My Isl@m by Amir Ahmad Nasr

I’ve just finished My Isl@m by Amir Ahmad Nasr. It was a riveting read and an important education.

I was particularly interested in reading Nasr’s story as I knew his journey traversed several different ‘world views’. He goes from an orthodox traditional upbringing, through adopting a modern outlook and love for evidence-based rationality, and then on to embracing a post-modern egalitarian appreciation of difference and freedom of speech.

In addition—both unusually and intriguingly for me—Nasr also strives to view Islam through an integral perspective, a philosophical lens that ‘transcends and includes’ all the aforementioned world views.

I find commonality and overlap with much of Nasr’s thinking, and some of his lines of questioning have saved me time and helped direct my own research! I am also putting together some of my key ‘takeaways’ from having read his book, that I will post separately, and which may be of help to others on similar paths of self-inquiry.

In Summary

Nasr was one of the key bloggers who helped catalyze the social media revolution in the Middle East that led to the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011. His story is intimate and personal, and completely takes you in. And his approach is rigorous and unrelenting, in wanting to arrive at some kind of philosophical, spiritual and cultural integrity in himself.

The book starts with his experience as a young Sudanese Muslim boy who loves the reverberating call of the azaan in his local mosque and diligently keeps prayer. It then chronicles his life as a troubled teenager grappling with the questions he’s been told not to entertain. Rebelling from the dominion of indoctrination, Nasr then emerges as an uncensored activist who fiercely questions, and rejects the dogma he was conditioned to believe.

His questioning takes him deep into the blogosphere, and traveling across continents, meeting all manner of thinkers—muslims, and non-muslims alike. And as his journey unfolds, he becomes more and more tightly knitted into the social media network of Muslim bloggers who propelled the drive for socio-political revolution across the Middle East.

It’s inspiring to read Nasr’s story as a first-hand and behind-the-scenes account of how the thirst for freedom bubbled up across the internet and out onto the streets of Tunisia, Egypt and further afield.

Finally, Nasr finds peace with his Islam. Not through any kind of intellectual resting, or coming to a final ‘right’ answer, but through his own thirst for ongoing inquiry, and love for the Eternal.

Book Trailer



Amir A. Nasr is the formerly anonymous sociopolitical blogger behind The Sudanese Thinker. He is the author of the searing memoir and banned book My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind – And Doubt Freed My Soul, recommended by Foreign Policy among 25 books to read in 2013. He is also the founder of Assertive & Co. a content strategy consultancy. Amir has been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal, among many others, and has shared the stage with Nobel Peace Laureates, former presidents, and fellow entrepreneurs. He lives in the land of beavers and maple syrup, aka beloved Canada.


Read Amir Nasr’s blog, and visit his website. Since the publication of his book and the reinforced oppression and socio-political unrest following the Arab Spring, Nasr recently put up this new blog post on his site: Breaking the Silence, April 14th, 2015

On Reading the Koran – Lesley Hazelton

I’m currently (re)reading the Quran. Both reciting it in its original Arabic, and reading a full English translation (by Yusuf Ali).  As I outlined in my last post, I learnt how to recite the Quran from an early age, but, like many non-Arabic speaking Muslims, I’ve never read the full English translation for myself.

As Lesley Hazleton mentions in her talk below, the fact that so few people have read the entirety of the Quran in their own first language is one of the reasons why it’s so easy for fundamentalists and anti-Islamists alike, to quote—or misquote—the Quran, out of context.

This 10 minute TEDx presentation by Lesley Hazelton, “On Reading the Koran” (2010) is a beautiful talk about the subtlety she found in the passages, or ‘surah’ of the Quran.

Ms Hazelton, who refers to herself as a ‘tourist’ of the holy book  is hardly a novice when it comes to her knowledge of Islamic history. Indeed, it appears she is more well read than many self-identified Muslims:

A psychologist by training and Middle East reporter by experience, British-born Lesley Hazleton spent over ten years exploring the vast and often terrifying arena in which politics and religion, past and present, intersect. She’s written about the history of the Sunni/Shi’a split, as well as books on two of the Bible’s most compelling female figures: Mary and Jezebel.
Her latest book is The First Muslim, a new look at the life of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. In researching her book, she sat and read the full Koran again—exploring the beauty and subtlety in this often-misquoted holy book. As she says: “I’m always asking questions—not to find “answers,” but to see where the questions lead. Dead ends sometimes? That’s fine. New directions? Interesting. Great insights? Over-ambitious. A glimpse here and there? Perfect.”