By Umm Adil
How many of us remember the countless hours curled up on the couch, with our Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown, Harry potter or whatever the craze was in our time, clutched in our hands, our eyes glued to the book as Mom shouted downstairs. How many precious hours spent with books that were not only a waste of time, but probably even had content that made our toes curl in shame? If only we had Umm Zakiyyah back then! Probably the most established author in Islamic fiction, whose words will touch your soul. Exceptionally blessed with talent, she has woven Islam into her books, not only serving to provide halal entertainment for us, but also the perfect means of Da'wah to non-Muslims.
Her debut novel, “If I Should Speak” is an emotionally captivating story of 3 young college girls- Tamika, Dee and Aminah. Tamika, the main character, is an African-American soul searching young woman, soon to finish college with great ambitions. It all begins when Tamika has a big fight with her roommate and is almost expelled from university, only because of her ethnicity. Unable to fight racial discrimination, she has no choice but to move in with Dee & Aminah. She is overjoyed to find out she had be living with Durrah, or Dee as better known to people, a popular and talented upcoming model & singer, entangled in the fitnah of her environment. She is surprised to learn Dee is a Muslim. Do Islam & singing go together?
Aminah is the polite and perfect practicing Muslim who fulfills all her worldly and religious obligations and is well read about her religion. How can Dee get along with her? Confused, but still happy with her roommates, she watches them pray. Tamika’s curiosity is aroused even more and so she decides to do her paper on Islam for her Religion class. Her fitrah pricks at her subconsciousness as she has long discussions with Aminah, who skillfully clears up common misconceptions of Islam relating to Christianity, polygamy, hijab, etc and helps her with books and resources for her paper. Aminah confidently does da’wah, careful not to offend her new reflective roommate.
At the same time, Tamika finds that among the many interests she shares with Dee is their passion for music. Drawn to Dee’s carefree personality, confidence and talent, both sing together and aspire to become singers someday. As Tamika learns more about Islam, she is torn between her conflicting struggles: fulfilling a lifetime dream of becoming a singer or accepting Islam.
I am sure we as teenagers can all relate to one of the characters? Were we more like Aminah or Dee? Through 3 realistic characters, Umm Zakiyyah has given us a chance to see where we and others around us stand. Are we like Aminah – God-fearing and strict, despite the pressures of the environment around us? Or like Dee- a wavering young Muslim like most in the West, searching for their identity and losing sight of their religion and real purpose in life? Do we cave in to modernity and fashion and the prevalent fitnah? Or even a soul searching non-Muslim like Tamika, who’s ashamed and confused about her Christian beliefs and finds Islam very convincing, yet still in the grip of her desire to become a singer?
This poignant story should appeal to all Muslims, the main theme being woven around religion and proof of Islam being the truth, and to non-Muslims because of the discussions of comparative religion and the realistic internal conflicts for someone considering another faith. And those who are lured into the Dunya, like Dee, to take heed.
The book, full of life, has a perfect balance of literary techniques to keep our interest - descriptive language, characters, emotions, settings, imagery, and a thrilling plot. Once you pick it up, you will not be able to put it down. An outstanding work of fiction, yet so realistic it pulls you along, with smiles and tears, to the very end. Oh, and not only is it a bestseller in Islamic fiction across the globe, but also used in colleges! You will love every moment of it. If it does not change your life, it will give you a lot to think about.
Also an excellent way to do subtle Da’wah by giving a copy to a reflective non-Muslim friend or colleague who loves reading, or to a non-practicing Muslim friend or just pure halal entertainment for you.
Having received rave reviews not only by Muslims, but non-Muslims as well, the line on Umm Zakiyyah’s website says it all: “Her novels have touched the lives of readers across the world, inspiring non-Muslims to accept Islam, Muslims to renew their faith, and avid readers to enjoy compelling, heart-moving tales.”*