Through the Narrow Gate: A Nun’s Story: A Memoir of Convent Life

Those of us who have undertaken any form of intensive religious training will find this brave work by Karen Armstrong pregnant with resonance. With gentleness and honesty, Armstrong takes us on a revelatory journey that begins with her decision, at the age of seventeen, to devote her life to God as a nun. Yet once she embarked upon her spiritual training, she encountered a frightening and oppressive world, fossilised by tradition, which moulded, isolated and pushed her to the limit of what she could endure. She artfully paints her transition from the convent life to the secular world as she moves to Oxford University to pursue her degree.

For those of us who have spent time at a traditional Islamic seminary, a darul uloom, we will uncover passages in this book that are sure to resonate with our own experiences. Yet there are differences to be found between a convent and a traditional darul uloom. This book is a wonderful example of the intense level of institutionalisation that can take place within religious seminaries. The few of us that have made the leap from traditional to secular forms of learning are likely to find ourselves regularly in this book.

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