I first picked up If the Oceans Were Ink because, one, the author is a journalist, and two, she’s reigning supreme on my list of most inspirational women leaders of our time.
The book, published in April 2015 by Carla Power, follows Power’s years learning about the Quran under her once co-worker and Muslim Sheik Mohammad Akram Nadwi. The book teaches the innermost messages of the holy text as interpreted by Nadwi, who expresses opposition to the notion of fighting or being political in the name of Islam.
Akram explains the Quran’s suras, or chapters, by going back to its origins during the days of Prophet Muhammad and sheds light on a religion that has recently been clouded with negative news stories and politically-driven activists.
Although Power has roots in St. Louis, her father had a deep-set passion for Middle Eastern culture, which meant her family spent years living abroad — including Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt and England.
Those years growing up among a culture starkly different than that of her Missourian home founded Power’s love and respect for the overseas nations and the distinctive cultures.
If the Oceans Were Ink brought together two of the things I love most: Islamic studies and a journalist’s understanding. Power’s background in writing makes this one of the most easily understandable books to read. Her decision to write through narrative instead of declarative jargon make it a can’t-put-down novel.
During a time in our society when political groups are using religion to mask a hunger for power and revenge, the friendship between an American journalist and a Sheik is revitalizing. The book becomes more about a well-meaning conversation between friends rather than a political debate.
Power aims to take readers back to the roots of the Quran. Her discussions with Akram bring remembrance to the Quran in its original glory: a religion that calls for justice and a complete surrender to God.
Power takes powerful suras from the text and challenges Akram to explain them from multiple perspectives, bringing the feminist, the moderate and the jihadi together through multiple verses of completely distinctive understandings.
A powerful and compelling read, If the Oceans Were Ink is a novel of our time: simply written, entirely refreshing and a tribute to one of the world’s most peaceful religions.