Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah


Alana Valentine

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Religious Faith and Devotion Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Religious Faith and Devotion Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Presentation Theme Icon
Migration and Assimilation Theme Icon
Judgment and Prejudice  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Religious Faith and Devotion Theme Icon

Shafana & Aunt Sarrinah is a play about the different ways people conceive of their own religious faith. Both Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah are Muslim women, but they have very different ideas about what this identity means. For Aunt Sarrinah, Islam is a “fundamental” part of who she is, but it doesn’t inform every aspect of her life. Shafana, on the other hand, embraces a more all-encompassing form of religious devotion, as evidenced by the fact that she tells her aunt that Islam is “all of who” she is. This comment hints at a certain one-upmanship, as if it’s important to Shafana that her aunt understand the extent of her religious commitment. To that end, the play dramatizes the tension between Shafana and her aunt by highlighting Aunt Sarrinah’s struggle to accept her niece’s decision to wear a hijab. What’s especially difficult for Aunt Sarrinah about this situation is that she genuinely respects the impulse to wear a hijab—after all, she’s Muslim, too. It’s just that religion for her is “private and cultural,” and she sees it as a belief system that she can apply to the rest of her life as she sees fit. Because she approaches religion in this rather pragmatic, utilitarian way, it’s hard for her to accept that Shafana wants to make religion the central, defining aspect of her life.

The nature of Shafana and Sarrinah’s disagreement is complex and multifaceted, but it essentially boils down to Aunt Sarrinah’s worry that complete religious devotion can be dangerous. She thinks this because she still has visceral memories of fleeing Afghani extremists who set forth a violent and fundamentalist approach to Islam during the Afghan Civil War. For her, the idea of total religious devotion is scary, since her experience has taught her that such devout religious beliefs can convince people to carry out or tacitly condone terrible behavior. And yet, Shafana tries to show her aunt that this is all beside the point; she only wants to wear a hijab because she has been spiritually moved to do so. She implies that her aunt is turning the matter into something else by projecting outside considerations onto a really quite simple matter—that is, a matter of personal faith. Of course, the play doesn’t side with Shafana or Aunt Sarrinah, instead exploring their contrasting views to illustrate the idea that religious faith and devotion mean different things for everyone.

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Religious Faith and Devotion ThemeTracker

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Religious Faith and Devotion Quotes in Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah

Below you will find the important quotes in Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah related to the theme of Religious Faith and Devotion.
Shafana & Aunt Sarrinah Quotes

You’ve sussed out most probabilities so you’re ahead of the game. Which is canny.

But there always comes a point where you lose it. Where a whole generation lose touch. They start to listen to what looks like the next thing. It sounds like the next thing and it acts like that next thing but it’s not the next thing. The truly astonishing thing about what’s coming next is that it’s nothing like what this generation were like, old or young. It’s utterly unfamiliar.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAFANA: I want to put on the hijab.


SARRINAH: Hijab is an Arabic word. Meaning partition. We are not Arabs. We are Persians.

SHAFANA: What do you think?

SARRINAH: This is an option for all Muslim women. Down the trail.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAFANA: Mum said that she had been contemplating on it for the past five years but had never taken the step to do it. Dad asked me if I was sure of what I was doing. Had I thought about all the consequences, all the things that are going on around the world, all the employment considerations.

SARRINAH: But if you really feel it in your heart these are not reasons not to do it.

SHAFANA: That’s right.

SARRINAH: And is that how you feel?

SHAFANA: I want to make real the change that has happened to me, that God really is there and I believe that.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Related Symbols: The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAFANA: Yes, but I went to the primary sources.

SARRINAH: You are reading the Qur’an?

SHAFANA: I am reading specific explicit verses of mercies, insight, knowledge and understanding. The scope and the breadth and the depth of Islam is overwhelming, so much connecting to me, and it’s like answering one of the most profound questions that I have been asking all this time. Aunt, all at one go it just made me literally ecstatic.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAFANA: But I do not believe it is a holy war.

SARRINAH: Don’t get into that.

SHAFANA: But I don’t. This killing people, this one human being doing such things to another.

SARRINAH: Be careful.

SHAFANA: This is not Islam.

SARRINAH: Don’t open it up.


SHAFANA: But I read it myself. Specific verses of mercies, insight, compassion, kindness.

SARRINAH: But that is not what your assignment is asking of you. It is asking you to analyse the crisis, analyse the discourse around it, compare and contrast various points of view, summarise, and provide a lucid overview.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Related Symbols: The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAFANA: I am not thinking of it for any of those reasons. All you have mentioned is about consequences. I am not motivated by any of that.


SHAFANA: No. Do you want to hear? Do you want to hear me when I say that I want to put on the scarf because this is who I am and I feel this is what I want to do? It is for me, not for anyone else. One night I was reading the Qur’an and it just occurred to me, I don’t even recall what passage or where, and it just occurred to me, ‘Why am I not wearing the scarf, what is stopping me?’

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Page Number: 24-5
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAFANA: Have you heard of the soft revolution?

SARRINAH: No. Or… it’s… is it?

SHAFANA: It’s young Muslims who reject both extremists and liberals. They… fight… for human rights… for change to the Hadith… There is a project. It could be the most intellectually active period for Islam since the height of scholarship in the Middle ages.

SARRINAH: And you want to be part of it?

SHAFANA: I don’t know. But for them, for some, the veil is a mask in the power struggle against the dictatorship of men.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

SARRINAH: You think you can synthesise Qur’anic values with the twenty-first century?

SHAFANA: Don’t you?


SARRINAH: You want to participate in a faith that judges others by the rules it fashions.


SARRINAH: The rules. The outward cladding of piety.


SARRINAH: Yes. You want to judge my faith.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

SARRINAH: My faith is between me and God. The Qur’an speaks directly to me, Sarrinah, today.

SHAFANA: Of course.

SARRINAH: It is a fundamental part of who I am.

SHAFANA: It is all of who I am.

SARRINAH: No. There is faith and there is reason. There is religion and there is civil society. There is belief and there is the law.

SHAFANA: But your faith touches every part of your life.

SARRINAH: No. My faith is private and cultural. But it is not the answer to all the freedoms we have struggled for.

SHAFANA: But how can you say that?

SARRINIAH: Because I have seen what your brand of religion can do. I have witnessed what your brand of fanaticism can destroy.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

SHAFANA: Your solution is just to hide? Fade into the background.

SARRINAH: That’s not what I’m saying.

SHAFANA: Assimilate. Disappear into the masses. Never speak up, never stand up. Well, maybe if you’d spoken up in Afghanistan the country wouldn’t be in the mess it is in now.

Related Characters: Shafana (speaker), Aunt Sarrinah (speaker)
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

In a new country your religion becomes the main focus of how you are being seen, we all go a bit deeper into who we are and where we belong. The society we are living in, we are thinking about how we are going to protect our children, we want it to be in a direction that they are not going to be hurt, not going to be victimised.

Related Characters: Aunt Sarrinah (speaker), Shafana
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

SARRINAH: You’ll see me. I’ll see you. But we won’t be able to… see each other.

SHAFANA: Why are you being so ruthless?

SARRINAH: We can pretend. We can pretend that this is a disagreement about… oh, I don’t know… what TV chef we like best. Let’s pretend it’s just like that. And say… nothing. But, deeply, I am opposed to the path you advocate. Now.

Related Characters: Aunt Sarrinah (speaker), Shafana (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis: