Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Book Review: Love In A Headscarf

AlHamdulillaah I've recently gotten back to writing after a veeeeeeeeeeeeery long hiatus (about a year since I left my old haunt at MuslimMatters.org). So far it's only been a handful of articles, written for SISTERS magazine, but I figured I may as well throw them in here for another handful of views :)


Love in a Headscarf: Muslim Woman Seeks The One,” by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is a light-hearted, real-life take on the typical dilemma faced by young Muslim women in the West – searching for the right Muslim man, the right Muslim way.

The author is a young British Muslim woman, who tells us that “at the age of thirteen, I knew I was destined to marry John Travolta. One day he would arrive on my North London doorstep, fall madly in love with me, and ask me to marry him. Then he would convert to Islam and become a devoted Muslim.” A few years later down the line, however, and John Travolta still hasn’t shown up for the great samosa-serving rishta (potential bridegroom) ritual!

For every girl whose guilty pleasure is chick lit, “Love in a Headscarf” is a guilt-free and completely halaal way to indulge. The book, however, is more than just a fluffy giggle-inducing tale; Shelina skilfully narrates her anecdotes while weaving in brief explanations of the tenets of Islam and components of Muslim cultures in a way that makes the book appealing and approachable to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Shelina chronicles her quest for the One from beginning to end, from her first arranged meeting at the age of 19, to the experimental attempts at “Muslim speed dating,” and finally, even online matchmaking websites. Readers can both sympathize with and chuckle at her descriptions of the various characters she meets during her quest: disdainful Samir who hates books, perfect Jameel who left the choice of his future bride up to his mother (who of course has not approved of anyone yet), Habib who was still emotionally scarred by his parents’ divorce five years ago and terrified of making a commitment that might end the same way, breathlessly attractive yet disinterested Karim...

Considering all the above, yet yearning still for something more – for That Feeling – Shelina struggles to compromise between the well-meaning, earnest advice of Buxom Aunties, Serious Imams, and her own wise parents, and the romantic dreams that every young woman has of finding the One. Commendably, however, she doesn’t allow the marriage hunt to overwhelm her life. Concluding that Allah in His Wisdom has a reason for not delivering Prince Charming into her lap, she goes about the business of Life.

Worshipping Allah, studying, travelling, navigating the tangled paths of cultural identity, and, of course, dreaming of the One... Sheilina shares stories of what it’s like to be a young Muslim woman in the West, dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 and struggling against stereotypes from both within and without the Muslim community. Good Girls don’t climb mountains, she’s told when she sets out to scale Mount Kilimanjaro; but at the same time, her hijaab seems to turn off a lot of potential suitors. What’s up with that? She questions traditional conditions, believing in the values but not necessarily the ways in which a girl is supposed to maintain her reputation. After all, what’s wrong with a girl getting a sports car?

Shelina’s quest for halaal love ends up the way such things always do: determined by the Qadr (Destiny) of Allah, both Prince and Princess appear in the right place at the right time, destined to meet. With the blessing of faith and family, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed marries her Prince Charming... and so begins her Happily Ever After.

- A- AnonyMouse (UmmKhadijah) is a young Muslimah who has been writing Islamic articles for the last six years. Formerly a co-founder, staff member, and writer for MuslimMatters.org, she now writes for SISTERS magazine.

1 comment:

JaLpArI - tHe MeRmAiD said...

Assalam alaykum sister..
lovely blog.. :)

and thanks for this post..
wil try to get a copy of this one... i can relate pretty well to the character (though am not in the west..)