Muslim women continue to unveil their true identities to the unbeknownst outside world which concluded what they are simply oppressed and staid.
Here are three poignant anthologies that work to dispel the prejudice, show the Muslim woman’s pride, reclaim the Muslim woman’s narrative and reassert the Muslim woman’s voice in the process. Read your sisters’ words, be inspired and validated.
1. The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write
From established literary heavyweights to emerging spoken word artists, the writers in this ground-breaking collection blow away the narrow image of the Muslim Woman.
Hear from users of Islamic Tinder, a disenchanted Maulana working as a TV chat show host and a plastic surgeon blackmailed by MI6. Follow the career of an actress with Middle-Eastern heritage whose dreams of playing a ghostbuster flounder while being repeatedly cast as a jihadi bride. Among stories of honor killings and ill-fated love in besieged locations, we also find heart-warming connections and powerful challenges to the status quo. From Algiers to Brighton, these stories transcend time and place revealing just how varied the search for belonging can be.
Triska Hamid’s short poem “London” is justifiable selfish. The reader realizes that while she may not call herself an English woman, she rightfully associates with being British. She loves London.
Fadia Faqir’s story “Under the Cypress” deals with bigotry, the circle of life and compassion among other things including magical realism.
In Amina Jama’s poem “Home, to a Man,” we relate to the advices and behaviors of moms and aunties. Immigrants will relate to the poem “The Things I Would Tell You” by Hibaq Osman. In all, this anthology is an eclectic writing style, testimony and non-monolithic sampling of the Muslim women of this era.
2. Riding the Samoosa Express: Personal Narratives of Marriage and Beyond
Riding the Samoosa Express is a metaphor to refer to the process of courtship, love, marriage, and beyond. It’s a well written tale sampling the diversity and the different faces the Indian Muslim women contributors experienced.
These personal narratives range from very funny tales like Farhana Ismail’s father’s izzat (honor) demands and Somayya Hansrod’s mishaps in the kitchen, to soul searching and self-actualization stories such as the ones of Yasmin Denat and many other anonymous and non-anonymous contributors. A very thought provocative compilation, Riding the Samoosa Express tell us that what may be true for one Muslim woman is not necessarily true or the norm for another Muslim woman.
Each Muslim woman has a different life and a different culture. So, some of these stories mirror the lives of other Muslim women around the globe while many don’t. Many of the stories spoke to me. For instance, I felt the struggles of Zaheera Jina when she wished to be “Only Oomi” to her son while battling a PhD career in Mathematics.
Another story that spoke to me is the one of Nabeela Patel because of her open mind and religious tolerance of other faiths. I enjoyed her critical thinking and the way she ended her piece, “First, I need to blossom into a flower from a bud and settle into my own life. In this big, bad world I don’t know where I’ll end up, or who I will be, but I need to find that out first. I need to fathom the complex me, settle into my skin and breathe…”
3. Saffron: A Collection of Personal Narratives by Muslim Women
Saffron: A Collection of Personal Narratives by Muslim Women is an anthology of writing that draws on the lived realities of Muslim women.
Food and cooking, hardship and conflict, intimacy, baby-making, children, living with in-laws and self-esteem are some of the experiences unpacked in this collection of poignant personal narratives. This collection will remind and reassure that, although life brings with it many challenges, you as a woman are never alone in what you go through – many women share your experience.
Truly, in this anthology you will definitely realize that women all around you walk similar journeys with you. The testimonies are cryptic at times for the sake of privacy and revealing at other times for the sake of cautionary advice.
In all, all the stories complement one another. If you feel like one story left you thirsty, another will give you the closure you need. You will see an equal amount of beware-of-narcissistic-spouses and praise-able Muslim husbands like in “Khidmat in the Kitchen” by Aneesa Bodiat-Sujee.
There is also a healthy and classy dose of intimacy like in “Sublime Strawberries” by N. Moola. That’s essay 39 by the way, you have to read this sultry and cryptic romantic tale! From dealing with in-laws with diplomacy to infertility struggles, the WHOLE book rang true to me and here are some of the quotes I had to jot down:
Don’t let cooking takeover your life and don’t let the kitchen enslave you.” — Somayya Hansrod
This is a promise I made to myself before getting married. And I’m a good cook and a foodie.
“Food forces us to be present and connected in our marriages.” — Gouwa Gabier
In “Saffron,” Sumayya Mehtar said that, “… no marriage is all smooth sailing.” And I agree, you will simply realize that food has the power of mending relationships and helping you as a couple get passed the storm.
“Every newly married woman naively thinks that they are the first victim, history repeats itself with no solutions and deep sadness with no cures.” — Yumna Samaria
This is exactly where you see that other women work the journey with you and you aren’t alone. Reading the book will make you feel better and enjoy this group therapy it provides.
And of course my favorite, “Being a Muslim woman involves a perfect blend of saffron, rituals and philosophies.” —Dr. Zaheera Jina
Definitely! Without routines like daily plans, rituals like duas and dhikr, flavors like spices & teas and philosophies like inspirational quotes; I would be an unproductive mess and fit the stereotype about the Muslim woman as being a closed-minded individual.
There are many more passages in the book I found inspirational, and I hope you come to say the same too. These women hail from Africa, North and South America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Their common denominator is Islam and that alone makes their struggles and their wins relatable, and their book a must-read.
First published: February 2019