undertaking is as an inward journey. The peculiar circumstances that gave birth to Taseer hisyory the starting point of the book, but that tadeer not its heart. Though Taseer writes repeatedly that he wants to understand the young Muslim psyche, and indeed tries and partly succeeds in doing so, the book is not entirely about that either. Aatish Taseer is Indian, his father is Pakistani, and his maternal family are partition refugees.

And when I refer to Taseer as Indian, it is not a light remark. I know this because I am one.

I understand that feeling as well. I understand that feeling because like Taseer, I care. But the writer has much more reason to, of course, and though his story starts as an attempt to understand Islam in this time and age, it is in Pakistan that it finds its soul. The division is well thought out: In the second part, in Iran, the writer encounters a kind-of secular rebellion complete with Hare Krishnas, God help us against a state that seeks to impose its own version of Islam on the people.

And then comes Pakistan.

In all of these places, the writer meets troubled, damaged, fascinating young Muslims, each of them dealing with the challenges of their faith and its complexities in their own way.

The writing is incisive, the observations sharp. In Arabia, he ventures into the history of Islam, and how it got to where it is today. In Iran, where the nation-state imposes a literal Islam, he sees a people at odds with the history being fed to them.

In Pakistan, he sees the great, inclusive culture stranyer the northern subcontinent being strangled, being made into something so hollow and regressive that his despair becomes almost tangible: And in all of these places, Taseer encounters the stanger that gives him his Urdu name, and meets its different faces and interpretations, including most importantly, political Islam – the idea that temporal and religious power should be one, the idea that is at the root of ISIS, an idea completely at odds with the world of today.


This is also what the book is about: What does being Muslim mean? But like it is in the north, India is a land of so many cultural, communal, and religious differences that being Muslim was, to me growing up, just another mode of being, just another difference in a country-ful tasrer them. I know the Muslim festivals, I know the cultural associations, I know the story of Ali, in the same way that my atihs friend from college, a Muslim, knew all of the corresponding Hindu points of interest.

But, and this is an important but, the south has its own shared history and landscape. For example, in Karaikal, where I went to college, the annual Kandoori festival, a remembrance of a Sufi saint, is celebrated by Hindus and Muslims alike – this in a temple town revered for its closeness to Thirunallar, an important Shiva temple in the Hindu pantheon. The Nagore dargah is another, a short motorcycle ride away from Karaikal, where we would ride to, and pray whenever we could.

But why are these details important? Am I showing off, in the way liberals are accused of showing off their association with the other faith? I point this out because it was natural to be part of these things. It was natural to attend these festivals, go to the dargah together. And the loss of exactly this is what makes Pakistan what it is today. Not only that, but in Sind too, where once great variety had been absorbed, bitter division was to atiah found in what was now relative homogeneity.

And Sind, for centuries so diverse, its culture and worship formed from that diversity, was for the first time in its history no longer a place of confluence. This was a nation, like mine, that was founded on high ideals. It was from the sophisticated read liberal, secular Muslims of the time that the case for the country was made.

Stranger to History – A Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands by Aatish Taseer – Canongate Books

And yet among these genteel people an idea was expressed whose full ugliness, and violence, only became clear in the cruder, more basic articulations that followed. It is deeply personal, an observation by a son about his father, an observation by an Indian about a Pakistani patriot: It can also be a glimpse into what Pakistan has become, but like me, it can leave you with a profound sense of sadness and despair.

Because what is Pakistan except a stranget of us, undivided India, that was separated and distorted into something it did not really want to be?

They are our people, in more ways than we can ever imagine, and if this can happen to them and this nation stragner forged for peace, how easy it would be for us to fall into this trap?

This, then may be what Taseer is saying to us: View all 9 comments. May 17, Karan rated it really liked it Shelves: I came to Stranger to History, Taseer’s debut work after being thoroughly impressed by his piece on Sanskrit where he bemoaned the loss of a whole body of linguistic structure and culture thanks to colonialisation.

It was personal, curious and his sentences encased within them a quiet tragedy that had me in thrall at his talent.

Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands

In this unusual part-biography, part-travelogue, he strnger a journey of meeting his politician father in Pakistan who had estranged him in his childhood into an odyssey th I came to Stranger to History, Taseer’s debut work after being thoroughly impressed by his piece on Sanskrit where he bemoaned the loss of a whole body of linguistic structure and culture thanks to colonialisation.

In this unusual part-biography, part-travelogue, he turns a journey of meeting his politician father in Pakistan who had estranged him in his childhood into an odyssey that would inform him about what being a Muslim in the current historu entails.

This decoding of contemporary Muslim identity and reality by virtue of travel and interviews in key Muslim nations Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia Iran, Pakistan and other undocumented detours into Jordan and Yemenwould in his tentative plan, help him bridge the gulf of empathy for a father who is a warden and defender of an Islamic republic for decades.

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It would also, he hopes, help him complete his own sense of self as a Muslim: This quest for personal actualisation and an ethnic understanding are both deep and compelling journeys and they ground this sometimes meandering, but never short of insightful book.

Except for the novelistic flourishes in which Taseer waxes a sentence almost always too long on describing appearance of real strajger and the rhythms of landscape, he is in his element. Drawing upon his formal training in politics and journalism, his continuous mission to pin down the present and future aspirations of the hoi-polloi and spokespeople in Islamic lands leads to searching conversations and informed conclusions.

He might just offer his reader glimpses, but his subjects are chosen with care and the wisdom gistory from interactions is articulated with pragmatism. I enjoyed how his clear-headed, direct questioning on the idea of the ideal Islamic way of life always met with an impasse as the answering man from a Syrian cleric to his father entered into a rhetoric constructed totally of convenient historical retellings and amorphous utopian dreams.

Without being sensationalist, Taseer manages to make the reader see the fallacies of such utopias in the everyday corrosive realities within inward-looking and self-serving Islamic states with defined borders: Pakistan and Iran, both struggling with the modern “world system”.

Punctuated with these socio-political musings, his personal journey tore into me, both in how earnestly he pursued his imagined redemption and how he fielded the rebuffs and snubs with absolute decorum. For his sake, I felt myself punching in the air as the bittersweet realisation in the denouement dawns on him as he sits next to his father watching Benazir Bhutto’s funeral on live television.

Like all strangerr, he is a different man at the end of his. He sees things atis people differently. The veil has dropped. He has gained in knowledge and lost in innocence, but it feels right. This is how things usually are.

Life for rational thinkers is filled with many such obstacles of ossified structures and mind-sets. But the journey to reason must go on. Dec 10, Akshat Upadhyay rated it it was amazing.

Tribalism, animism, evangelism, joblessness, greed and anarchy: He wishes to find some similarities, a common thread that supposedly joins a disparate group of people around the world: What he discovers through his travel-memoire is a deeper understanding, an entrenched confusion about Islam and its relation to civilisation, culture and politics. This is a country I had myself travelled and admired during The liberal outlook was there for all to see before everything went to hell in Here Islam is differentiated from the rest of the religions as a world system, a system of stranyer and regulations that defy time and space.

For Abdullah, its a mode of being, as temporal as being human. A Muslim cannot be separated from Islam, a moderate Muslim distances himself from Islam but that does not change the characteristics tasseer the faith.

The Islam Taseer encountered was more an evangelist one. Syria was the perfect example of a closed world system, an ideal laboratory of isolation, a police state where the real world problems could be tuned out. A frustration and negativity, pent up and stoked and expressed in violence just a couple of years in the future.

Taseer saw the Arabianised version of Islam and came to realise how through Wahhabism, an Arabic culture, more Arabic than Islamic was being propagated in the name of the faith.