Sumayya Lee

Muslim Writers, Muslim Readers

I read a Mark Amend quote the other day - the best stories are not just about living out your fantasies; they are inspiration for living up to your dreams. This, I believe, is pretty accurate - fiction is inspirational. It is also a reliable escape mechanism, because in the end, the good stuff happens to good people and evil is vanquished. Fiction feeds the inner child that still hankers after a positive denouement. The ingenuous child that clings to a happily ever after, because, lets face it, life can be pretty dire at times. And in ‘real’ life good things don’t always happen to good people. In real life, good people suffer.
But even so, this does not mean that a writer of fiction has a duty to provide readers with a happily ever after. It’s your story after all and as the writer you are free to tell it as you wish - unless (and therein lies the rub) you are writing
Islamic Fiction.
Wikipedia defines
Islamic Fiction as: written by and for Muslims as it expounds and illustrates an Islamic world-view in its plot and characters. Islamic fiction excludes vulgar language and explicit depictions of sexuality; as well as aims to identify non-Islamic practices as such, portraying Muslims as striving to practice Islam.

A laudable genre – and one that needs the Book Industry Standards and Communications to recognize it as a category and code it as such. This will make it easier to recognise. Based on the definition above, it is clear that Islamic Fiction is written by Muslim Writers. However, the converse, that
all Muslim Writers write Islamic Fiction, is not necessarily true. And making this distinction appears to be a problem for Muslim Readers.

Muslim Writers of Crime, Horror or Science Fiction are spared this predicament – their genre is clear and does not carry any expectations. Nonetheless, for those of us writing about life, love and ordinary things – a kind of social realism aimed at a wider all-inclusive audience - post publication involves a barrage of criticism. Because Muslim Readers hold writers like me to
Islamic Fiction standards and then proceed to lambaste us because our work ‘falls short’.

Improvising the Home Office

I was born in April – technically autumn if Durban did autumn. The books I grew up with all spoke about spring lambs and April showers – and it was easy to imagine such boundless joy and spring in ones step while the sun shone endlessly in a breathtakingly blue sky.

In England, April really is in spring but still feels like winter. Cold Spring dampens hopes and they are starting to mould – so I cling onto the brave branches, with barely-there buds and ignore the raven - who thinks its funny to perch on my garden wall at this very moment.
I turn my back to it all. Marian Keyes has written Under The Duvet AND Further Under the Duvet – more than enough justification for temporary relocation from desk to bed.