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

A year long study of the Qur’an by accomplished journalist, Carla Power, with Shaykh Akram Nadwi. A fascinating read. Shaykh Akram Nadwi embodies an enlightening fusion of classical Islamic scholarship and contemporary living in leafy Oxford.

Carla follows the Shaykh from lectures to sermons, spends time in the mosque seclusion during the last days of Ramadan and even visits his hometown of Jamdahan, India. The author provides a rich insight into the Shaykhs daily life, views and understanding about Islam. The book beuatifully captures vibrant experiences from the author’s own travels and periods of residence in the Middle East and South East Asia, carefully separating faith from cultural practises.

The book addresses many controversial topics ranging from womens rights and politics to Islam’s view of other faiths, the concept of justice and the Hereafter. However, it is far from the typical media narrative and provided an educational experience even for those born Muslim like me.

Between these topical discussion, the book is peppered with heartwarming case studies of personal challenge and familial warmth bringing great realism and character to this wonderful story.

The Shaykh, both eloquently and simply, presents truths about the Prophet Muhammads (SAW) life and has such a profound understanding of his Seerah reflected in his own inspiring and humble example of what it means to be a Muslim today.

Carla does present a fairly balanced view and I would strongly recommend this book to all Muslims and non-Muslims alike who are seeking the truth about Islam. I hope this recommendation benefits you like it has benefitted me from reading it after recommendation by a true friend.


  1. To add to the above… I read this book based on recommendation from a brother and it was so well written that it was hard to put it down.

    Having studied with Shaykh AKRAM, this book really describes the shaykh’s life and is a very good insight into how the scholars really live Islam.

    I would really recommend this book to everyone because it gives a very good insight into Islam ranging from topics such as women’s rights to politics in Islam. And these are core topics that always find themselves in the news.

    I found that one of my non-Muslim colleague was asking a lot of the questions, of which most are very well covered in this book and so I gave my non-Muslim friend a copy of this book aswell. And having read through just a few pages he has a much better appreciation of Islam.


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