SISTERS Reads – For the People By the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives

For the People, By the People
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.

This review originally appeared in SISTERS Magazine’s May 2012 issue which can be found right here

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Last Day! Live Below the Line challenge

655_10151259897837127_1026214632_nIt is the last day of my Live Below the Line challenge to eat less than £1 ($1.50) worth of food daily and I have much to say and little time, so I wanted to at least bring this up. There is a hadith which I often see used in a way to support women to really dig into their roles at working in the home and serving their families. That’s great stuff, of course, but since I originally read the hadith with context, that wasn’t ever how I saw it.

Narrated ‘Ali bin Abi Talib: Fatima came to the Prophet asking for a servant. He said, “May I inform you of something better than that? When you go to bed, recite “Subhan Allah’ thirty three times, ‘Alhamdulillah’ thirty three times, and ‘Allahu Akbar’ thirty four times. ‘All added, ‘I have never failed to recite it ever since.” Somebody asked, “Even on the night of the battle of Siffin?” He said, “No, even on the night of the battle of Siffin.” (Bukhari)

The thing is, Fatima wasn’t asking for a “servant” meaning “domestic employee.” She was asking for a slave recently captured as war booty. “Slave”-  as in someone who is owned by another and has no autonomy.

Now frequently when they refer to the part of the hadith where Fatima (RA) complains about the pain in her hands caused by milling – ““Fatimah complained about the pain caused to her hand by the mill, and some prisoners had been brought to the Prophet….” People say things like “look at how she suffered for her family rather than take on a domestic worker”…. No.

Look at it this way. The Prophet (SAW) was in the process of discouraging the practice of using SLAVES- a social injustice. He suggested to her that is was better that she suffer than force that suffering onto another.

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Poverty is not caused by lazy.

Poverty is caused by social injustices.

Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari: The Prophet said, “Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).” (Bukhari)

Thanks to everyone for the support and dialogue.

Here is where you can give to Association Bayti.

Day 4: Live Below the Line Challenge

I’m fasting today- hush, I’m not bragging, I’m making them up- so just had a little hot cereal and coffee for breakfast, but sending The Sons to the next village over to get us a chicken to splurge on for iftar. That will be a roughly 1 kilo chicken shared among seven people and hopefully keeping me on my budget!

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Just want to thank everyone so much for their support of this project. So far you have donated $642 or £412 or 5,400 dirhams. That’s more than I hoped for and may He reward you with better, ameen!

Go here to give 😉