I always enjoy finding enticing anthologies, full of the potential to inspire, educate and entertain me in quick and concise reads during stolen moments in my over-scheduled days. Anthologies filled with Muslim voices are among my very favourite indulgences, but when I heard For the People by the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives was especially good for da’wah purposes, my excitement deflated a little as I felt that meant it would be less for me and more for them. Fortunately I was wrong. For the People, By the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives an Anthology is a wonderful collection of musings written by both converts and raised-Muslims, both brothers and sisters in the deen. The stories span from conversions to awakenings, not-at-all-trifling home and office epiphanies, to deeply personal reveals after challenging searches.
I asked FTPBTP’s editor (and regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine) Sabah Hadi what was the catalyst for putting the anthology together, and she explained, “The idea of FTPBTP was to give ordinary Muslims a voice to speak about their lives, their joys and pain, their everyday struggles and so on. By ordinary I mean those who have contributed towards the book are not necessarily writers (as would be the case with books, even anthologies) but people from different spheres of life. The main idea was to move away from explanations, proving oneself right, backlashes, the terrorism debate, the spotlight on the burqa etc. and present everyday Muslim lives as they are. I think that the contributors have done a great job in chronicling what, according to them, is important as Muslims and as humans.”
Perhaps because the contributors are not burdened with the weight of (again) excusing themselves to non-Muslims, there are a few instances in the book that frankly address some of the schisms within our own communities. I especially appreciated Sarah Bibi’s take on the intolerance in her community. A British-Pakistani, Bibi’s references in the essay to one of her own inspirations – drawing on the wit and wisdom of Muhammad Ali – closed the circle for me, indicating that For the People, By the People hits the mark at recognising and creating a mini-reflection of the greater diversity of the Ummah.
I was hoping for just a few good reads in this anthology, but truly didn’t come across any that weren’t enjoyable. Among the more eye-opening excerpts were explorations of racism and Islamophobia in the respective school and professional circles of Nazrana Mulla in South Africa and Nawaid Anjum in New Delhi. “Muslim” truly seemed to be the only link among the varied (though captivating) narratives, so I curiously asked Hadi, “What was the selection process – where did you want the writers to be from?” Hadi explained her curating process: “The contributors are from many other professions – very few writers have contributed towards the anthology. I tried to include people from as many different countries as possible. The criteria for selection of the contributors was very simple. Each one had to put down an experience that moved them and made them see the things around them in a different light. It made them aware of their selves and their lives, as Muslims and as humans. Something like Chicken Soup for the Muslim soul.”
Hadi succeeded at providing a well-versed ensemble for these Muslim stories. 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: Muslim Voices, Human Lives surely and generously offers inspiration and wisdom to all its readers. For the People, By the People is available on Amazon and you can further follow the book’s related activities at http://www.facebook.com/forandbythepeople.
A homeschooling mother of six and editor of SISTERS Magazine, Brooke Benoit is often asked how does she have the time to read so much. Perhaps it’s partially possible because she doesn’t commute and she doesn’t own a television.