Which Label Are You?

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۞ رمضــان كريـم

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While research­ing for anoth­er post, I came upon a term I’d nev­er heard before and that gave me pause.

Islam­ic Fic­tion.  What is that?

Accord­ing to Wikipedia:
Islam­ic Fic­tion refers to cre­ative, imag­i­na­tive, non-preachy fic­tion books writ­ten by Mus­lims and mar­ket­ed pri­mar­i­ly to Mus­lims. Islam­ic Fic­tion may be mar­ket­ed to main­stream mar­kets, too. The con­tent of these books may incor­po­rate some reli­gious con­tent and themes, and may include non-fic­tion­al­ized his­tor­i­cal or fac­tu­al Islam­ic con­tent with or with­out direct ref­er­ence to the Qur’an or the Sun­nah of Mohammed. The sto­ries may also include mod­ern, real life sit­u­a­tions and moral dilem­mas.
Authors of Islam­ic Fic­tion intend for read­ers to learn some­thing pos­i­tive about Islam when they read Islam­ic fic­tion sto­ries.
Islam­ic Fic­tion does not include Harm­ful Con­tent: vul­gar lan­guage, sex­u­al­ly explic­it con­tent, unIs­lam­ic prac­tices that are not iden­ti­fied as unIs­lam­ic, or con­tent that por­trays Islam in a neg­a­tive way.[2]

So, I began to ques­tion.  Is this what I write?

My sto­ries do con­tain moral dilem­mas and real life sit­u­a­tions because, well…I write about peo­ple in a way that I hope seems real­is­tic.

There is cer­tain­ly the occa­sion­al ref­er­ence to reli­gion, but in all hon­esty, as most of my main char­ac­ters hap­pen to be Mus­lim this is bound to occur.

Nope, not preachy, I don’t think.

No vul­gar lan­guage.

Hmm.  UnIs­lam­ic prac­tices?  That’s dif­fi­cult to say.  I mean, not all of my char­ac­ters are Mus­lim, and some of them may do things a Mus­lim isn’t sup­posed to.  Also, as my Mus­lim char­ac­ters are real­is­tic and hence not per­fect, they may on occa­sion do some­thing they are not sup­posed to.  So, maybe.…  If, by unIs­lam­ic prac­tices, we’re talk­ing specif­i­cal­ly about reli­gious prac­tices, the answer is not yet.  Again, not every sin­gle one of my char­ac­ters will be Mus­lim because that’s not the real world, nei­ther is it the state of the imag­i­nary worlds I write.  Whether or not the read­er under­stands said prac­tices, reli­gious or oth­er­wise, as being unIs­lam­ic is, I believe more depen­dent on them than on me.  When writ­ing fic­tion, I try to relay the tale in an objec­tive way, allow­ing myself to be the con­duit through which the sto­ry arrives into this world.  I try to use a light hand, but I sup­pose the ones to judge that are my read­ers.

I wouldn’t write any­thing that por­trays Islam in a neg­a­tive way.

Sounds like I write Islam­ic Fic­tion, doesn’t it?

I want to say this, “I reject all labels.  I refuse to be pigeon­holed.  I am NOT A LABEL!”  But the fact is, I am, or at least my nov­el is.  I have to be, or else how or where will my read­ers find me.  My book isn’t exact­ly fea­tured promi­nent­ly on a table by the front door of your local chain book­store.

The poten­tial con­no­ta­tion relat­ed to the term Islam­ic Fic­tion, much like the term Chris­t­ian Fic­tion, is bound to be neg­a­tive unless that is specif­i­cal­ly what you are look­ing for.  I hate to admit that, but it is true.  Reli­gion is a touchy sub­ject for so many peo­ple.  By assign­ing cer­tain labels, the author could lose poten­tial read­ers.  That can’t be good for the author, who wants their sto­ries read, or the sto­ry, which deserves the ben­e­fit of the doubt, or the read­er who, in want of inter­est­ing and mov­ing fic­tion, may have inad­ver­tent­ly passed up a gem.

I’m not sug­gest­ing that we dupe folks into read­ing sto­ries they would be patent­ly against read­ing, but I think we should be very care­ful about how we label fic­tion.  For exam­ple, I only just learned that The Lord of the Rings is labeled, among oth­er things, a Chris­t­ian nov­el.  Had I known that pri­or to read­ing it, I may have passed it up.  I absolute­ly love LoTR as a nov­el and movie.  That would have been my loss, for cer­tain.

While I am a Mus­lim and while I strive to write char­ac­ters who are Mus­lim, I do not want this to be the only thing I am known for.  I think it’s unfair and lim­it­ing.

I hope to reach a broad spec­trum of read­ers with my words.  I believe in my nov­el and it’s deep­er mes­sages and I am cer­tain that peo­ple from all walks of life can glean some­thing mean­ing­ful from the tale.  I want my words to res­onate with peo­ple because they can sym­pa­thize with a char­ac­ter or a sit­u­a­tion, because they want to see the char­ac­ter beat the odds and over­come obsta­cles.  The faith of my char­ac­ters only makes them deep­er, more lay­ered, more relat­able, and more real.

Mo’ bet­ter.

*****

An Unpro­duc­tive Woman tells the sto­ry of fam­i­ly, faith, and mar­riage, and above all else, hope.

Get A Copy For Your Kin­dle

Adam is des­per­ate for a son, but after ten years of mar­riage he and his wife Asabe remain child­less.  Despite the obvi­ous heart­break this caus­es Asabe, Adam mar­ries a sec­ond wife, the very young and beau­ti­ful Fati­ma.  Dou­ble tragedy pre­vents the real­iza­tion of Adam’s hope and Asabe stands firm with her hus­band to gath­er the bro­ken pieces of their life.

But, Adam isn’t pre­pared to count his los­es.  He com­pounds their dif­fi­cul­ties by mar­ry­ing the cun­ning and decep­tive divorcee, Sau­da.  This choice yields anguish and con­fu­sion, and Adam los­es more than hope, but a piece of his spir­it.
Neglect­ed and liv­ing in the shad­ow of Adam’s desires, Asabe yet again proves her worth as the true bedrock in his life.  Asabe becomes the cat­a­lyst that brings Adam’s life full cir­cle.
Read An Unpro­duc­tive Woman to learn what secrets Adam has with­held that would explain his unrea­son­able long­ing and pur­suit of a son at all costs.

 

  • Oh I’d real­ly like to read a sim­i­lar Jew­ish genre. Unfor­tu­nate­ly there is quite an amount of resent­ment against fic­tion in more Ortho­dox cir­cles. (The argu­ment is that it is bit­ul Torah — ie a waste of time that could be spent on learn­ing Torah.) Though I’m not the only Ortho­dox or oth­er kind of tra­di­tion­al­ly reli­gious per­son who writes fic­tion or even spec fic. To be hon­est I think of my writ­ing as a form of out­reach (among oth­er things).

    In gen­er­al, my expe­ri­ence has been that reli­gious­ly-themed SF — of any reli­gion — is often a great read irre­spec­tive of reli­gion (I’d even count athe­ism here). I guess it’s because peo­ple are emo­tion­al­ly invest­ed in what they are writ­ing about, they are also knowl­edge­able about it… and with genre fic­tion, it’s also a kind of off­beat thing that not too many reli­gious peo­ple do, so the peo­ple who decide to do so tend to be very com­mit­ted to it? Last year I read a GREAT series which was writ­ten by a Protes­tant pas­tor, and fea­tured — among oth­er pro­tag­o­nists — a pro­tag­o­nist who was also a min­is­ter of a far future Chris­tian­i­ty-based reli­gion. (Won­der Times by Raana Raas — unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s not avail­able in Eng­lish yet, but AFAIK a trans­la­tion of the first vol­ume is in the works.)

    I’m not sure if the same applies to non-genre fic­tion… IDK. In gen­er­al there is a huge trend in main­stream lit­er­ary fic­tion against any kind of reli­gion or belief sys­tem that’s not post­mod­ernist enough, I’d say. I for one am tired of it.

    • khaal­i­dah

      I hear you loud and clear.
      The same sen­ti­ments are true among many reli­gious Mus­lims, that time spent read­ing fic­tion would be bet­ter spent read­ing and learn­ing the Qur’an.  We are so much alike there.  My taste in fic­tion is eclec­tic.  There are some things I would nev­er write nor read, but I am open and reli­gious themes don’t scare me.  I think, how­ev­er, and this may be my cyn­i­cal side speak­ing, that while fic­tion cat­e­go­rized as reli­gious (no mat­ter the reli­gion) car­ries a heav­ier load than fic­tion that sim­ply pre­tends reli­gion does not exist.  Mat­ters of faith scare peo­ple and they come with a sticky set of con­no­ta­tions that are hard to shake.  
      There aren’t any great answers out there, no per­fect solu­tions any­way.  I’d rather be known sim­ply as a Mus­lim author than have my writ­ing cat­e­go­rized as Islam­ic fic­tion, unless my writ­ing was clear­ly direct­ed specif­i­cal­ly at Mus­lims alone.