Review—The Rohingya Crisis: A People Facing Extinction by Muhammad Abdul Bari

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A concise and informative history of the Rohingya, an evidence-based denunciation of Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing campaign, and an impassioned plea for recognition and human rights for the Rohingya. 

Before reading this book, I knew little more about the Rohingya than that something awful was happening to them and that it had to do with Myanmar, wherever that is. I should be ashamed of myself; I know.

Instead of relieving my shame, this book has increased it. I am ashamed of what some of humanity is capable of doing, and what the rest of humanity is content to allow to happen.

This 69-page book offers a concise and informative introduction to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya by the state of  Myanmar. Since August of last year, more than 10,000 Rohingya have been killed, and more than half a million people have fled across the border to Bangladesh. Even more disturbing than the scale of the crisis is the lack of awareness about it. Continue reading

Book Review—A Treasury of Ghazali by Mustafa Abu Sway

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A Treasury of Ghazali is a beautiful collection of quotations by Imam al-Ghazali with commentary by Mustafa Abu Sway. The tiny, digestible chapters are each based on one quote of the Imam: the original Arabic, an English translation, and a commentary by the author. Meant to be read in small doses, the quotes cover spiritual topics like sincerity in intention, happiness, patience against sin, and detachment from the dunya (worldly life). Continue reading

Review—The Crowning Venture: Inspiration from Women Who Have Memorized the Quran by Saadia Mian

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Have you ever considered memorizing the Quran, even if you only entertained the thought for a fraction of a second way in the back of your mind? If so, The Crowning Venture by Saadia Mian is a must-read. Rather than try to convince anyone that they need to undertake a Quran memorization journey, this book shows how other women have done it and how empowering it can be. This book combines relatable stories with tips, and discredits negative ideas about women memorizing the Quran.

Mian begins with her own story of how she became a hafiza. Like many of the other women in her book, it is not something that she ever thought she would do. She also shares the stories of twelve women from different walks of life: how they made the decision to pursue memorization and how they went about the work of actually memorizing. The tips, pointers, and advice in this section were as varied as the women themselves. The methods include things like recording yourself, keeping track of your progress, and annotating the mushaf.

As someone who has been there herself and spoken with many women about their journeys, Mian has a keen understanding of the ideas and thought processes that keep women from memorizing the Quran. She tears down the idea that women needn’t memorize the Quran because they won’t lead taraweeh or that they shouldn’t memorize it because they’ll fall behind in review while on their periods. In addition to these external negative thoughts, she also tackles the internal negative thoughts that women who consider memorizing the Quran contend with. For example, she talks about how women frequently seek out perfection and are more likely than men to avoid trying something if they doubt their ability to achieve perfection. She also talks about how many women have difficulty owning their successes, and instead feel sheepish or embarrassed about an accomplishment that they should feel proud of. Another issue she tackles is the fear that many women have that if they memorize the Quran, they will be perceived as more religious than they are.

Also included are some stories of women who didn’t memorize the Quran, a chapter that includes thirty-two etiquettes of proper recitation of the Quran, and a chapter called “Roadmap.” The roadmap includes all of the ingredients that you need to memorize the Quran, including things like patience and taqwa, as well as pro advice like “tie up knowledge with writing” and “choose one mushaf style.”

My favorite takeaway from this book is that memorizing the Quran is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. It’s about building and maintaining a relationship with the word of Allah.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this yet or if you want to. If you have read it, what was your favorite takeaway?

Review—Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad with Lori L. Tharps

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Ibtihaj Muhammad’s new memoir begins on the first day of fourth grade. The teacher, who is finding the seven letters in “Ibtihaj” too difficult to pronounce, nonetheless locates Ibtihajj by connecting her last name (Muhammad) with the scarf she’s wearing. The teacher tells her that she’ll call her “Ibti” instead. Ibtihaj goes along with this, but she notices that her teacher doesn’t have any trouble with other longer names: Elizabeth (nine letters) and Jennifer (eight).

This story sets the tone for the rest of the book. Muhammad’s home environment was loving and supportive, but she was challenged in nearly every other space for the right to be present and to be herself: black, Muslim, and hijabi. Continue reading

Review—Muslims in America: Examining the Facts by Craig Considine

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Engaging enough to be read cover-to-cover, but organized as a work of reference, this book of questions and answers combines the evidence-based rigor of a monograph with accessible prose to make this the perfect reference volume for academics, activists, and religious leaders.

Published as a part of ABC-CLIO’s Contemporary Debates series, Muslims in America is comprised of thirty-one questions grouped into five chapters: the history of Muslims on American soil, demographics and diversity, politics, Islamophobia, and American national identity. Each question is answered in three parts. “The answer” is the short answer to the question. “The facts” contains the detailed answer, including names, dates, and fascinating mini–history lessons. “Further reading” is a list of references related to the answer. Continue reading

Review—Pious & Professional by Sohair Omar

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I frequently browse the Publishing category on LaunchGood to see what exciting bookish projects people are working on.  I happened upon Pious & Professional about a month ago, and I was intrigued.

It’s a book full of advice for Muslim women on how to maintain their Islam in a professional environment. Organized into eleven chapters that cover topics like “The Ultimate Goal: To Please Allah” and “Prayer Breaks and Holidays,” the text reads like a list of bullet points about each topic with lots of Quran and hadeeth included. Continue reading

Review—Born with Wings by Daisy Khan

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While’s Daisy Khan’s life is fascinating and her work is admirable, her memoir is alienating and reads more like a résumé than a biography.

Born in Kashmir, Daisy Khan moved to the US in high school to study design. She went on to found WISE, the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality, an organization that works for women’s rights. Born with Wings is her memoir and first book.

The book tells Khan’s life story chronologically, with each chapter focusing on one event in her life: a specific problem she overcame or an issue she explored. Interspersed between the chapters are snippets that highlight specific initiatives of her own or of other women. For example, one snippet tells the story of Misbah, a Pakistani beautician who helps the survivors of acid attacks receive medical and cosmetic treatment and regain their confidence. Continue reading

Review/Discussion—Women in the Qur’an by Asma Lamrabet and translated by Myriam Francois-Cerrah

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In her effort to deconstruct a patriarchal reading of the Qur’an, Asma Lamrabet offers up a new reading, but one that is neither evidence-based nor convincing.  

This book was frustrating for me. I really wanted to like it; I was hoping it would be able to offer newer, more progressive views on gender to replace older, problematic ones. While Lamrabet does offer many new interpretations, they are unsubstantiated, and for a Muslim, an interpretation is only as valuable as its evidence. 

Women in the Qur’an is made up of two parts:

  1. ”When the Qur’an Speaks of Women,” which retells the stories of specific women in the Qur’an (like Balkis, Umm Musa, and Maryam) and
  2. “When the Qur’an Speaks to Women,” which examines Allah’s interactions with women in the time of the Prophet (s) through the text of the Qur’an.

Continue reading

Review—The New Muslim’s Field Guide by Theresa Corbin and Kaighla Um Dayo

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Theresa Corbin and Kaighla Um Dayo have written the book they wish they had when they converted to Islam. Drawing on decades of experience and focusing on practical advice rather than information-dumping, The New Muslim’s Field Guide discusses the major issues a new convert to Islam will have to contend with in a fun and friendly way. Continue reading

Review—The Miraculous Language of the Qur’an by Bassam Saeh

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Bassam Saeh’s The Miraculous Language of the Qur’an addresses a frequent problem that Muslims encounter when reading the Quran. For those who don’t understand Arabic, there are few resources that do more than merely translate the Quran and mention relevant hadiths. But even readers who understand Arabic experience a difficulty. The text of the Quran becomes familiar to them—they get used to the words and phrases. Instead of contemplating the fascinating linguistic patterns of the Quran, these readers remain stuck in a loop of superficial meanings they are familiar with. This book addresses both of these problems.

This slim volume (only 90 pages long) is a translation by Nancy Roberts of Bassam Saeh’s Arabic book al-Mu’jizah, Volume I. The discussion is carefully organized and the language is intelligent without being the kind of reading you expect to be assigned in a college class. The first part of the book is a general discussion of the linguistic miraculousness of the Quran and a concept that Saeh calls “newness.” The second part applies these ideas to Surah al-Muddaththir.  The text is broken up into small sections that keep the detailed conversation about Arabic grammar from becoming overwhelming. The organization, language, and size of this book make it accessible for a wide audience, and I highly recommend it.   Continue reading