girltangerinescarf.jpgSpoiler Alert!
This review mentions major events of the book… so if you don't like knowing about the ending of books, don't read this review!

  It looked like such a promising book! A hijabi on the cover (okay, so she's wearing jeans…), and (seemingly) good reviews from when I did a quick Google search on it. To tell the truth, it's actually not that bad – the first half, anyway. In fact, I loved the first half!

  Okay, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about (if you haven't noticed the title of the post…). I've just finished reading Mohja Kahf's book “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf.” It's about Khadra Shamy, the daughter of Syrian immigrants to Indianapolis, whose parents become heavily involved with the Da'wah Centre. The chapters recounting her childhood and adolescence, growing up in a very tight-knit Muslim community, made me smile, laugh, and even sniffle a bit – also being the daughter of “Da'wah workers,” I could relate to it quite a bit!

  As I said, I loved the first half of the book. Funny and interesting anecdotes; truly accurate glimpses into the heart of the Muslim community; and since no life is complete without sorrow, even the grisly death of one of the community's most promising young women.

  The first half of the book is about Khadra growing up in America – in the first few years of elementary school, of dealing with issues like “pig in candy corn,” wearing hijaab for the first time and dealing with the abuse of racist KKK neighbourhood members, and teen angst and rebellion expressed through support of the Shi'a group Amal. Also of note are Khadra's trip to Saudi Arabia for Hajj – where she discovers that not all is Islamic amongst the youth of the Land of the Islam. Things began to look up, though, when Khadra marries Jumu‘ah al-Tashkenti – a good guy all around. Awwwwwwwwww, masha'Allah! was my reaction, and I thought maybe this would be a husband-and-wife battling the odds sort of thing that would fill up the rest of the book – after all, I was halfway done and there hadn't been a main plot to the story yet. At this point, I had gone around telling everyone I met what a great book this was… little did I know that my feelings of joy at discovering a really good book of Muslim fiction that didn't follow the usual “oppressed Muslim woman sees the light of Western Civilization” storyline would quickly disappear!

  It was the bike that did it. I totally agree with Khadra's husband – riding a bike in public isn't quite seemly of a Muslim woman. The author, apparently, has quite different ideas, as can be evidenced here:
  “But eventually, she put the bike in the resident storage area of their building's basement… The gears rusted and the tires lost air. Something inside her rusted a little, too.”

  My immediate reaction to that: “Oh, please!” Honestly, talk about a drama queen… major incidents followed in quick succession after that – her husband's visa expiring, which meant she'd have to move with him back to Kuwait (which she didn't want to do; she wanted to finish her studies at her university even though she could do them just as easily in Kuwait); joining the Islamic Studies class at her university, where she's introduced to Sufism and starts to get all proggie on us; and then, despite her birth control pills, she falls pregnant. This is the Big Thing – rather than having the child, she decides that her studies and work are more important to her… so she gets an abortion. Yep, that's right. The A-word. Abortion.

  After the abortion, and her community's reaction to it (NOT violent, just in case you were wondering), she goes to Syria to her aunt – who also introduces her to a “different” way of thinking, as she recovers from the stress and trauma of the abortion. She eventually returns to America, where she lives far away from her family and any Muslim community – it's also where “Khadra found that she enjoyed venting… about her experiences with conservative religion.”

  Eventually, Khadra ends up back in her old city, where she meets up with an old childhood friend, now a trombone-playing former imam (he gave up being an imam so that he could continue his hobby of playing at jazz clubs). The last few chapters of the book are dedicated to her reunion with the people of the Muslim community – except that now she looks down upon them as unenlightened, too strict and rigid and supposedly repressed just because they actually stick to the rules of the Deen.

  I think that this book pointed out two interesting and commonly found themes within proggressive ideology – one, that to Khadra, at least, Islam is not the One True religion, the only one accepted by Allah; as such, she doesn't believe that she needs to follow the laws of Islam; and two, that to sacrifice certain things for the sake of Allah isn't considered a good thing, but rather, is to be considered “repression” or “oppression.” Basically, it seems that they go along with the whole “If it feels good, do it” attitude, regardless of what the Shari'ah says about it. Two examples that come to mind are art (drawing animate figures) and music (the case in point regarding the character of Hakim al-Deen – the trombone-playing-former-imam). I'm sure we've all read or heard the many excuses and arguments that arise whenever the above subjects (as well as others) come up, so I won't bother with explanatory details.

Anyway, here are the relevant bits from the book, presented in respective order:

“Well, why are you Muslim then? If anything else is just as good.”
Khadra thinks for a minute. “Love,” she says slowly. “Love and attachment. I love the Qur'an, for example. And the forms and rhythms of salah. I keep coming back o it. It has a resonance for me.”
“But you think someone else can pray another way and find a path to God?” Tayiba counters.
“Absolutely.”
 

“Islamic, unIslamic. Halal, haram. Is it godly? Is it frivolity? No space to breathe. Everyone must have kept secrets from each other about what they really liked, who they really were. How much had any of them really known each other growing up?”

  So there we are. In the first snippet of dialogue, Khadra (and presumably Mohja Kahf, if the character's beliefs reflect the author's) does not believe in one of the main principles of the 'Aqeeda of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah – that Islam is the only true and correct path to worshipping Allah and attaining success in the Hereafter. In the second, we see that there is a heightened sense of the dramatic (not doing things that they wanted to, even if it was haraam, means that they're “repressing their inner selves” – something mentioned earlier on in the book, like when Khadra stopped riding her bike) and apparently no concept of sacrificing for the sake of Allah, no awareness that whenever a Muslim gives up something for his/her Lord to ward of His Punishment or to earn His Pleasure, Allah will replace it with something better (whether it's in this world or in the Hereafter).

  In conclusion:
  Looking at the book from a purely literary point of view, I'd give it 4/5. The writing style, especially of the first half, is excellent – detailed, descriptive, and it tracks character development through various phases in a way that you feel you're growing up with the character. In the second half, I seemed to have lost that feeling of closeness – whether due to the author's skill waning, a deliberate attempt to make us feel Khadra's confusion and transition into proggie-Sufism, or my own disgust at the way Khadra turned out, I'm not exactly sure. I found the end disappointing also – for some reason I didn't feel that sense of closure that I associate with a good ending to a good book. Rather, it felt clunky and incomplete – one moment she's wailing with grief, the next providing emotional support to her boy-band-member younger brother who wants to marry his Mormon girlfriend, then giving her older (and much more sensible) brother an “enlightening” lecture about how she has to show both sides of the story about the Muslim community (she took pictures of them that would only reinforce ignorant stereotypes about Muslims and said that she trusts viewers to be intelligent and look past the stereotypes)… and then she's off to the racetrack, on a date family-friendly outing with Hakim al-Deen (aka the trombone dude) to watch his sister be the first Muslim woman to drive on a racetrack.

  From an Islamic perspective, however – I definitely would NOT recommend it to new Muslims or those interested in Islam, because it would either majorly confuzzle them or lead them in the wrong direction. (Here's where certain people will denounce me for being narrow-minded and prejudiced and taking on the role of censor.) But unlike Khadra, I don't place much confidence in people's intelligence and ability to discern what's correct – most of the time, anyway (and no, I'm not so arrogant that I can claim to be totally objective and correct all the time – basically, it's a case of “If I can't trust myself, how can I trust others?”). For others, however, who perhaps enjoy some good fiction (“good” in terms of quality of writing, not necessarily content) and/or would also like to glean a better understanding of how and what the progressives/ liberals/ modernists think – then yes, I would suggest this book, because it's why I read it in the first place (well, that and curiousity about whether it was just another piece of Islamophobic trash disguised as literature). I'm sure many people would disagree with me on that, but whatever.

  If any of you have read this book, please do let me know what you think about it!

92 Responses

  1. Abu Muhammad

    You know AnonyMouse I’m really happy that there are Muslims out there that actually read.

    My previous company of brothers did not read any fiction, period. They would say it’s ‘baatil’ but at the same time some of them would spend hours on a PS2 and maybe watching DVD’s.

    As for myself reading is the way out. It stops me watching movies and keeps my mind active.

    I have to read a few novels a year at least. I can’t help it. But most of them are Fantasy/Fiction (I know that can be dodgy when it comes to certain issues).

    But I don’t let my kids read Harry Potter as I don’t want them to be exposed to the idea of sensationalising magic etc.

    Which brings me to the topic of Muslim writers producing alternatives in each genre.

    I know a lot of people are against this and say that it is a waste of time. But if a person is learning their deen and studying properly, I don’t see why it would be wrong to write fiction. Contrary to what some people say, it in fact involves no deception (especially for the Muslim writer) as anyone reading the book knows that it is make-believe.

    Sooooo about a year ago I started to write a novel. It is Fantasy/Fiction with similarities to others in the genre but I was presented with a number of problems.

    I think I’m going of topic…

    It would be nice if we could discuss the whole topic of Muslim fiction writers and challenges they face. Shall I continue?

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  2. Abu Muhammad

    I know Ustadh Abu Ammaar had interest in Fantasy/Fiction at one point (if I can recall correctly from LOTW B’ham).

    Care to express your views on the topic dear shaikh?

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  3. AnonyMouse

    I prefer reading to movies also… and fantasy has always been my preferred genre!

    I actually tried writing a novella of Muslim fiction (mostly action/ adventure), for age 12+, but it’s been sitting dormant for quite a while… ya never know, though, one of these days I might find the time to finish it!
    (Haha, watch me still struggling with it 10 years later…)

    Insha’Allah I’m planning on writing a brief post on fiction that has anything to do with Muslims – whether it’s written by Muslims, involves Muslims, what’s available in the mainstream publications, and what you have to really look for. And I’d love to have a discussion about the challenges Muslim fiction writers face! :)

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  4. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    Shaykh Yasir mentioned once that his favourite work of fiction was LOTR.

    He also mentioned that ‘mountain and Mahomet’ figure of speech thingy. I want to point out that it was from ‘Jane Eyre’, not ‘Wuthering Heights’- both of which I assume Sh YQ has read. Last one is a bit weird.

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  5. Asiya

    You’re right, the book does sound a bit confusing…

    But what’s wrong with jeans and a good bike ride? I know those aren’t major aspects of the book that you’re focusing on, but the way you throw that in as though it’s not ‘right’ seems a bit odd. One can wear hijab and dress modestly in jeans and do the same when riding a bike… I often do :)

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  6. Abu Muhammad

    @WM Not as weird as ‘Dorian’ by Will Self.

    I don’t read that kind of stuff but one of the nurses at hospital decided it would be a good read for me and left it on my table. I read six pages and to stop.

    @AnonM

    I’ve written three chapters of a fantasy/fiction novel.

    I’m overcoming the challenges. I suppose that we have all the regular challenges that a writer faces and then some more when it comes to publishing (if you want to go mainstream, like myself). And then even more when it comes to issues of morality and creed.

    Here are some of the challenges:

    1. Magic: Which I have overcome quite easily as only the bad guys have it and it’s refuted and exposed during the course of the story. The good guys tend to rely on worldly matters (to an extent).

    2. FF tends to have its share of deities in the story. Although this is not a requirement, it can help to flesh out the story.

    David Eddings is very polytheistic in his Sparhawk series and even more so in the Belgariad and Mallorean. The irony is though that his ‘gods’ are very mortal by our standards.

    Other mainstream writers have chosen the monotheistic option. One such writer is Stephan Donaldson in his Thomas Covenant series. Although again (not surprisingly), the main evil character is in a struggle with ‘the Creator’ which by Islamic standards would be absurd.

    This one was relatively easy to overcome as the ‘gods’ in my story are killed one by one with logical inbuilt reasons as to their falsehood. Needless to say ‘the fitrah’ is seamlessly interwoven through all the good characters.

    3. Describing females without breaking Islamic moral code. This would also extend to any relationships. Perhaps I could research this in earlier Victorian writings when morality was still a virtue?

    I really wanted to create an exemplar female character that would be moral, decent, and intelligent that readers would look up to. I think there’ll be a fair number of challenges to face in order to keep a character like that engaged throughout the story.

    4. There are many other issues that don’t come to mind right now.

    Anyhow I would really like to share and discuss any ideas with other Muslim writers. I could setup a private forum just for Muslim writers (I have plenty of webspace). If there were that many writers interested!

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  7. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    @ Abu Muhammad: Modern stuff is generally bilge. There are few exceptions.

    “I don’t read that kind of stuff but one of the nurses at hospital decided it would be a good read for me and left it on my table. I read six pages and [had] to stop.”

    Which book was it? Jane Austen’s stuff sucks, but there is some good fiction authored by Victorian women. That must sound weird coming out of my mouth.

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  8. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    “Perhaps I could research this in earlier Victorian writings when morality was still a virtue?

    I really wanted to create an exemplar female character that would be moral, decent, and intelligent that readers would look up to.”

    Take it from me, bro…didactic fiction doesn’t make good reading (too much authorial artifice)- usually. ‘When morality was still a virtue’ (though we see plenty of females, even pre-Victorian, such as Moll Flanders who aren’t exactly moral creatures)- when morality was still a virtue, fictional characters were cardboard cut-outs.

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  9. Abu Muhammad

    @WM The book the nurse left was ‘Dorian’ by Will Self.

    I think most didactic fiction is written by xtians and barring writers like C.S Lewis they were very poor at that.

    A good example is ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.

    I remember Lewis mentioning somewhere:’imagine that the lord had come to the animals. He would have been a lion’. I never looked at that book in the same way again.

    For the unacquainted reader it was just fantasy fiction. For the xtians it was a breakthrough:

    “The Chronicles of Narnia masterfully tells the true story through fiction—a corrupted world, the seduction and usury of evil, a traitor, redemption through sacrifice, resurrection, regeneration, the beauty and joy of a kingdom properly ruled, and the eventual victory of good. Everyone experiences these themes: Like a person who has the pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle spread before him but hasn’t a picture of what the assembled puzzle will look like. When eventually the pieces are connected, he thinks, “Of course!” He has a thousand memories of the pieces that verify that this is the image they were building.

    The power of this film is that the elements of the true story are revealed at once in logical connection to one another. The opportunity for the Christian is to then tell the true story referencing the analogy while the themes and the logic that connects them are still clear—“Edmund’s treachery is like the evils we commit and Aslan’s sacrifice is like the sacrifice Jesus made to buy us back from the ruin we got ourselves into.””

    Anyhow I intend to become a master of subtle suggestion and considering that everyone (or most people) still have remenants of fitrah the should relate to these points.

    The characters in my book are situated in a land where the message has not reached. The good folks are on the fitrah in varying degrees. I know it sounds very religious but it’s not really.

    I cannot compare it to established titles in the genre because deviates from the current stagnation that fantasy writers have fallen into.

    Anyhow once I correct my manuscripts I may openly publish some material that I’m no longer using, jsut so that I can get some feedback.

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  10. Abû Mûsâ Al-Habashî

    Does anyone know what the ‘ulama have mentioned regarding writing and reading books of fiction?

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  11. AbdulRahman

    Interesting issues have been brought up in the comments.
    I too am an avid fiction-reader. And unfortunately I find that this brings about frowns on certain religious faces.

    I also consider it “my way out”, while I know people who watch movies, TV series and so on. I indulge in reading. There’s no music, no lowering the gaze.

    But some people bring about different angles to it. I met an elder man who had a passion for reading, it’s actually his job to read books.
    I confessed to him that I loved reading, but I read mostly fiction. He said it’s still a good thing as it develops within me the habit of reading, and that gradually I’ll probably progress to greater books and find them easier to read.

    Not many share his view though. It’s an interesting topic for a post, to what extent are we free to read? Somethings might be deemed correctly as a complete waste of time and mind, but is that prohibited?

    Reading books by people of other faith, and I mean ABOUT their faith, with general and specific religious issues we as Muslims disagree with, is reading such books forbidden?
    Or books that are by people who are concerned as people of innovation and whatnot, can we read those books and take what’s good while leaving out what’s not?

    What’s the stance of Islam on reading? The first word was “Recite/Read”.

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  12. Abu Muhammad

    I’ve done a little reading around and found some ‘answers':

    “Our Islamic nation is in need of intellectual and artistic activities that promote decent values. By doing so, you are in fact providing a lawful alternative to the bad and immoral messages that are so widespread in the arts these days.”

    “Question: I had been reading some novels that were written with an Islamic outlook. I was impressed by them and recommended them to a friend of mine. When he heard me praising these novelse, he said to me: “Don’t you know that fiction is unlawful, becuase it is a type of lie and lying is forbidden?” Please inform me of whether or not what my friend said is true.

    Answered by Sheikh ****** al-*****

    With respect to fiction as a literary form, it does not constitute a form of lie. The reason for this is that the fictitious narrative does not fall under the category of an allegedly factual �report�. It is more akin to citing parables. The reader is fully aware that the author is not intending to impart a strictly factual account of something that actually took place. The author is merely telling a tale to bring some meanings across to the reader.

    Even though the individual events mentioned in the narrative may be everyday events, it is not necessary that they actually took place with the same details and in the same sequence with the same individuals that they occur in the story.

    And Allah knows best.”

    The above are quotes from certain students of knowledge/scholars.

    One of them also mentioned that it could be a waste of time and you could be reading something more beneficial.

    I didn’t see any ayah or hadith presented that prohibited reading fiction explicitly. But then again I am biased.

    Until proven otherwise as long as I continue my talab-ul-ilm and learning for my career I shall continue to read fiction as an alternative to other more sinful pastimes like watching movies etc.

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  13. ibnabeeomar

    i personally enjoy a good book of fiction now and then as well. i dont think they should distract you from reading other books which take priority, but there’s definitely some benefits to reading them – if nothing other than improving your language and communication skills.

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  14. hema

    i’ve had this discussion plenty of times, and i think at the end of the day it depends on your perspective and what you want out of the book. i think you can take the good and leave the bad.
    great post annoymouse!

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  15. Abû Mûsâ Al-Habashî

    Abu Muhammad: Is there a reason the name of the person answering that question is censored out? I would like the name of an [I]‘âlim[/I] – preferably one that I am aware of and trust for his knowledge and piety – along with his reasoning either endorsing or forbidding the reading/making of this material, [I]bârakAllâh fîkum[/I].

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  16. nuqtah

    Isn’t it the same Mohja Kahf who writes the sizzling ‘sex and ummah’ column for MWU? Humm, even non-muslim fiction is far better than this nonsense. Even if one has read it, why promote the work of someone like “Mohja Kahf”? Who obviously has an agenda behind what she writes?

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  17. AnonyMouse

    Asiya:
    The reason for my ‘issue’ with the jeans is that I believe in the definition of correct hijaab as including a long outer garment (jilbaab) to cover everything (shape of the torso and legs)…
    As for the biking, it’s not that I don’t think Muslim women can’t ride bikes (I ride a bike myself), it’s the issue of where and around whom. For example, I only ride my bike in a very secluded park where the only people around are seniors (the park is located next to an old age home), and even then I wear my ‘abaayah (there’s a special trick to it!).

    I know that many people would disagree with the opinion that wearing jeans and a long shirt in public doesn’t constitute hijaab, or that it’s not good for Muslim women to ride bikes in public either, but hey… that’s how it is (to me, anyway).

    Nuqtah: I don’t know, I’ve never read MWU. Nor am I promoting the book – it’s a review which, you may have noticed, is very negative. And the point of the review, you may ask? Well, some people may have seen it in passing (as I did) and thought about reading it… so my review is here for the same reason as all other book reviews are written.

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  18. Ahmad AlFarsi

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    I know that many people would disagree with the opinion that wearing jeans and a long shirt in public doesn’t constitute hijaab

    Maybe some lay people might disagree, but, to the best of my knowledge, all the scholars of Islam, including the four madhahib, are unanimously agreed that jilbaab (the outer-garment that the sister wears over her normal clothing) is fard. After all, the ruling for jilbaab is mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an (the word used is ‘jalaabeeb’ which is plural of jilbaab) as well as in the authentic hadeeth. Please correct me if I am mistaken about the ijma’ (consensus), but that is what I have learned.

    Of course, as we’ve discussed before on this blog, that doesn’t mean that the outer-garment must be ‘middle-eastern’ looking. I remember one shaykh saying that a long, baggy raincoat type thing could do the trick.

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  19. Samaha

    Ahhh, mouse!

    I just finished this book last month for a book club. I loved it.

    The author and I are near the same age, so many of the events that she writes about I can remember. It is a reminder to a lot of us that the Islamophobia that is going on today is nothing new. It existed before 9/11 and quite honestly I still think this is an improvement from the Iran hostage days even though it has become “hot” to be un-pc these days.

    I agree with you about her marriage though only because I think that it was unrealistic for this girl to go through all of these “realizations” in so little time. However, thinking about it later .. the story would never have ended if it happened over a longer period of time. The book being as descriptive as it was, quite well written – I think she had to sacrifice it there to get the whole story in. If she had concentrated on this aspect, the book would have appeared to be just another oppressed woman story .. so I can overlook this aspect.

    I think she did an amazing job of describing the hypocricy that we as women face .. from all of the Quranic teachings and our parents supportive “women are equal in Islam” and the reality of real world expectations of us when we become wives. Although it seems to me that you may not be as shocked considering that you support her husband’s reaction to the bicycle, for many of us this was a very accurate portrayal of our lives and the sacrifices that many of us make due to our upbringing/culture.

    Another aspect to this story that you haven’t covered is the racism that existed within her community and that still exists today.

    I would highly recommend this book to every Muslim as this story’s message, to me at least, is not about one woman going proggie as you put it, rather it is the reality of what Muslim youth in the majority go through.

    We go to public schools. We make non-Muslims friends. We view a contradictory world from many of our traditions and what does everyone expect? .. that we are never going to pick up any of these influences? that we are going to magically carry on these labeled “Islamic” traditions? that we will never question what we have been taught? that we will never question what is cultural and tradition to what is really “Islamic”?

    Is the Quran for all time? Or is it just for a certain place that is supposed to magically maintain a certain time period? I don’t think these are proggie questions .. rather they are questions that accumulate as we live in the west and experience multi-culturalism.

    Now, you know what I found to be a great read?…

    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Excellent writter and I cried and cried and cried! And in November .. His book “The Kite Runner” comes out as a movie!

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  20. AnonyMouse

    ^ Will reply to the rest of your comment later (gotta go to the Madrasah now), but is The Kite Runner really going to become a movie?! I loved the book, even though I felt shattered by the end of it because I realized that even though it’s fiction, the cruelty within it reflects what exists in real life.

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  21. Amad

    I can’t speak for the book, but what I know of this woman Mohja is that she writes in the most disgusting of manners, not befitting a decent human being, let alone a Muslim. And this is in reference to her “Sex” columns on Muslim-Wake-Up-And-Leave-Islam website. Her references to scholars in the most vile and flagrantly shameless manner, regardless of her attempts at “fiction” has given me a permanent distaste of her name, let alone her works. As one example of this woman’s filthy works, she writes in one story of the great Aalim At-Tabari as being between the legs of a woman and the rest is so disgusting that I cannot shame this blog with it, but you get the picture.

    By the way, she isn’t just “progressive”, she is regressed far deeper than one can imagine. In other words, she would be considered a progressive-gone-too-far among the progressives, so figure that! We should not buy this woman’s books and help finance her pitiful views. Rather, let us leave her to the little, dark hole of her corrupted little brain (or what is left of it). May Allah guide her to the truth… the simple truth of Islam.

    (Sorry for that little outburst here, but a NORMAL Muslim cannot but help feel this sort of nausea against this woman’s uttering about the greatest men that ever lived. If you have a problem with that, then I imagine that you wouldn’t have a problem with someone talking about your father like that. If you do, then know that the scholars are more beloved to us than our fathers.)

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  22. nuqtah

    [quote]Nuqtah: I don’t know, I’ve never read MWU. Nor am I promoting the book – it’s a review which, you may have noticed, is very negative. And the point of the review, you may ask? Well, some people may have seen it in passing (as I did) and thought about reading it… so my review is here for the same reason as all other book reviews are written.

    [/quote]

    Not everything one ‘reads’ warrants a ‘review’ and that too on a blog which supposedly blogs about issues pertinent to muslims at large (especially in N. America). Let alone something written by an ‘attention-wh*r*’ bent upon attacking and maligning the basics of Islam.

    Personally, I would’ve found it much more in good taste, if some one posted up a review of something like “Sons and Lovers” by D. H. Lawrence. Although it is provocative and promiscous; there’s one thing missing which is present in Mohja’s works. This is the underlying reason behind whatever she seems to spew. It is the theme around which her trite works of ‘literature’ revolve. It is the same reason that subtly resonates in even less scathing of her works. That is constantly questioning and attacking Islamic values and beliefs in a derisive manner.

    From a literary critique’s point of view, your review is not negative at all. It seems pretty standard (pointing out both the commendable and distasteful aspects of the book). In other words; neutral.

    Reading the works of Mohja Kahf and sewing the seeds of doubt is one thing. But, giving a review of it, another. The fact that a review of her work is presented on this site as a work of “Muslim/Islamic fiction”, provides it with a much needed tacit vindication for the work and it’s author (whether it is meant or not).

    But, really, should I be surprised?

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  23. AnonyMouse

    “Not everything one ‘reads’ warrants a ‘review’ and that too on a blog which supposedly blogs about issues pertinent to muslims at large”

    Considering that this book is being sold in various bookstores in North America, Muslims are bound to come across it and perhaps buy it simply because of the cover picture and the accompanying blurb without realizing what the book is all about.
    Al-Hamdulillaah, I didn’t waste any money on it because I borrowed it from the library instead, and had I known what kind of book it was I wouldn’t have bothered – so here’s the review that would let anyone thinking about buying it think again.
    Perhaps the review isn’t pertinent to you, but it may very well be for anyone who might have considered buying or reading the book.

    “The fact that a review of her work is presented on this site as a work of “Muslim/Islamic fiction””

    No, I haven’t presented this book as a “work of Muslim/ Islamic fiction.” Nowhere in the review does it say so at all.
    In fact, I clearly pointed out that if the character is any reflection of the author, then her ‘Aqeeda clearly deviates from that of Alus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah.

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  24. Abu Muhammad

    I’ve just realised who the author is!

    I have read some of her articles on that weird website and it depicted Imam At-Tabari in a very disgusting way.

    I know some people believe in reaching out to the pro-regressives but I’m kinda ‘backwards’ on this issue and believe in nipping things in the bud.

    Alhamdulillah Allah allowed to to learn about the danger of takfeer.

    But I shall quote one scholar who said:

    “There are some people who (in this world) we cannot but call them Muslim, but in the Eyes of Allah they are nothing less than disbelievers”.

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  25. Amad

    ASA.. I don’t see any problem with reviewing this book and publicizing its problems. So, next time a young sister picks up the book or wants to buy it, she’ll google it and hopefully end up on this review. After reading the review, and our comments, inshallah, she’ll know better.

    While I respect the opinions of some who would say “why publicize her”, and considering my own despise of Mohja (see my previous comment), I believe that we cannot bury our head in the sand. Many folks (“those” kind) out there will read the book and give positive reviews, so it is important to provide a counterbalance opinion. The only way to do so is to read it. otherwise you would be hit by “ad hominem” accusations.

    So, bottom-line, the author AND the book are NOT recommended by MM and most of its readership, ESP. Nuqtah and you can put a full-stop right there!

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  26. AbdulRahman

    If it were up to me, I’d write a review about one of the books praised in the comments, “The Kite Runner”.

    I hated that book. It was filled with propaganda towards Taleban and certain Muslim practices that many Muslims follow. While I’m sure the Taleban had some mistakes, the way they were portrayed in his book was ridiculous!
    People had to “wear fake beards”?! What the heck?!

    And throughout the story the Shiite characters were always oppressed and abused and whatnot. This is generally the Shiite claims throughout the centuries.

    It’s a ridiculously fake book, but I worry our sisters read it and swallow it all in. My own sister recommended it to me, and after I read it I had explain to her how nonsensical the whole thing was.

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  27. AnonyMouse

    I personally thought that while the book majorly exaggerated about the Taliban and the Shi’a, that the basic storyline – about the Amir and Hassan, and Hassan’s son – was excellent.

    I haven’t read A Thousand Splendid Suns yet, although I’ve put it on my To-Read (and possibly review) list…

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  28. nuqtah

    [quote]Nuqtah and you can put a full-stop right there!
    [/quote]

    Ok, ok. But, yeah If I hadn’t known who Mohja Kahf was I would have thought twice about ‘not’ buying the book. Personally this review makes me wanna buy it. :)

    [quote]It’s a ridiculously fake book, but I worry our sisters read it and swallow it all in. My own sister recommended it to me, and after I read it I had explain to her how nonsensical the whole thing was.

    [/quote]

    So, true. This is why scholars caution against dabbling too much into such Baatilness;

    [quote]Question: Al-Salâm `Alaykum. I am a Muslim girl studying English literature at university. Occasionally, I come across some poems or literary works that do not conform to my Islamic principles, things like denying the divinity of Allah. I really feel bad about them. Is it permissible to study such literature as long as I do not believe in it, or is studying this literature considered a sin ?

    Answered by the Fatwa Department Research Committee – chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî

    Al-Salâm `Alaykum wa Rahmah Allah wa Barakâtuh.

    It is good that you feel bad about such material. You should always feel bad when you come across falsehood. It is unlawful for you to read such poetry and literature for enjoyment. However, if there is another reason to read that material, such as academic study, as part of your degree requirement, or to refute it, then you may do so as long as doing so does not have a negative effect on your faith.

    This is especially the case if the degree that you are studying will benefit the Muslim Ummah in the future. However, it would be better for you to choose a school where you could study in an Islamic academic environment where the curriculum would reinforce your faith instead of testing it.

    [/quote]

    I don’t think many of our liberated and modern brethern and sisters would pay heed to this advice.

    Anyway I’m out of this silly discussion.

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  29. BintMuhammed

    assalamualaykum
    Although I never read this book i liked your post mouse, I definitely wouldnt be purchasing this book anytime soon.

    With the whole aspect of reading fiction, in my personal opinion, I would say we read all the islamic books out there, that teach us our religion and increase our knowledge in our deen, before we waste our time with as nuqtah said Baatilness.
    I love to read, and i could read many books in a week, but nowadays anytime I pick up a fiction/non-fiction book to read, I ask myself are their any “religious” books i can read.

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  30. M. Landers

    I don’t mean to be rude about it, but I’m a little amused at the strength of condemnation against Ms. Kahf — coming, generally, from those who appear to have taken enough time in reading her stories as to know all the more salacious details.

    That said, the frustrating thing to me about this book is that, even in a fiction-friendly point of view, it fails to serve the community at all by (once again) presenting the picture of the unsatisfied muslim woman. It’s been done. And it’s been done enough that it is now simply pushing another “insider view” to “outsiders” of what they want/expect to see. If this were a new portrait, it might be valuable — there is no denying it reflects a genuine point of view, regardless of whether it is one we all agree with. But just once in a while I’d like to see *other*, more internally positive viewpoints. I want to see a muslima character in a well-crafted story smile without either blindness or first a crisis of faith. You know. Like most of us.

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  31. ruth nasrullah

    “But just once in a while I’d like to see *other*, more internally positive viewpoints. I want to see a muslima character in a well-crafted story smile without either blindness or first a crisis of faith. You know. Like most of us.”

    OK, Mouse, dust that novella off and get busy writing! :)

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  32. Amad

    M. Landers: One doesn’t need a lot of research to google Mohja Kahf and hit some of the salacious stuff quite quickly. I am not quite sure I understand where you are going with this?

    OK, Mouse, dust that novella off and get busy writing! :)

    This is one that I’ll have to buy hard-cover immediately… though I doubt that Nuqtah or WM are holding their breath for it ;)

    I think MM would deserve some royalty for the practice sessions here??

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  33. ibnabeeomar

    i dont have anything fruitful to add here but i have thoroughly enjoyed these comments :)

    i do want to mention a story i was reminded of by reading this, with apologies to everyone who doesnt understand urdu – and to those who do for my poor transliteration:

    aik tha Rana
    aik thee Rani
    Dauno margai
    khatam kahani

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  34. Hassan

    ibnabeeomar, your urdu may be poor indeed, what is “rana”? I think you meant Raja? Well you did you really mean Rana, could be name of person, like “Rana Naved-ul-Hasan”, a Pakistani cricketer.

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  35. Editor

    I seriously don’t get why people continually rant against The Kite Runner as if it blasphemed against an infallible ruler/pristine place. I admit there was some intellectual dishonesty, but anyone discerning enough knows it’s simply fiction (re: advice above from scholar regarding books “lying”). Those who already have preconceived notions will read into it what they’ve previously been accustomed to. I hardly see what the fuss is all about.

    When I read it, I anxiously anticipated the parts which caused a chorus of scathing remarks. But I found them easily explainable as representative of only one group of people in one area of one city in the country. Heck, it was only one “leader” and a bunch of hearsay.

    Throughout Islamic history, you’d find there arose corrupt governors under even the best of the khalifahs. The Islamic empire had periods where it was rife with problems. And yet, we would still refer to these as the best era. What then? We know those who hate us will only point out the abuse, conflicts and wars regardless.

    Granted the focus of the book swayed to only undesirable factors (note that it did nevertheless admit the initial joy present), but it was only relevant in its context. I could care less what Hosseini personally thinks and reflects, I love the way he wrote that heart wrenching plot!

    Seriously we should look at ourselves sometimes. “Other Muslims and non-Muslims will now condemn the Taliban and Afghans in general. The horror!” Really? As opposed to?

    Interestingly enough, I’ve read page after page of rave reviews, where readers would be at most glad for the “insights” into Afghanistan (folks who honestly believe they can “travel” via storybooks)… but none so outraged at the Taliban reign or any other factor we supposedly defend, at least not any more than they were before reading.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s really even an issue to contend. Or if it’s only ourselves who so fear our own long standing beliefs would be shaken by half-truths. That too, found in a work of fiction.

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  36. Editor

    Btw, I didn’t read the original post here (review) because of the disclaimer (I hate spoilers! :P). I thought I would check the book out for myself then. And I would’ve had I not read the comments above. So I kinda echo the sentiment that it could be somewhat misleadingly “promotional” to have a review on this website.

    Then again, just about anything can be misinterpreted to be misleading. Heh. Just thought I’d highlight that anyway.

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  37. Nuqtah

    [quote]Or if it’s only ourselves who so fear our own long standing beliefs would be shaken by half-truths [/quote]

    Not to sound too naive but, why did Nabi ‘alayhi salatu wa salaam get angry and forbade Umar when he saw him reading tauraat? I’m sure he had much stronger emaan than we did.

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  38. Samaha

    Okay – when I first took up reading the book for a book club someone mentioned that she was from MWU but no one was sure of her role in the taboo column.

    Regardless, the book was not reflective of her writtings that everyone is speaking of here. Personally, I really got the idea that she loved Islam throughout the book as well.

    I’m not defending her here and while I would condemn her writtings in the past that are being discussed here due to my judgemental self – I would still be interested in knowing if this woman has had a change of heart. In the end I’ll leave it up to Allah to be her judge as I usually do.

    However, I still think this is a must read for Muslims. I think the book reflects a great deal of confusion that Muslim Americans go through growing up. As someone here mentioned, we have to stop sticking our heads in the sand. We have to find a balance for our children, especially our daughters in this world.

    My experiences in my teens and adulthood have been similar .. from being an outcast to being outright ganged up on by my teachers and having my education sabotaged on a level. I spent one year in Bosnia, at that time the former Yugoslavia, so that I could master the language and attend Gazi Husrefbegs Madrasa (which didn’t happen besides some reading that I had done for home schooling myself through it). Through that there was a bit of culture shock as Bosnia was nothing that I imagined in terms of being around good Muslims. My childhood and adulthood is and was integrated within American culture of course still being Muslim. My parents were however much more liberal than the charachters parents but I was very much aware of what was expected of me as a Muslim. I never went through what the main charachter went through later in life because it was my whole life as I didn’t surround myself with Muslim friends and was always aware of the differences in the way people practice religion or non-religion. This only made my faith in Islam stronger though – as a child I was encouraged to read the Bible and Torah and Quran by my father so that I would gain a greater appreciation for the Quran. Comparative books were always assigned reading by my dad.

    All that being said, I would have to say that I was pretty lucky with the way my parents brought me up. Many, many of my other Bosnian, Pakistani, Arab, Persian friends led lives of contradiction and confusion and today their religion is more culture/tradition than faith. What is in their hearts is for Allah to judge but by their actions I worry about the fate of their children and their children’s children.

    Now, another area where I can relate in this book happened much later in life, as I changed my children’s Islamic school and came to sit on their school board. I was absolutely dumbfounded that a woman holding a seat on a board would cause so much controversy. Everything that I had been taught about equality in Islam until this point in time had held up. Issues in equality had only surfaced on an American cultural level – having been fired after becoming pregnant from a job that just promoted me to office manager. My dissappointment in women’s rights in America having stemmed from years of being raised to believe that I could be anything that I wanted to be and somehow the message of Islam being ahead of the game in equality never sunk in until that point. So when I became verbally attacked by women for accepting a position of “power” my world sunk. Confusion set in – but better it happened in my adulthood than in my teens and early twenties .. I can deal with it better.

    So comming from that point of view – I found the book to be an accurate portrayal of what could go wrong with our children. The book being fictional does not mean that it can not be educational or beneficial. I understand having principals and the issues had by many in regards to this author though but I would still recommend the book with giving background to the author (in cases outside of this blog).

    As for A Thousand Splendid Suns, I’d say it gives a better portrayal of the Afghan history which may make some of you change your mind about The Kite Runner. I’ll review A Thousand Splendid Suns on my own blog (without spoiling the story). Also, if any of you are interested, I have a post on my blog about the story of a man I ran accross this summer that is from Afghanistan. It’s called Taliban and his story is under the Avaaz petition information. I’m not trying to step on any toes here but after having lost so much family to brutality and torture I find it hard to think of anyone that would use such means in a good light and have even greater difficulty with it when Muslims use it against Muslims.

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  39. AnonyMouse

    Re: Being an accurate portrayal of issues in growing up in the West, etc.

    I personally thought that if that was truly the point, then it could’ve been portrayed differently – differently, yet just as accurately. E.g. instead of her going off the deep end due to her “religious crisis”, she could’ve gone through a questioning phase but still returned to the correct understanding and with a much less condescending attitude (that her family/ old community were all narrow-minded, repressed, etc. because of their firm beliefs).

    Many of my friends – who range from age 15 to age 50+ – as well as myself have grown up as Muslims in the West, or have become Muslim in the West. They faced many of these issues, yet did not react to it in such an extreme fashion.
    Some may say that there’s no point in that because without the extreme reaction there would have been no story, but I disagree. A really good writer does not have to depend purely on the shocking, the extreme, which is what Ms. Kahf seems to do.

    Umm Zakiyya’s “If I Should Speak” trilogy seems to be the antithesis of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf – a bit weak from a literary aspect, but with an engaging plotline (which also deals with being Muslim in the West) that doesn’t end with her character(s) rejecting Islam (or it’s core aspects).

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  40. AnonyMouse

    “OK, Mouse, dust that novella off and get busy writing!”

    “This is one that I’ll have to buy hard-cover immediately… though I doubt that Nuqtah or WM are holding their breath for it ;) ”

    Assuming I ever get around to finishing it, I’m not sure how a story about CSI/ halaal- James- Bond- like Muslims (and Muslimahs!) would be recieved…

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  41. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    “This is one that I’ll have to buy hard-cover immediately… though I doubt that Nuqtah or WM are holding their breath for it ;)”

    I’m trying hard to be a better Muslim, I tried to do tawbah yesterday, I prayed hard and made du’a. I have a lot of sins but I’m trying to be better, insha Allah. I’m not making any excuses, but I only said those things because I was almost suicidal. Please forgive me for everything; I’m trying hard insha Allah.

    I’ve decided to relinquish my nom de plume (at least on the net- I’m quite attached to it, you see). I’m sorry to have made such a fool of myself. I only wanted ‘notoriety’ because I thought that love would follow. Turned out it didn’t. I’m sorry. I’ll have better manners when it comes to women insha Allah. Please, please remember me in your ad’iya.

    And I’ve stayed away from that problem I mentioned with the internet for a bit, so keep me in your ad’iya.

    And, Mouse, if you ever get published I’ll buy it, however terrible it is (though I’m sure it won’t be).

    And I’m sorry, and I know no-one will forgive me and everyone hates me.

    Signing off.

    WM

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  42. Samaha

    mmm, mouse – how much public schooling do you and your friends have? Just how much time do you spend in the public atmosphere?

    and fyi – you may not be as aware of this – but during the time period of when this story takes place it was commonly refered that abortion was legal as long as it took place before the ninth week (?) before Allah gave the fetus a soul. I believe that the author makes mention of this – and this was during her strict moments.

    Additionally, I never got the impression that she left Islam or values. I more had the impression that she no longer felt accepted by her community and so left so that she wouldn’t have to deal with it. Not only that but when she is away from home – how does she act? Wouldn’t you still say that she shows Islamic values and principals even if you are maybe abhored that she is off by herself?

    You should put away the preconceptions you have of the author’s proggie views – her charachter in the book is pretty much a moderate as well as a traditionalist. Her commiting some of these acts that you don’t like are a bit necessary to make people understand that this happens and can happen to their children. If you can’t relate to this with your experiences, I want you to remember this story when you have chidren and they go off into the real world. It’s not enough to just teach them how to pray and fast and how to read Quran, to dress them up in abayas and spit at the television when scantily clad women walk past. It’s not enough to criticize the “west” for their promisciuos ways.

    Worse yet, don’t ever let your child hear you criticizing the way other Muslims act or criticize doubts of other Muslims as you will never know if your child is going through these doubts. We live in a complex society and we have to be creative if we want to keep our future generations Muslim. If we don’t get creative others allready are .. there are tons of ministries out there that target our “damned” Muslims. How can we know what to prepare for if we can’t handle the things we consider to be sins being written in books?

    You do know that none of this is really a “rarity” in our communities, don’t you? It’s not rare where I come from anyway.

    I’m probably wasting my time here .. you most likely can’t relate and with me – I always feel like I will have to answer to Allah for these 3 precious lives he’s given me and I wonder if I’m doing everything I can to put them on the right path.

    (on a different note, mouse, you should be happy to know that my oldest daughter has decided to wear her scarf and abayas full time – i guess i’m not doing so bad here – even if I hoped that she would see hijab my way – I know that she is trying to submit to the will of Allah and that makes me proud)

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  43. Samaha

    Oh and wahabi misanthrope I don’t hate you and I’m sure no one here hates you.

    (I’m sure that isn’t all that comforting since I’m still defending this book but I’ve learned that hate is a disease and it’s something I’m casting out of my life.)

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  44. Amad

    Samaha, congratulations on your oldest daughter’s submission to Allah’s will, and not forcing a different viewpoint. That is truly an honorable position. It’s one thing to have certain progressive views, but the people who really bother me are those who force others to their way and become obstacles to the path of religiosity. I mean how bad can it be if someone becomes more “traditional”? Even if he or she is “wrong” from a progressive point of view, heck, Allah wont punish you for doing too much! Better safe than sorry :)

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  45. Samaha

    I’m glad amad that you feel that way. I would never force my views on my child, all I have ever asked of my children is to make informed, knowledgeable decisions. She knows both sides and while she sees my points she would rather be safe than sorry as you put it .. and she’d rather be reading Harry Potter than researching this subject.

    However, Amad, I do not consider myself a progressive. Just because I do not wear a scarf does not make me progressive. Let’s please not make Islam and Muslimness the threads of a piece of material – that’s all I am going to ask for – we allready both know that to debate the scarf (again) would be futile :) that hasn’t changed.

    Funny though, I never really thought of myself as forcing my views on others but I had definately felt that others were forcing their views on my children. No one was happy until they knew that her scarf and abaya were worn outside of school as well. The pressure was immense on her. Luckily, she is a strong, confident girl that was able to tell me that she has made this decision and I know that dissappointing me is a greater concern to her than anyone else. How would any parent let their child go on not doing something that their child believes may be required of Allah (short of Jihad – sorry I draw the line there people.))

    Maybe I’m doing something right with them … I do see a lot of mistakes though. They are isolated (unintentionally) from anything besides the Islamic community and very rare instances where we visit with Bosnians or attend Bosnian events – it wasn’t always so but it has been so for the past couple of years. What happens when they have to go off into the world? The scarf – it is such a minor thing compared to the rest of the challenges.

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  46. anonymous

    huh.. what about all muslim pakistani women who wear a shalwar kamees? that has pants.. is that wrong for u too .. talking about a whole country here.. if u judge one woman by her wearing jeans, do u judge all muslim woman by what they wear?

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  47. AnonyMouse

    @ anonymous:
    I don’t consider them to be “lesser” Muslims, or doubt their emaan by what they wear – but yes, I do believe that shalwar kamees in public doesn’t count as hijaab. As I said above, my definition of hijaab includes an ‘abaayah/ jilbaab (outer garment).

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  48. AnonyMouse

    Samaha:
    I’m the only one homeschooled… all my friends go to public school and have non-Muslim friends/ interact with non-Muslims on a regular basis.
    About the abortion, it’s not so much the legality of it that I take issue with, it’s why she had one in the first place – her reasons for it seemed pretty silly (she wanted to finish her studies), because I know of many women who’ve gotten pregnant AND continued their higher education.

    “Additionally, I never got the impression that she left Islam or values. I more had the impression that she no longer felt accepted by her community and so left so that she wouldn’t have to deal with it.”
    I’m surprised – to me it seemed very clear that she had left, if not totally, “most” of Islam (is that even possible?) – remember where she vents about her experience with religion? Also, her denying that Islam is the one true religion – I believe that’s totally wrong. After all, doesn’t Allah say in the Qur’an that He has chosen Islam as our way of life, the only correct way? Her saying otherwise is a total denial of a core principal of Islamic creed.

    “Wouldn’t you still say that she shows Islamic values and principals even if you are maybe abhored that she is off by herself?”
    It’s not her being by herself that I “abhor” – it’s what she did, how she behaved, which I don’t think was at all Islamic. Take the Turkish guy she dated – one may argue that her refusal to sleep with him was an example of “Islamic values and principals,” yet the very fact that she dated him at all shows the exact opposite!

    “You should put away the preconceptions you have of the author’s proggie views”
    When I picked up the book, I didn’t know anything about Mohja Kahf, and thus didn’t have any preconceptions of her views at all. It’s only after I wrote this review, and read the comments, that I found out anything else.

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  49. Abu Muhammad

    [rant]

    Pocket sized Islam for sale.

    $2.00 for customizing any point you don’t personally want.

    $3.00 to remove any point of fiqh from any madhab.

    $4.00 to remove Surah Taubah

    Is this where we are heading?

    When ever someone doesn’t see something they like they can just dump it?

    Where to please others we change our REVEALED way of life whenever it clashes with other cultures.

    Please we need to learn the Islam that Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught. Because the Lord from up above deemed it so important that he revealed verses about it in a book sent down via an Angel.

    The Islam that people died defending. The Islam that if Musa or Isa (peace be upon them) have to follow if they were here.

    The Islam that the four Khalifs were upon.

    The Islam that is agreed upon in principle by the four juristic schools, the zahiris and the ahlul hadith.

    The Islam that Allah said about (rough translation):

    “And whoever seeks a deen (way of life) other than Islam, it will NOT be accepted from him. And in the hereafter he will be from those that lost (out everything)”.

    People have free will and can express any opinion that they like but until they can prove what they say is from the prophet or from Allah’s book, then it is not Islam and just an opinion.

    I think someone needs to take the issue of the progressive’s aqeedah to the more knowledgeable scholars and ask them to weigh it up (harms and benefits). I would even question if they are Muslims compared considering the mockery that they make of the deen.

    [/rant]

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  50. AnonyMouse

    “Her commiting some of these acts that you don’t like are a bit necessary to make people understand that this happens and can happen to their children.”
    The big issue I had was not so much that she did those things, but how she didn’t change at all for the better in the end. The end of the book seemed to make it seem that what she did was a good thing, better than being the type of Muslim (traditional/ conservative) that the others around her, her family and old community/ Da’wah centre, are.
    Y’see, I do understand that this happens to people – as an Islamic counselor, my dad deals with loads of issues including his fair share of Muslim kids going astray – but the attitude of the book is what irritated me the most. From the middle to the end of the book, the message seemed to be that being conservative/ traditional is bad, that it’s being narrow-minded, that it’s repressive and rigid.

    “It’s not enough to just teach them how to pray and fast and how to read Quran, to dress them up in abayas and spit at the television when scantily clad women walk past. It’s not enough to criticize the “west” for their promisciuos ways.”
    I definitely understand that – and just a note, we (‘we’ being my family/ community and the people we interact with) never spit at the TV or curse at scantily clad women or rant against the West or harshly criticize other Muslims for having doubts/ differences of opinion – rather, our attitude is to deal with it gently but firmly, in a civilized manner w/ lots of dialogue and communication.

    The thing is, I DO realize that this happens, that ‘our children’ (it feels weird using that phrase, considering how I’m one of those children!) will and do question their religion and faith, that they’ll be faced with many temptations and issues and sometimes give in… I don’t dispute that.
    What I strongly disagree with is the way the author presented the situation as though it’s okay to do that, that what Khadra did – leaving “conservative religion” for a more relaxed attitude – is the right thing because those of who totally stick to Islam, with all it’s rules and regulations, are just poor unenlightened narrow-minded schmucks. That’s the impression that I got.

    I guess you could say that if the book had ended with her repenting and going back to Islam totally – even if she had a somewhat different attitude about it – then I would’ve considered her redeemed. I would’ve totally understood about all the other stuff, if only she’d realize how wrong she’d been.

    But then, to Khadra I’m probably just another poor unenlightened narrow-minded schmuck who can’t accept any opinions other than my own… heh.

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  51. AnonyMouse

    And congratulations on your daughter choosing to wear the ‘abaayah! :)

    May Allah keep her a strong Muslim woman with emaan that can withstand whatever comes at her, ameen!

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  52. Abdulrahman

    I’ve always been impressed with your writing AnonyMouse, since you’re a young girl and I compare you with the young girls that I know.

    Now since knowing you were homeschooled, I wonder if that has anything to do with it. Maybe you’ve written a post about this somewhere?

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  53. Samaha

    Firstly, pocket sized Islam comes in all forms .. it comes in the wahabi mentality, the salafi mentality, the proggresive mentality. There were more schools of thought than just four and the four that exist today are stagnant past a period of time. Why even have the four schools anymore? Why do we even keep referring to them .. especially if we are going to attribute ourselves to one? Is it because we need these to say .. well even this **shaky** school agrees with me. Or is it divine intervention maybe? To remind us of something? To remind us of diversity?

    mouse, you’re an exremely intelligent girl, there is no doubt about that but one day you may look back on this conversation and understand what I am getting at. I remember a little piece that you wrote on another site and want to ask you why you made those charachters the way you did. Why not make this sheikha beautiful or why didn’t you make her give up her education to become a loving mother and wife .. I mean for some people that piece may be controversial and some of those things may be considered “unIslamic” but it was your charachter and you expressing yourself.

    I came away with a greater appreciation for Khadra’s family and her community by reading this book. A renewed patience .. but I also never thought of them as “ultra-conservatives” or conservatives.

    I guess I never considered her leaving Islam as she continued her daily prayers throughout the book. Her leaving home is quite a normal thing for many many Muslim girls as they go off to college.

    Dating .. I’m not sure though. I wonder how it is allowed for us to marry if we fall in love. How are we to fall in love anyway.

    As for her statements of Islam being the absolute religion, I thought she usually continued with being judged on our intentions. If Allah is merciful and a person is ignorant to Islam but is faithful to one god and prays … It was never her rejecting Islam though.

    I can’t help but see problems when Muslims can not accept anything different from their own beliefs and jump to condemning it and as human beings we can only attempt to interpret divine law but we must remember that we are only human .. we make mistakes.

    You may not spit and curse .. I was being dramatic .. but that statement refered to the way this book has been disected.

    Now, I think I’ll be going lest I be judged and hanged. I forgot how easily that can happen.

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  54. AnonyMouse

    Thank you, Samaha, for your comments… I may disagree with them, but I’ll think on them anyway :)

    I also hope that this doesn’t keep you from visiting MM again!

    -Mouse

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  55. Nuqtah

    [quote]There were more schools of thought than just four and the four that exist today are stagnant past a period of time. Why even have the four schools anymore? [/quote]

    There goes a saying,”Ignorance is Bliss”.

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  56. Samaha

    No mouse, this won’t keep me from visiting. Going back to work on Monday after some sick leave will, though.

    Nuqtah – right back at ya, honey.

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  57. Umm Layth

    as Salamu ‘Alaykum

    Interesting discussion. I think, especially after reading some of the comments, that I could probably benefit from reading this book. I’m not going out of my way just to get it, though. There would be better books to get, in my opinion, that I know would probably serve my time better, teach me more things in improving as a parent, etc. However, my husband’s religion class is requiring this book, so insha’Allah I will read it and then write my review. We’ll see what my thoughts look like, Insha’Allah. : )

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  58. Khadija

    assalamu alaikom

    interesting discussion. I think like someone said, these books are annoying but I have to say I realize that women face so much hypocrisy and scrutiny everyday it’s kind of gross. People always notice that she’s wearing jeans or riding a bike in public like a bad girl but those criticisms never come up with guys. (sigh)
    However, after 9/11 shuyukh were even giving rukhsas for women to take off hijab for fear of safety. We don’t have to jump on every girl that’s not wearing what we want her to wear is all I’m saying.
    The shuyookh that a top garment that reaches at least the knees fits the requirements of “jilbab.”
    The word jilbab today s different that’s why it’s in quotes. It’s a strictly Arab garment in its usage today.
    You don’t have to wear an abaya or an arab jilbab to be wearing hijab. Like someone else said it can be something of another culture as long it fulfills the same things that a jilbab does.
    I do agree with the opinions posted in the book review and this discussion don’t get me wrong, but I just get frustrated when this comes up all the time.

    Also, 3 of the 4 schools of thought allow abortion so why is that taboo? Hanafis allow it before 120 days. Shafies the mashhoor opinion is 120 days and a minority opinion says before 45 days. Malikis not at all. And the Maliki school is the smallest school. The Hanbalis have a mashhor opinion of 40 days with a minority opinion arguing the 120 day position. So why the taboo about abortion?
    I haven’t read the book and I’m guessing that the way she went about the abortion was probably unIslamic anyway, I’m just pointing out that this shouldn’t be such a horrible thing since it has been historically allowed under Islamic Law.

    Also, how does Sufism relate to Progressives? The strictest Muslims I’ve met are Sufi. I guess she was learning some warped version of Sufism.

    JazakAllah khair for the review. I was actually interested in this book, I’m really glad that to know what happened in it. Not worth my time right now. Also I did not know that Mojha Kahf writes for MWU. (sigh)
    I try not to give that website any more hits than it needs. I try not to go there. nuff said

    I also wanted to ask what does she have against At-Tabari??
    He was a great mufassir and a great historian!!
    JazakAllah khair again for the great review.
    wa alaikom assalam

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  59. Amad

    Abu Muhammad, if you’d like to “test” some of your work you mentioned (dont know how missed those early comments), send it to us… perhaps we can “test” the waters for you…

    w/s

    P.S. no guarantees of course, all guest materials have to go through editorial approval :)

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  60. ibnabeeomar

    khadija – i think its a bit academically unfair to just say 3 out of 4 schools allow abortion. some have allowed it with some of the stipulations mentioned, however there are many more additional stipulations that go into it than to just give such a blanket assertion.

    just for example, the islamic medical association of north america (IMANA) ruled:

    Abortion: Not permissible unless mother’s life is at risk or in cases of rape, incest or extreme fetal congenital malformations. (from islamtoday.com)

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  61. Khadija

    I didn’t think I was making a blanket assertion. sorry about that. I stated mashoor and minority opinions of the schools. I think it is unfair to just say abortion is not allowed. I did mention that probably in the book it wasn’t islamically acceptable Allahu alim.
    But I see what you mean. Abortion in Islam is decided on more of a case by case basis type of thing rather than a blanket allowance. I get it.
    And all schools require a good reason to terminate a pregnancy.

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  62. Yusuf Smith

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Malikis not at all. And the Maliki school is the smallest school.

    Actually, the Maliki school was historically the second largest; North and West Africa, Sudan and upper Egypt (but not Cairo or the Delta), and parts of the Gulf region were traditionally Maliki. This may have changed in north Africa recently with the rise of “salafism” and Ikhwani and modernist thinking, but I suspect that it is still the mainstream there, and the classical scholars who train in places like Morocco are still Maliki. The Hanbali school was traditionally the school with the lowest number of followers; its land base consists of some areas in the Arabian peninsula.

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  63. Nuqtah

    [quote]Nuqtah – right back at ya, honey.

    [/quote]

    Sweetie, I never said I wasn’t ignorant. I’m probably most ignorant of the lot here…but it takes an honest person to admit that ;)

    [quote]However, after 9/11 shuyukh were even giving rukhsas for women to take off hijab for fear of safety. [/quote]

    This is NOT a legitimate Rukhsa. What some odd shaykh say today cannot rule out the already existing ijmaa’. Further more, not all opinions are acceptable, some ar shadh, and some are outright heretical. stop trying to mislead.

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  64. Samaha

    “…but it takes an honest person to admit that ”

    Doll, are you now calling me a liar? I made a statement followed by a few questions. If you have issues with the statement or questions – then address them. Kind of strange to have one’s intelligence insulted for questioning, don’t you think?

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  65. Nuqtah

    [quote]Kind of strange to have one’s intelligence insulted for questioning, don’t you think?
    [/quote]

    There’s a difference between ‘asking’ just a question, and asking a ‘leading’ question, seeking certain answers.

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  66. Umm Layth

    I agree with Nuqtah on the point that just because the rukhsas were given for women to uncover their hair, or whatever, it is incorrect.

    Also, those who really follow tasawwuf, will abstain from them as as they can.

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  67. Khadija

    The rukhsas are not invalid as they were not made by odd shuyukh.
    the question is whether the situation calls for it or not and women that were in actual danger in 9/11 were very few…however
    Shaykh bin Bayyah among others gave the rukhsa reluctantly but they did.
    I know that hijab is an issue in ijma3 i wasn’t arguing that, but one of the maqasid of the shari3a is preservation of life, and the shuyukh know that
    s so small, I usually just use the three.
    I thought the Shafi3i school was bigger than the Maliki school my bad.
    when I said Maliki was the smallest I wasn’t counting Hanbali amongst them, since the number of Hanbalis is soo small.

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  68. Umm Layth

    The rukhsas would be valid, from what I’ve learned, only if the reasons are valid, and it would vary from person to person and situation to situation. Allah knows best as to the validity of these.

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  69. abu ameerah

    I have been wondering this for some time …

    Why did the scarf have to be tangerine anyway? Couldn’t it have been the color of something in say … a muted earth tone?

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  70. Nuqtah

    [quote]The rukhsas are not invalid as they were not made by odd shuyukh.
    the question is whether the situation calls for it or not and women that were in actual danger in 9/11 were very few…however
    [/quote]

    The issue of rukhsas is very nuanced and touchy. The scholars say that a Muslim should NEVER actively seek out rukhsas. And it was Imam Nawawi (i may be mixing names here) who said that whoever actively seeks rukhsas in the deen is a FAASIQ. [see Reliance for a more detailed disucssion]. So, just because some scholar gave a ‘rukhsah’ it does not become something that should be followed or even publicized as the norm.

    [quote]Shaykh bin Bayyah among others gave the rukhsa reluctantly but they did.
    [/quote]

    Does he have the ability or authority to give or come up with a Rukhsah? (this is an ernest question, I have deep respect for shaykh bin bayyah though)

    [quote] know that hijab is an issue in ijma3 i wasn’t arguing that, but one of the maqasid of the shari3a is preservation of life, and the shuyukh know that
    s so small, I usually just use the three.
    [/quote]

    I remember Sidi Faraz Rabbani saying that one should be wary of maqasid based fiqh…I believe it can be misused easily and it is by many ‘modernist scholars’.

    [quote]when I said Maliki was the smallest I wasn’t counting Hanbali amongst them, since the number of Hanbalis is soo small. [/quote]

    Although this isn’t directed towards me, I must point out that this is one of the greatest travesties and injustices done in Islamic History; the way Hanbalis were maligned and sidelined and smeared, due to their theological stances. Even today this attitude persists among the mut’asib ‘traditionalists’. In fact, it is sad to note that sites like “Sunni”path don’t even feature a Hanbali fiqh section.

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  71. Samaha

    Nuqtah – my questions weren’t leading. There was a question followed by a few options. Granted one was full of sarcasm but the questioning is genuine.

    Is it customary around here to result to insults rather than offering knowledge?

    **spitting at tv set**

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  72. Khadija

    Does he have the ability or authority to give or come up with a Rukhsah? (this is an ernest question, I have deep respect for shaykh bin bayyah though)

    For an earnest answer I think he does, if you asked me 6 months ago I would’ve been not sure, but I think he does. and Allah knows best.

    I remember Sidi Faraz Rabbani saying that one should be wary of maqasid based fiqh…I believe it can be misused easily and it is by many ‘modernist scholars’.

    I get that. My bad Though that wasn’t my case this time.

    In fact, it is sad to note that sites like “Sunni”path don’t even feature a Hanbali fiqh section.

    They don’t have a Maliki fiqh section either!
    That’s why I thought shafiies were bigger. but it makes sense because they’re in Jordan and Jordan is Shafiee.
    I think it would be too hard for them to employ a full time Hanbali and Maliki faqih to always anser questions if they can even find these people? where would they get a hanbali faqih from?
    But I wasn’t meaning to discriminate against their aqeeda.

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  73. Nuqtah

    [quote]For an earnest answer I think he does, if you asked me 6 months ago I would’ve been not sure, but I think he does. and Allah knows best.

    [/quote]

    Cool. But as the fuqaha of past have said, one should NOT actively seek rukhsas.

    [quote]They don’t have a Maliki fiqh section either! [/quote]

    Atleast you guys have lamp post productions.

    [quote]I think it would be too hard for them to employ a full time Hanbali and Maliki faqih to always anser questions if they can even find these people? where would they get a hanbali faqih from?
    [/quote]

    I guess this is a problem but Malikis are still fairing better as they have Hamza Yusuf at Zaytuna and Lamp post productions…

    [quote]But I wasn’t meaning to discriminate against their aqeeda.

    [/quote]

    Okay.

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  74. Umm Layth

    It would be amazing if they had a knowledgeable hanbali on board. Amazing!

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  75. anonymous

    “Why did the scarf have to be tangerine anyway? Couldn’t it have been the color of something in say … a muted earth tone?” Abu Ameera, does the colour of the scarf really matter? Since when did men begin paying so much attention to colour?! “a muted earth tone”?? It’s FICTION. If you don’t want your wife/daughter to wear tangerine that’s fine, but don’t enforce petty opinions on fictional characters! Ack! Believe it or not, some women actually LIKE colour…

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  76. Nuqtah

    ibn abee omar- akhi Im not sure ‘how’ I did not remain proper adab…I guess some one making a mockery out of madhahib is A OK.

    Samaha- Salama sister.

    :)

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  77. Hassan

    Hmm, I always thought Hanafis (50-55%) are the most, then shaafis(25-30%), then Malikis (15%) and then Hanbalis (10% or less).

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  78. Abu Muhammad

    I think anyone who has read my posts before will understand my stance on taqleed of the madhabs.

    The reason I mentioned them is that between them the deen is preserved. In the books of the scholars the knowledge is preserved. The collections of the fatawah of the sahabah are preserved. The issues where everyone agrees upon the proof are preserved. The ijmas are written. The fiqh for each issue is preserved and explained in numerous books.

    Whilst the madhabs do have some negative points. The fact is that not even the people who are against taqleed dismiss the vast scholarly effort embedded in the madhabs and their works.

    In reality the pro-regressives only attack the madhabs so that they themselves can take their place.

    As for Salafis and Wahabis having pocket Islam, then if you mean that some of them have bad manners or individuals are corrupt then I agree but if you mean that ‘Wahabism’ ‘Salafism’ is something outside of orthodoxy then this is only due to a lack of knowledge about them.

    The fiqh of Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab was primarily Hanbali and I don’t know of any incidents where he left the madhab (not to say that he did not).

    As for the Salafis then their fiqh varies. Some of them are Hanbali and some lean towards the Zahiri madhab, I’ve even met one with Hanafi fiqh! So their fiqh remains primarily within the four madhabs. And we agree that no scholar is free from error.

    The pro-regressives only attack the Salafis/Wahabis as a doorway to dismantle Islam. Allah has all knowledge.

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  79. Gmasullo

    “So there we are. In the first snippet of dialogue, Khadra (and presumably Mohja Kahf, if the character’s beliefs reflect the author’s) ”

    You can never assume that a character is a clear reflection of the author or the author’s views . Or, that the author would do what the character has done.

    Tangerine Scarf gives its readers a breadth
    and depth of thought as evidenced by the comments on this site.

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  80. Tarik

    Assalaam al aykum,

    I have been reading many of the posts and subsequent comments on Muslim Matters, and there is a general anti-Tariqat theme. Either it is described as a “cult” or “proggies” (very strange but interesting word). Gentle reader, please take a cursory reading of Islamic history, and you will find that the spirituality and The Path are ingrained in Islam. It is the inner dimension. It would do us well to remember that we will be held responsible for our words both spoken and written on the Day of Judgment.

    wa Allah hu wallam.

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  81. Emilee Hammond

    I had to read this book for my religion class. I was really excited because I from around Indy. This book really dissapointed me. I am not Muslim, but I like learning about new religions. Most people say she “finds” herself in the end of this book instead of going with her parents ideas. I believe she lost herself…so dissapointing!!!!

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  82. Nesma

    AS
    I agree with Emilee Hammond, the book is very disappointing… and it should to non-muslims how muslims are very hesitant and boring , though it’s not true …
    It’s assigned for me for anthropology class(Muslims in u.s) and my professor is a non-Muslim seriously the way he interpreted what Mohja kahf is saying drove me crazy like she’s sarcastic all the time about good Muslims and Islam in genral,
    i don’t see why would a Muslim wants to mess up Islam and Muslims’ reputation more than it already is.
    she showed how the family or the character is very conservative and way to strict of curse at some point it’ll go away, but at least for awhile .
    the thing I loved and respected about the book when Khadra’s father said that in the U.S there’s Islam without Muslims and back at home there are Muslims without Islam.

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