SISTERS contributors suggest some of their most inspirational reads by and about Muslimahs…
Brooke Benoit Picks:
For the People, By the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives an Anthology edited by Sabha Hadi
A wonderful new collection of musings written by both converts and raised-Muslims, both brothers and sisters in the deen. Sharing a range of insights from all over the world about their experiences around issues of identity and religiosity, For the People, By the People surely and generously offers inspiration and wisdom to all its readers. Enjoy an excerpt by contributor Tasia Kazimi on page 114.
Sumreen Wasiq’s Picks:
The Size of A Mustard Seed by Umm Juwayriyyah
Classified under the genre of Urban Islamic Fiction, The Size of a Mustard Seed is a literary accomplishment of the talented author, Umm Juwayriyyah. Given the fact that hundreds of dubious fictitious novels abound in bookshops around the world, novels like The Size of a Mustard Seed are the need of the hour in providing Muslim youth with quality Islamic literature. While reading the book, I particularly noticed the powerful writing style of the author. Doing justice to all of her characters, Umm Juwayriyyah delivered each new story through them, resounding with so many of us Muslims in our daily lives. She addresses core Islamic issues plaguing Western Muslims in an effective manner and also offers practical solutions to them. Set around a young American Muslim woman, Jameelah Salih, the novel reflects her everyday struggles and makes for a truly interesting read.
Welcome to Islam by Lucy Bushill-Matthews
Reading the accounts of reverts’ journeys to Islam always rejuvenates my own faith. Such is the remarkable tale of Lucy Bushill Matthews who takes the reader along with her as she unfolds her past and reveals her exciting experiences. The author’s writing style is direct and unobtrusive. Rather than detailing her sojourn with long and dreary prose, she shrewdly breaks them into short and enjoyable portions with catchy sub headings. Belonging to a Christian family, her conversion and the subsequent sacrifices she had to make are sure to inspire any Muslim. However, as much as she practises the new faith, Lucy also attempts to retain her English identity by amalgamating the British and Islamic values that coincide with each other. I also found her determination and focus in clearing away the misconceptions that arise in the minds of non-Muslims to be very motivating. While discovering more about the beauty of Islam, she logically questions the prevalent practices in her society. It is through her charitable and social work for the Muslim community that she hopes to bring forth a positive change, which is on its own a commendable virtue.
Now You Are A Mother by Du’aa Ra’oof Shaheen
Experiencing two pregnancies up till now Alhamdulillah, I have realised through my experiences that an educated pregnancy is the best one. Although this book came after the arrival of both of my bundle of joys, I nevertheless find it like a wise friend offering me support and guidance when I need it most. Sound and succinct, this new release by the acclaimed publisher Darussalam is a must have for Muslim mommies to-be. Covering every aspect imaginable of a baby’s life in ten detailed chapters, Now You Are a Mother is a comprehensive and practical guide for keeping the sanity of new mothers intact. It presents this sacred relationship in a balanced manner; by sufficiently covering the physical, emotional and mental needs of both the mother and the child from birth to 4 years, as well as focusing beautifully on the Islamic requirements and injunctions on raising Muslim kids, this book promises to be a great companion during the ups and downs of motherhood.
The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson
Written down to precise perfection, G Willow Wilson’s memoir about her journey to Islam is rich and intense. Reverting in Egypt, Wilson’s wonderful experiences of navigating through love, faith and culture add a new dimension of a convert’s sojourn. Her prose is lyrical and she has the canny ability to draw out profound lessons from each of the incidents. A bit controversial at times, Wilson is unabashed and rebellious. Her description of Cairo and the Middle Eastern culture also makes for an interesting read as she clears away various false impressions of the Arab world. The role of her husband, Omar, must also be mentioned as he successfully breaks the stereotypical image of an Arab man. I admire Wilson for standing up for the Islamic scholars and exposing the ignorant and exploitative behaviour of Western journalists while presenting Islam to the world. Poignant and warm, this memoir is a blend of the best and the worst of East and West.
Sumreen Wasiq is a mother of two, aged 3 and 1, with a third on the way. She is passionate about reading and writing, as well as whipping up new dishes now and then. She would love to travel around one day and see up close the world that comes alive in so many books.
Fawziyyah Emiabata’s Picks:
From MTV To Mecca – How Islam Inspired My Life by Kristiane Backer
Far from religion and spirituality, Kristiane Backer was in a world of her own – the entertainment, music and pop video industry, which in turn became a means to discovering herself. In her personal memoir, From MTV To Mecca – How Islam Inspired My Life, the former musical television video jockey (VJ) gives us a full account of her spiritual journey to Islam. Though faced by many challenges, her strong faith gave her the inner peace she had always sought. As one of the very first presenters on MTV Europe, she made a lot of money and met a lot of who’s who in the society – from major artists to famous musicians of her time. She was very successful in her career and anyone in her shoes couldn’t ask for more, but as the saying goes “Money can buy you anything in the world but happiness”, and so the quest for peace of mind began for Kristiane.
I personally admire Kristiane’s courage and her open heartedness to learn, as they seem to have helped a lot in getting the answers to her quest for life and its meaning. The lessons she learned along this journey of the love for the divine (Creator), which is greater than that of the physical or emotional love she felt for some of the closest people she met along the way while climbing on the spiritual ladder, made it so easy for her to let go any physical or mundane affairs. When she got her heart broken and let down by someone she had the hope ofgetting married to, it was her high level of spirituality and her love for the divine that helped her to be forgiving. I was particularly moved by this act of hers. There is no doubt that this book will be enjoyed by all, as it is very interesting, informative and will inspire both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.
From My Sisters’ Lips by Na’ima B. Robert
Beautifully written and with utmost clarity, Na’ima gives us an account of her journey back to her original religion, Islam, in her memoir From My Sisters’ Lips. Through Na’ima, we also get to meet other sisters from different parts of the world who share their experiences from reversion to submission, nikkah, divorce, hijab, bereavement, niqab and so on. From My Sisters Lips was the first Islamic book I ever read, as it actually came to me in a period when I was facing some challenges in my life and I found it so interesting. I found solace in Allah I through this book as the trials faced by some of these sisters were nearly exactly what I was facing then. It was a great iman booster for me, Alhamdulillah, and I was able to evoke major changes in myself partially inspired by this book. From My Sisters Lips is highly inspirational and motivating. I would recommend this for every woman.
Love in a Headscarf: Muslim Woman Seeks the One by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
Love in a Headscarf is highly readable. In this personal memoir, Shelina, a British-Asian Muslim woman, shares the secret of how in her teenage fantasy, she had set her standards so as to fall in love with the man she would marry. Considering her Asian background and culture, this seems impossible. Having tried the recommendations of the “Buxom Aunties” and some close family members, but still without a suitor to match the earlier standards she had set, Shelina decides to follow a Muslim-style arranged-marriage route to finding her Mr. Right. Along the way she discovers her faith and herself.
Generally, I found Love in a Headscarf quite interesting. At one point, I felt pity for Shelina when she first felt she had found the right one, but he turned out not to be, and then she got stood up by another person. It was also a great read for learning about a culture different than my own.
Love in a Headscarf is highly recommended for anyone contemplating marriage in particular and women in general.
Turning the Tide by Suma Din
Turning the Tide is a comprehensive summary of a woman’s journey, marked by events from conception to death. The encyclopaedic nature of this book makes it very accessible as the author shows a detailed account of our purpose of existence and some of the ups and downs we face in order to fulfil this special purpose. Suma uses adequate quotations from the Qur’an and ahadith which point to the very meaning of these life events, what we should do and how to go about it.
The use of a strong ‘myriad poetic voices’ by the author makes Turning the Tide outstanding and unique. I especially loved this part of the book and was always looking forward to what ‘the voice’ had to say when I got to a new chapter. It seemed all the time that the words of ‘the voice’ were replacing or representing my own voice. My world is far from the author’s, yet our voices are very similar – I conclude that this stems from the universality of the beauty of creation! I took my time to read this book as it’s not one to be read in one sitting. This book helped raise a lot of questions and from it as well, the answers were presented right before me. It is a book I really enjoyed reading and can confirm that it is a book for every day.
Fawziyyah Emiabata is currently taking a course in Freelance writing and hopes to achieve a lot with it insha Allah. You can read more book reviews on her website www.muslimteenreads.com
Miriam Islam’s Pick:
Return of the Pharaoh by Zainab Al Ghazali
“The door to a dark room was opened. I was hurled inside and the door crashed shut behind me… The next moment the door was locked and a bright light switched on. Now their purpose was revealed; the room was full of dogs! I could not count how many! Within seconds the snarling dogs were all over me and I could feel their teeth tearing into every part of my body… The dogs were unrelenting, digging their teeth into my scalp, my back, shoulder, everywhere. I repeatedly invoked my Lord.” I think this one passage alone sums up the entire lurid contents of Return of the Pharaoh. Although I was captured from the first page, this incident really brought it home. I couldn’t believe what I had read: did such events really take place?
I had to accept the bitter truth, but in the process I learnt about one of the most amazing women to have existed in our time. Zainab Al Ghazali; Beacon of Light, Patron of Hope for the orphans and destitute, this is a true account of her time spent in Egypt’s prison.
Wrongly accused of conspiring to murder President Nasir, she underwent the most unspeakable acts of torture in an effort to make her swear a false oath and forego her Islamic duties. Her only mission was to establish Islam and uphold pure monotheism for the lost people of Egypt. But bringing this about under the rule of Nasir was an almost impossible notion as he had sold his soul to the devil and its allies.
There are very few women who have walked on this earth that can be compared to Aasiyah t, wife of Firawn, and Summayah t, Family of Yasir, but the more I read the more I believed that Zainab was one such woman like them – a woman who is a testament that such people of true faith do still exist. She achieved their rank in both hardship and sweetness of iman. Giving up the dunya and all its allure, she patiently suffered everything with her sight set on the hereafter; for Jannah was within her heart, so what could they do to her?
In vivid detail, Zainab describes all that happened to her and others around her who were unjustly imprisoned. Words alone can’t describe it; it must be read to be appreciated. This is a beautiful, haunting book that makes you weep and burn with anger for the injustice of it all.
Miriam Islam was born and brought up in the UK and is married with two delightful little children, and Insha Allah, another baby on the way!(as of posting here- make that three kids alhumdulillah) She has contributed articles to Habibis Halaqas and also writes on a freelance basis on health-related topics.
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of SISTERS Magazine featuring Inspirational Muslim Women!