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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Some Thoughts On Muslim Fiction by Juwayriyah K. Ayed



#MUSLIMGIRLSREAD

When was the last time you read a Muslim fiction book? Or even looked for a Muslim fiction book?
The feeling of seeing someone who looks like you on the cover or written out in the description is like
no other. Equally otherworldly is relating to words on a page in a way you’ve never really been able to
relate to before. If you are book lover and haven’t experienced good Muslim fiction, you are missing out.
Muslim fiction is a opportunity to connect with the characters, events, and themes in all the important -
deep ways that made you love stories in the first place. So where’s the Muslim fiction hiding at?

Muslim fiction isn’t as rare as some might think it is.  A growing selection of books by Muslim authors
targeting both Muslim adults and Muslim youth is being written everyday. English Muslim fiction in
particular is gaining momentum as well. Umm Zakiyyah, Rukhsana Khan, Emma Apple
(*love her*, mashallah) Naima B. Robert, Nasheed Jaxson, Mark Gonzales, and my mother, Umm Juwayriyah are some of the pioneers creating and expanding genres with Western Muslim inspired narratives.

You can definitely find Muslim at many online retailers like Amazon.com, Islamicbookstore.com, and
the newest and coolest online Muslim bookstore/library/cafe Fofkys.com! If you’re like me and need to see
and hold a book before you purchase, try you library. Libraries are still the best place to find books, even
Muslim fiction. It could be daunting at first because libraries are overwhelming filled with books written
by non muslims. Even in Muslim countries like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, you  will still need to
hunt for your Muslim fiction fixes. Don’t get overwhelmed.


I work in the library every summer and  librarians are not only resourceful but are usually excited to

connect you to emerging genres. Give your librarian your list of Muslim authors and let them do the heavy
lifting. Librarians can narrow down the books and request them from other libraries through your city and
state. If your librarian can’t  find the Muslim fiction you’re looking for, ask them to order it for the library.
In fact, requesting Muslim fiction from your local library is a great way to create a buzz at your local library
and surrounding bookstores about Muslim fiction. The more Muslim fiction the libraries order, the larger
the audience of readers can grow, enshallah.

What are Muslim authors writing? Good question. Realistic fiction definitely seems to be a hot shelf.
Fewer Muslim writers have delved into science fiction, fantasy, comic books and mysteries.  Why is it that
Muslims tend to avoid these genres? Demand is key in any business but with us Muslims, religious and cultural
boundaries are also important to take into account. Fantasy/ magic, and even science fiction that explores
artificial intelligence can be a taboo subject for a significant number of Muslims worldwide. In fact, there are
still some Muslims who equate writing fiction with lying (insert my side kitty eyes with love and peace)!
Those things can be a difficult feat for Muslim authors to overcome when trying to write a story that is
broadly appealing.  Author Umm Zakiyyah stated  in the article, Is Writing Fiction Allowed:
“If writing fiction constitutes lying, as you claim, then you’d have absolutely no idea it was a
“fiction story” in the first place—because you would have been told it was true.” That said, Muslim
authors have to keep pushing the top off the box that some Muslims and non Muslims alike would want
us to stay in. We don’t all have to write the same type of stories. There is a need for the more fantasy-esque
genre to expand and include Muslim characters and themes. The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi which is a fantasy book did very well nation wide and was even reviewed by Kirkus.  With the continual rise of Islamophobia in
the West (not new - it started when Black African Muslims were forced into
slavery), a book set someplace else: on a different plane, in a different universe overcoming trauma, creating
things can help renew faith and inspire Muslims. In an article entitled: Why Sci-Fi Gives Me
Hope For the Future as a Muslim’ Farah Rishi stated, “...if we allow ourselves, even fictionally, to exist in
the future, then we can be reminded of why we must exist in the now.”

The pen is mightier than the sword. How many times have you heard this phrase and why is it that it’s so
important to Muslim literature? To create a story to prove a point or teach a lesson is a much more effective
way than others. Authors every day ask themselves, What big idea am I  do I want to convey? What tone I
want to set? What is the underlying message that I want my readers to think about? Authors like
Umm Zakiyyah, and (yep, my Momma) Umm Juwayriyahanswer these questions when writing their books. Writing stories that represents Muslim life, especially
Western Muslim life is  necessary and needed in the world to not only
show Muslim's point of view in the world but to counter some of the straight-up Muslim bashing,
discrimination, and erasure that is commonplace. Muslim authors that are building  bridges for communities
all around the world to come together and recognize the commonalities that we are share are engaged in critical
creative work that needs to be supported and appreciated.