Book Review: The Muslimah Speaks – Her Voice, Her Spirit
The Muslimah Speaks: Her Voice, Her Spirit, a newly released book from Mindworks Publishing, is a collection of poetry written by Muslim women from several countries around the world. This anthology displays the varied perspectives of modern Muslim women and explores the topics of identity, family, faith, marriage, motherhood and personal dreams, to name a few, while dispelling myths concerning the lack of a strong and knowledgeable female voice in Islam. The poetry is accentuated by excerpts of the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Bible and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, and can be used as an affective dawah tool for displaying the light of Islam while illustrating the similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The poets featured in The Muslimah Speaks come from various backgrounds and unique walks of life. The twenty-five contributors display an array of perspectives and allow those who may not know anything about Islam a glimpse into the heart of a Muslim woman. Some of the poetry talks about the beauty of prayer while other poems express some of the angst that can form when facing prejudice or bigotry. Several of the poets have shared with aMuslima.com how they feel about writing and what inspires them.
Sister Elizabeth Lymer, and author and poet from U.K. explains, “My poems are inspired by emotional experiences that demand my extensive contemplation, including reading hadiths and the Qur’an.” In an excerpt from her poem Summer Salah to Allah Outside, Sister Elizabeth transports the reader with striking imagery:
In Maghrib Salaah to Allah outside
Purple roses bend in the breeze,
Let’s bow down and speak love from inside,
Feel the cool air and feel eager to please,
Amazed by the colors and merciful ease.
Another poetess from The Muslimah Speaks, Sister Sanjida Shaheed shares that love for Allah is her primary inspiration for writing. She says, “My life on Earth is just a station. I am awaiting the day I will meet my Lord. My poetry speaks of the yearning of my soul for my Lord. Other than that, some of my poems speak about my experiences on Earth as a Muslim.” An excerpt from her poem Transcendent gently conveys her sentiment when it reads:
Remembrance can save us.
All of this is
Like morning dew.
Love will carry us
Where we truly belong.
Home is where love is.
Delina Partadiredja, Chief of Content for aMuslima.com and another contributor to The Muslimah Speaks shares that the inspiration behind her poetry comes from writing that she considers to be an outpouring of her heart. She writes her poetry without any pattern and without any theory but believes that as long as the poem’s message is enjoyed by the readers it can be her own happiness too.
She poignantly shares in her poem Thirty Seven Weeks about her very personal experience of losing her unborn child and states, “Thirty-seven Weeks is my personal experience that I cannot forget for life. Writing about the time together with my beloved late daughter who I was not permitted to raise, can hopefully soothe Mothers who have had a similar fate.”
An excerpt from Thirty Seven Weeks expresses:
But you . . .
Were still . . .
“Innaa lillahi wa innaa ilaihi raaji’un . . .”
Allah loves you more
Allah had written your age in His Lauh Mahfuz and had set it even before you were born
Allah provided us togetherness during 37 weeks . . .
Sister Donna Frances Stacey began writing poetry solidly during an Open University course she took on Creative Writing in 2011 and decided to begin defining herself as a poet. She offered her first public reading at a sister’s conference in February 2013. When asked what advice she would give to other writers and aspiring poets she says, “Write what you feel. Study the form. I have found that it is in studying the form and restricting oneself to certain meters and ‘norms’ that the best ‘free verse’ emerges. Share your scribblings with those who are willing to make a fair and honest critique.”
Writer and Lecturer Sister LaYinka Sanni will be hosting Pen Powered Mic for women on May 31st and The Muslimah Speaks anthology will be offered at a discount for attendees. Pen Powered Mic is a live, women-only, online literary event delivered from the hearts of writers to an international audience over cyber airwaves. Information about the event and registration can be found here.
In addition, Dr. Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, one of the contributors to The Muslimah Speaks and author of the book Muslim Women In Britain: De-mystifying the Muslimah, will be organizing a conference about Muslim women’s activism on June 26th at the Enterprise Centre, University of Derby, and will offer a reading of her poetry at the event. For more information you can visit the website at: http://www.derby.ac.uk/education/centre-for-society-religion-and-belief/events/conferences-and-events/)
Sister Shumaysa Faruqi of Productive Muslimah Visionaries, another contributor to The Muslimah Speaks, rightly states, “In sha Allah I hope and pray that this poetry anthology comes out a great success by touching the hearts of the readers and making them understand the open- mindedness and wisdom of Muslimahs around the world!
To read the full transcript of interview questions with the poetesses of The Muslimah Speaks visit the Authors page at www.mindworksbooks.com.