Top title of the week - Judgement Day: Deeds that Light the Way by Omar Suleiman
On Sunday, 19 March, we hosted two bookclubs.
It is clear that Maqasid al-Shariah is an important idea in the evolution of Islamic thought. And as an idea, it has had a long gestation. Perhaps ours is the age for Maqasid to take a larger role at all levels of Islamic discourse.
Key points that emerged from the discussion:
It was a revelation to learn that such a small book covered so much ground. Furthermore, this book has been translated into over 20 languages. Prof Jasser Auda’s thinking on the subject of Maqasid has evolved and developed much since the publishing of this slim volume, but this work remains important for its sheer utility and comprehensiveness. His latest book Re-envisioning Islamic Scholarship: Maqasid Methodology as a New Approach is published by Claritas.
In the afternoon that same Sunday, we had a bookclub discussion led by Izza Haziqah of Maktaba Books. We were discussing As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh. Izza framed the conversation on three broad topics:
There was a discussion among the participants for an hour before the author Zoulfa Katouh came in via Zoom. The discussion with her was also for an hour.
In an age of the dominant monoculture, it is important for young Muslim readers of fiction to see that there is such as thing as halal romance. We are saturated with Hollywood portrayals of love, so it is important that novels such as this exist to present alternative narratives.
Zoulfa spoke about her method of writing, about her inspirations (derived both from pop culture as well as other novels). She cites Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang as inspirations, and credits Taylor Swift’s song ‘dorothea’ from the album evermore as key to a pivotal idea in the book.
Zoulfa was very generous with her time at the bookclub and warmly fielded questions as diverse as her love for Studio Ghibli (she recommends watching Whisper of the Heart and Princess Mononoke) and the need for aspiring writers to ‘get off social media, right now’. Giving us a peek into her almost 3-year writing process for this book, she shared with us what was her first draft for the ending of the book; it had to be reformulated because it was just too devastating. She is currently working on her second book (but it’s not a sequel).
This bookclub session with Zoulfa was made possible by her publisher Bloomsbury. This facilitation by the publisher, and the involvement of Maktaba Books, reinforces for me the idea that people in the book industry – from authors, literary agents, publishers, to bookshops and activists – best serve the reading public by working together.
Don’t be put off by the ‘Young Adult’ label because Zoulfa’s book is a must-read for adults as well, and we feel justified in picking her book as one of the best books of the year for 2022. We learn so much about the human cost of the Syrian conflict, as well as about mental health, human resilience, and (clean) romance in the midst of war – life goes on.