Keepers of the Faith is set within a small Muslim sect of India, ruled by an avaricious priesthood that demands absolute submission while enforcing archaic social customs. When a section of the community rebels, it is summarily excommunicated, shunned by friends and family and denied religious rites. The peaceful community is split into two.
The novel follows the fates of two blissful young lovers, Akbar and Rukhsana, in the historic city of Udaipur. When the communal split occurs, their families are on opposite sides; the lovers' dream of a happy life together is shattered, and they are forced into separate destinies. Akbar, from the rebel group, goes on to become a writer and family man in Mumbai, while Rukhsana gets married to an immigrant engineer from the United States fanatically devoted to the priesthood.
Years later, Akbar's and Rukhsana's paths cross again. Much has changed and much has not, and they are presented with soul-destroying choices about the rest of their lives.
Shaukat Ajmeri was born and educated in India. He worked as a journalist before coming to Canada and of late has started on a literary career. He is currently writing a collection of short stories and a second novel. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario.
"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
"Ajmeri writes with a deep sympathy for his characters and an intimate knowledge of their world." --Musharraf Ali Farooqi, author of Between Clay and Dust
"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
"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, University of Delhi
"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. Written in a style that is at once accessible and often lyrical, redolent of memories and observations keenly made, the novel will prove a read that is both immersive and insightful." --Sumaiya A Hamdani, Associate Professor of History, George Mason University