Power is endlessly fascinating. Power is perennially enigmatic. The more complex society becomes the harder it is to define exactly where power resides. How do things happen? Why do things happen the way they do?

I don’t remember when I first read Samiha Ayverdi’s name. Perhaps it was in a footnote in one of the numerous works of the noted German Sufi scholar Anne-Marie Schimmel, or in an article on pioneering Turkish women writers. What I did know, when I first came across a book by her in the early years of this century, was that she was a novelist and a chronicler of Istanbul in late Ottoman times, as well as a Sufi intellectual from a period when such figures weren’t remotely fashionable in Ataturk’s Turkey.

Gaza is a city at breaking point. The economy has stalled and unemployment spreads its shadow over all the young people fruitlessly searching for any kind of work. Nor is the political climate any more hopeful.

During my sixth-form years, I studied Ancient Greek for the first and last time. It played no part in my A-level curriculum.

The Bosnian war has left an indelible mark on Bosnia-Herzegovina. The atrocities and brutal ethnic cleansing, committed between April 1992 and December 1995, shattered assumptions of a secure and peaceful Europe that had endured since World War Two.

‘Why study other religions if you do not expect them to yield theological truth?’ Our professor asked this question in all seriousness, giving words to the thought at the forefront of the minds of many students in the classroom.

In his engaging and perceptive book The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation, the former Iraqi minister Ali Allawi tells a story that goes to the heart of the problematic relationship between the idea of Islam, as manifested historically, and the modern state.