People are wary of the literature they choose, and rightly so. However, keeping a more open-minded spirit, it is noticeable that there is a need for clean and halaal Muslim-centric stories, which:
- show Islam in a good light,
- have strong Muslim representation
- are accurate and Islamically appropriate
- and depict an unquestionably-Islamic worldview.
Storylines in which decisions are guided by Haq and tribulations are surfed through with dua, sabr and perseverance. Characters who are on a journey towards spiritual reformation. Plots and dialogue which represent the reality of practicing Muslims without compromising on Deen.
Romance is one of the best-selling genres because readers love settling in for a good love story. For South Africans, the market is ripe for a wave of such Muslim-centric romance novels which move away from the clichéd truisms of the regular romance genre and move towards more orthodox, conservative and traditional tropes.
There are many Young Adult novels which boast Muslim representation. Think, As long as the Lemon Trees Grow, by Zoulfa Katouh, and Love from Makkah to Medina, by SK Ali. Many YA novels seem to wear ‘Muslim Rep’ as a badge of honour, and Muslim teens are noticing and calling this out.
When it comes to Adult Muslim Fiction, and the clean, conservative, halaal kind of romantic novels, the list is rather short. As we become more comfortable in the 21st century and embrace open-minded ideals, we need to look beyond our noses and recognise the need for quality Muslim-centric genres which share real stories, which are neither fantasy nor fairytale.
‘Muslim Romance’ is not an oxymoron. The individual concepts are able to survive together, and as a genre, it should be considered independently from mainstream Romance novels. I have received a range of feedback on my novel, and one of the most familiar concerns is whether Kismet, the novel, is run of the ‘Mill‘, or if it is a ‘Boon‘ of escapist fiction for Muslim women. Yes, play on those words are intended, and my response is simple:
Although my book is targeted at women, the reading material is appropriate for all ages. I could not possibly bring myself to publish a book which my own kids could not read.
When I first began writing Kismet – For roses to blossom, I didn’t think much about that broader picture. I had a story in mind and I set out to write it. Soon, when the topic of publishing the novel was brought up, I realized that my simple story would become a part of my legacy – the message I chose to leave behind.
As with all writers, to some extent or the other, layered amid character nuances and dusted among plot building, we inevitably write ourselves into the seams. Kismet was written during the time of my own spiritual development where I made a conscious effort to establish my spirituality. I found myself more resilient and less prone to depressive episodes than I had been. I found that, in working on uplifting my spiritual self, I became stronger holistically… And so I chose to lend some of those characteristics to my protagonist.
May Allah SWT help us, guide us and show us a way to use our skills as a means of dawah within and beyond our communities, and to showcase the beauty of the simplicity of Islam. Aameen.
Stay well, inside and out
Waheeda, a.k.a Waydi
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