The Faithful Scribe

A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family and War

More than a personal history, The Faithful Scribe captures the larger story of the world’s first Islamic democracy, and explains how the state that once promised to bridge Islam and the West is now threatening to crumble under historical and political pressure, and why Pakistan’s destiny matters to us all.

Buy Now


Shahan Mufti’s family history, which he can trace back fourteen hundred years to the inner circle of the prophet Muhammad, offers an enlightened perspective on the mystifying history of Pakistan. Mufti uses the stories of his ancestors, many of whom served as judges and jurists in Muslim sharia courts of South Asia for many centuries, to reveal the deepest roots—real and imagined—of Islamic civilization in Pakistan.

More than a personal history, The Faithful Scribe captures the larger story of the world’s first Islamic democracy, and explains how the state that once promised to bridge Islam and the West is now threatening to crumble under historical and political pressure, and why Pakistan’s destiny matters to us all.


Born in Ohio, but raised largely in Lahore, Pakistan, Mufti frames this memoir as a response to a question his wife asked: “Why is Pakistan such a mess?” His talent for explaining the political through the personal–particularly the “tormented embrace” between his two home countries–benefits from the uncanny convergence of his family’s milestones with Pakistan’s: his parents married the day after India joined the 1971 war that bisected Pakistan; a cousin died in the 1988 plane crash that killed President Zia. In 2007, Mufti moved from New York to Islamabad to work as a foreign correspondent, and encountered a new era of violence that he describes as an “auto-immune-disorder”–a devastating battle between the ideals of Islam and of Western democracy that the constitution of Pakistan aspires to reconcile.

The New Yorker

Mufti’s incisive, sensitive book—half memoir, about his family’s deep roots in Pakistan, and half history of the state, which he tells through the discovery of his own sprawling family tree—describes a place that might as well be invisible in that explosive analogy: a country with a unique, founding mission to merge constitutional democracy and Islam; a county defined today not by its peoples’ extremism but their shared history.

Daily Beast

Journalist Mufti incorporates the stories of his family and ancestors into a larger history of Pakistan and its post-9/11 political turmoil. He begins on the eve of his parents’ wedding in 1971, which coincides with the day India intervened in Pakistan’s civil war. This story is followed by discussions of clashes between supporters of Socialist Zulfiqar Bhutto and the devout Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose followers incited violence at Punjab University where Mufti’s father was a professor. The author discusses the complicated relationship between Pakistan and America, focusing on the Cold War and the Reagan administration’s funding of the guerrilla mujahideen, as well as the more recent wave of attacks ordered by President Obama. Moving toward the personal, Mufti describes his family’s alienation and harassment while briefly living in Ohio at a time rife with anti-Muslim sentiment and memories of acclimating when they moved back to Pakistan. He recalls living in Pakistan during the deadly protest at the Red Mosque and the hotel bombing that was an attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister. Mufti takes readers on a tour of Lahore, his parents’ hometown, Sodhra, the town where his grandfather was born, and Islamabad, the nation’s capital, sharing his remarkable family tree, which includes an ancestor who was a close adviser to the prophet Muhammad. This astonishingly detailed, well-researched history is brought to life by the addition of Mufti’s personal story’ and journalistic acumen.

Publishers Weekly

With clarity and depth, he penetrates the country’s complex history, summarizing key moments and their impact on ordinary people… The author’s family stories illuminate key moments in the story of Pakistan as a nation, and they make it easier to understand and appreciate what’s at stake for generations to come.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The rich cultural and religious history of Pakistan dictated through a journalist’s personal stories.
Born in America to Pakistani parents, Mufti (Journalism/Univ. of Richmond) considers himself a native of both lands. He spares readers “every torturous twist and turn in Pakistan’s modern history,” opting for a harmonic analysis of the sovereign country from both a frontline journalistic approach and a familial, homeland perspective. Mufti proudly unspools his country’s tapestry of allegiance and warring strife and embeds his own family’s legacy within it. The nuances of his parents’ arranged marriage amid the violence of the Pakistan-India war of 1965 merges into his father Shahzad’s struggle to maintain order throughout a doctoral tenure amid political upheavals in the 1970s. A decade later, after his father had accepted a medical school professorship at Ohio University, the author was born into an era where being Muslim equated with an allegiance to Ayatollah Khomeini. He traces his earliest memory of Pakistan from age 4, settling in Lahore, war-torn by Indian army attacks. The author pauses to reflect on how the Islamic culture became (and continues to be) denigrated in the shadow of 9/11 and posits that even a cease-fire in the Afghanistan War would still fail to curb the senseless violence decimating Pakistan. Steeped in personal anecdotes, Mufti writes of bomb scares and defiant million-man marches on the streets of Islamabad as a roving journalist and gingerly dissects the roots of his surname, which can be traced back to the prophet Muhammad. Yet he ponders if he will ever live to see a quiescence between Islam and the West.
An undeniable visionary, Mufti insightfully glances back at Pakistan’s past and nods hopefully toward its precarious future.


The Faithful Scribe is an impassioned and insightful look into the heart of a troubled but vital country. This is a history of Pakistan from the pen of a keen observer, whose own story represents Pakistan’s past and whose vision reflects its hope for the future.” —Vali Nasr, New York Times bestselling author of The Dispensable Nation.

American Foreign Policy in Retreat

Mufti deserves credit for framing Pakistan’s story in terms of ideas, not merely events. He intuitively grasps that, though Pakistan is no theocracy, it shares some of the Saudi and Iranian sense of a larger Islamic mission.

Wall Street Journal

A penetrating,  carefully crafted, and sometimes moving account that presents Pakistan through the lens of Mufti’s family’s history, offering a vivid new perspective on a troubled country that is at once intimate and sweeping.

Declan Walsh, New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief

[Mufti’s] analysis is personal and American enough to be accessible to American readers… an individual’s concept of his own very complicated nation and of himself within it.

Los Angeles Review of Books

If you want to understand Pakistan and the Pakistani-American relationship, read this book. Mufti combines the personal, familial, national and international, narratives in a uniquely revealing manner. He is Pakistani and an American. And he brings that special blend to a brilliant work.

Ryan Crocker, American Ambassador to Pakistan, 2004-2007

After reading Shahan Mufti, a political junkie like me feels as though she’s begun to understand Pakistan for the first time. Movingly and compellingly written, The Faithful Scribe is invaluable reading for anyone who’s ever asked ‘What’s really happening there?

Lesley Hazleton, author of The First Muslim and After The Prophet

Both a personal and political memoir, The Faithful Scribe brilliantly blends the history of one family with the history of a nation as a whole. As he traces his family’s past, Mufti writes with deep insight into the relationship between the two countries during the Reagan, Bush and Obama eras without ever feeling overly dogmatic. He is able to point out specific parallels between Pakistan and the United States that could have fell flat in a strictly historical text, making The Faithful Scribe a readable, fascinating peek into the hidden connections binding the countries from around the globe.

River City Reading

Recounting the way the Islamic legal system was integrated with religion but was then plucked away as Western influence grew, discovering at the same time his own family’s connection to that system, are Mufti’s twin foci as he takes us back through the lives of his parents and then his ancestors and at the same time his country’s complicated history, its relationship to the Western world and the world at large.  Mufti manages to let us see Pakistan from its own perspective and from ours—something of vital importance to all of us if we are to understand the world as it exists today.

The Inkslinger

Shahan Mufti is in a unique position to write a book on Pakistan and its relationship with the United States. Mufti is a highly regarded journalist and currently is a professor of journalism at the University of Richmond. Born in the American Midwest, he can trace his Pakistani roots back fourteen hundred years. He weaves the history of his family and of Pakistan history together in a highly readable and informative manner. Pakistan is the world’s sixth largest country, the world’s first Islamic Democracy, a nuclear power, and a country that most Americans have little understanding about. This is essential reading for knowledge about a country that plays a pivotal role internationally.

Joan Grenier,  Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley Massachusetts

Through the lens of his own family’s lives as citizens of Pakistan and the United States as well as through his extensively documented ancestry, Shahan Mufti examines the evolution of Pakistan from its formation to its current status. It’s a huge project to undertake, but Mufti balances the personal with the political, finding the human moments in history and the sweeping themes in everyday life. As both a memoir and a biography of a nation, it is well worth a read.

The Brooklyn Paper

Journalist Mufti’s (journalism, University of Richmond) heart-felt and beautifully written book is not only autobiographical, but also a story of Pakistan, Islam, and his family’s 1400-year-old connection to the Prophet Mohammed. He elucidates the culture, religion, people, and politics of Pakistan, both historically and currently. Self-described as equally American and Pakistani, Mufti did deep research in India in order to understand Partition and in the Punjab. This is a book for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Middle East, specifically Pakistan and its politics, especially the Pakistani-American relationship. There are many black-and-white photographs.

Book News

Mufti really shines…[His] curiosity leads him to come up with a very interesting narrative, one that will go a long way towards helping Pakistanis (and people outside Pakistan) make sense of the nation.


[Mufti] has written a book that takes you from the beginning of Pakistan in 1947 to now. He does this effortlessly, telling the story through his family’s experience.

The Chester Telegraph

Doing complete justice to the title, this book gives you detailed circumstantial evidences of the past and current political situations in Pakistan. Mufti has intelligently used his family as the protagonist with the political instability of a merely 66-year-old nation as the backdrop… A good read for those who have an interest in history, and for those who want to know more about the first Islamic republic of the world, Pakistan.

Hindustan Times

Recommended…for those interested in Pakistan’s history or in how politcal decisions impact citizens.

Library Journal

The tension between the United States and Pakistan isn’t going anywhere, and after reading this book, you will better understand why.

Huffington Post

[The Faithful Scribe] is unique because Mufti’s perspective is pretty unusual…[T]his book is ultimately about humanity, and how ordinary lives are played out against a backdrop of violence and struggle.

Touch Base

A very lucid book that clarifies much of Pakistan’s history and gives us food for thought.

Arab Spring News

Buy Now 

2018 Annual Edward C. & Mary S. Peple Lecture
NPR’s All Things Considered