In Conversation with a Talib

A Q&A with writer John Butt, author of 'A Talib's Tale'

What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted my experiences to engender a greater understanding of Islam in general, Afghan and Pashtoon culture, madrasa life and the meaning of what it is to be a talib—a student of Islam. I wanted Muslims and non-Muslims to see the attraction that Islam holds for Westerners who are disillusioned with their own religion.

In one sentence, what is 'A Talib's Tale' about?
It is about the people who influenced me during my journey as a talib.

What surprised you the most about your journey?
As a Muslim, one knows one is going to experience difficulties in life, in the Islamic path. اجسب الناس ان يقول آمنا و هم لا يفتنون. What has surprised me, and continues to be a source of bafflement to me, is that in my case all those difficulties have come from Muslims. No non-Muslim has ever objected to my Islam. Muslims, on the other hand, have cast aspersion after aspersion, and continue to do so.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I had no idea what I wanted to be, though at a very early age I wanted to be a priest.

What brought you to Afghanistan?
Hippie-trail. The burning bush.

What do you know now that you wish you'd known at the beginning of your journey?
Nothing. If I knew at the beginning of my journey what I know now, I think my journey would have taken a different course.

Discuss a verse from the Qur'an or hadith that has stuck with you?
The whole Quran sticks with me, but the verse above will do. I believe it is the first verse of al-ankabut. This world consists of test after test, adversary after adversary. الدنيا سجن المؤمن و جنة الکافر

How do you balance the demands of writing with other responsibilities?
One academic or literary pursuit spurs one onto another.

Have you always been a writer? What advice would you give to others who took up writing at a similar life phase? 
Talib’s Tale is my first book. I do not consider myself a writer. I consider myself a storyteller.

Where can we follow you?

Twitter: @jmbutt2, @dawamahad

A Talib's Tale - The Life and Times of a Pashtoon Englishman
£9.99 - PB - 9781847741561