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Keepers of the Faith

Keepers of the Faith

Keepers of the Faith is set among the members of a small Muslim sect of India, ruled by an oppressive priesthood that demands absolute submission. When a section of the community rebels, the head priest's wrath comes crashing down upon them and a peaceful community is split into two.

The novel follows the fates of two teenage lovers who find themselves on opposite sides of the schism. Their dream of a happy life together is shattered and they are forced into separate destinies. Years later their paths cross again, presenting them with soul-destroying choices.

This is the story of a people caught in the grip of blind faith and the terrible price they must pay for standing up for their dignity. Told with compassion and a controlled rage, the story takes the reader on a journey that is as provocative as it is heart-wrenching.

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Keepers of the Faith is an inspiring and provocative novel. In this ambitious work, Shaukat Ajmeri masterfully presents bewildering events with subtlety and nuance. In his lucid style he paints a vivid picture of a people caught between faith and dissent.

— Ismail K. Poonawala, Professor Emeritus of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Ajmeri’s Keepers of the Faith is a breathtaking and brave story about the tyranny of religion, a community at odds with itself and the bonds of love that endure despite oppression. This book is complex, beautiful, and essential reading for our times.

— Farzana Doctor, author of Seven

Shaukat Ajmeri’s soaring debut illuminates in exacting, elegant language how over time even the sustaining powers of faith can corrode the human spirit. Ultimately a profound meditation on family, love and the cost of accepting fate, this memorable novel will linger long in the reader’s mind.

— Arif Anwar, author of The Storm

Keepers of the Faith is a beautifully written novel that situates a moving personal story against the backdrop of inter- and intra-communal tensions in modern India. The novel is at once a poignant love story as well as a trenchant exploration of the interplay between orthodoxy and Islamophobia at home and abroad.In relating the coming of age of Akbar in a small city in India, Ajmeri wonderfully evokes the culture and social bonds of a Muslim Indian community, which is ultimately rent by divisions resulting from doctrinal and ritual disagreements that in turn affect the love between Akbar and his childhood sweetheart Rukhsana. Propelled by these tensions Akbar departs for the wider horizons of Mumbai, and a sojourn in the U.S., where he achieves professional fulfillment but continuing personal disappointment. Ajmeri deftly weaves explanations into his explorations of Akbar's story that bring alive, with an intimacy born of the author's own experiences, the challenges confronting Muslims in India today.Written in a style that is at once accessible and often lyrical, redolent of memories and observations keenly made, Keepers of the Faith will prove a read that is both immersive and insightful of the corrosive effect of dogmas — religious, political and social.

— Sumaiya Hamdani, Associate Professor of History, George Mason University

Ajmeri writes with a deep sympathy for his characters and an intimate knowledge of their world. The complication of the plot synchronizes with the characters' development, with the latter subtly growing and maturing in its resolution.

— Musharraf Ali Farooqui, author of Between Clay and Dust

In today’s India, when rationalists have been brutally murdered for their positions, and those who speak for reforms and critique entrenched belief are vilified and abused, the message in the novel has an almost immediate relevance.

— Farhat Hasan, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern South Asian History, Department of History, University of Delhi.


Reflections on Keepers of the Faith

Sumaiya Hamdani, an Associate Professor of History at George Mason University, comes from a long line of Islamic scholars and academics from the Hamdani family. From their origins in Yemen they have over the generations made important contributions to Ismaili thought and literature. Sumaiya’s father, the late Abbas Hamdani, was a scholar of Ismaili history and in particular of a volume of the philosophical work the Rasa'il-e-Ikhwan al-Safa (Epistles of Brethren of Purity). The Hamdani family had been in possession of rare and unique books and manuscripts, amassed and copied over multiple generations, which Prof Abbas Hamdani generously donated to the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.

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Powerful tale of love fraught with societal distress

When religious dogmas and rituals pervade a man’s personal life and go on to completely suppress it, love and emotions get pushed into submission leading to heartbreak and unhappiness. Shaukat Ajmeri’s debut novel Keepers of the Faith is a story of such suppression and suffocation which can have only one consequence - emotional trauma that threatens to destroy lives! Based in Udaipur of the 1970s, the story revolves around the story of two teenagers Akbar and Rukhsana who belong to a Shia Muslim community and are madly in love with each other.

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A novel with an almost immediate relevance

Shaukat Ajmeri’s novel, The Keepers of Faith is a sensitive and a heart-wrenching portrayal of the tribulations of a shi’ite religious community in Rajasthan in India. Even as the novel is about the Momin community, the point it makes is equally relevant to all religions and sects in contemporary South Asia; and that point is that it is always a formidable challenge to speak for religious reforms, and stand for a rational evaluation of religious beliefs and practice.

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