Book Recommendations, Muslim Shelf Space

Why You Should Read Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

If you know me then you know that I love this book with my whole heart and I need you all to read it. So to give you more incentive than my incoherent screaming, here are some reasons why you should read this wonderful book.

Muslim Romance

This book has the most wonderful romance while also keeping it all halal! Sajidah was able to show that Muslim’s can fall in love and that it can be romantic but it can still be kept within the boundaries of what Islam teaches us about relationships between men and women. We see cute fluffy moments and that they still interact with each other and u was grinning so hard all the way through but especially by the end! It’s a nuance often lost to most people but seeing so wonderfully done in the book was so great to see. I felt so seen.

Sajidah also showed through how they handled being attracted to each other, the realities of Muslim youth, especially the in the west. That it’s okay to have feelings and be attracted to each other, Islam doesn’t stop these natural feelings but how we handle them is the important thing. This was such an important nuance to show in the book and I love how it was shown.

Muslim Rep

The Muslim rep in this book was so wonderful to see. We are shown practicing Muslims but we also see them live, they are complex and well developed, they have friends and hobbies and passions. We also see how people who are Muslim are treated and the Islamophobia they face but also that they are happy and living their lives. We see differences in even how some people are more visibly Muslim than others and how that affects them and how they are treated.

Most importantly we see Muslims who are happy and that they don’t feel oppressed by their religion. We see them embrace their religion an do their best to stay true to their faith. It was refreshing to see that. Not only that, but we see representation of Muslims who have converted to Islam and that come from different parts of the world. So much diversity and culture was so great to see in the story.

Multiple Sclerosis/Chronic Illness Rep

Adam has been recently diagnosed with MS when we first meet him and it causes him to re-evaluate his life and how this will affect him long term. The rep was done incredibly well and I felt so seen because I also have chronic health conditions. The way he feels and how he has to navigate so many unknowns and yet still wants to make the most of things. He still falls in love and is wholly accepted by her.

Islamophobia

One of the things that Zayneb has to deal with is having a teacher who is Islamophobic and how angry and upset it makes her. But also that her being visibly Muslim means she has to deal with that where ever she goes. She wears a hijab, she can’t hide that she is Muslim so it makes her a target. I related so much to Zayneb especially how it’s the “little” things that get to her like a woman saying she feels unsafe to sit next to her or her not being allowed to use the swimming pool because she chose to wear a swimming costume that covers her entire body instead of the standard swim suit that makes the white man feel okay. That she’s expected to put a white man’s feelings above hers. It was so real seeing that in a book and love how Sajidah wove it into the story as it’s something that so many of us have to deal with.

It also makes Zayneb turn to activism to channel her anger and pain into something positive so she can try to make things better and make people aware how these things affect Muslims. She is passionate and fiery and I loved that about her.

Friendship & Platonic Love

One of the things I loved seeing in the book was how despite this being a love story, friendships were still shown importance. Zayneb and Adam both have a group of friends who they intereact with just as much as  each other. Zayneb especially as she also interacts and spends time with Adam’s friends too. I loved seeing that friendship is shown to be important and how platonic love for your friends can make you just as happy and hurt you as much as romantic love. We need to see more romances where we see different types of love included in the story!

Finally, if you are an Avatar fan then you will be pleased to hear that there are several avatar references in the story!

This book has wonderful nuanced Muslim rep, incredibly real chronic illness rep, has a wonderful love story that will leave you with a serotonin boost.

Everyone go read this incredible book and also read Saints & Misfits so we can all scream about Misfits in Love which will be out next year complete with a big fat Muslim wedding and a cameo with Adam and Zayneb!

My review is here for Love From A to Z

I also wrote about why this book means so much to me.

Book Recommendations, Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space

Why Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali Means So Much To Me

I first read Love From A to Z last year and completely fell in love with the book and the characters. But I just want to share more about this wonderful book and why I love it so much.

PS. You can read my review here

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This book is a love story between two young Muslims who stay within the boundaries of Islamic etiquette and rulings on interacting with the opposite sex and this isn’t something we ever get to see in books. I have wanted to see this type of love story for so long.

“Maybe that’s what living is – recognising the Marvels and Oddities around you.”

I hope we get to see more of this because it is the story of me and my husband and yet there were people who made us feel like we betrayed our religious beliefs by choosing to marry each other. I was made to feel guilty and doubt my faith in Allah because how could I be a good Muslim and still have chosen to marry my husband myself. And on the other side I had people completely unable to understand how I could possibly marry someone I hadn’t dated or had an intimate relationship with him before marriage. Basically there was no right thing to do.

But if I had been able to read this book back then, I know it would have helped me. I would know that I have done nothing wrong and that would have helped me a lot. So I am so happy to see this book published because I am sure there are more stories like mine.

Zayneb is also one of my absolute favourite characters ever, I see myself in her in so many ways. Her anger at the Islamophobia she faces especially from those in a position of power and how she can’t do anything about it. Yet she remains unapologetically Muslim. She practices her faith openly and doesn’t care that people know she is Muslim. I wish I had her confidence when I was a teen. I wish I had been able to see characters that looked like me and shared the same beliefs as me as a teen and I am so glad that young people today will get to see themselves in books in ways I never could.

“I didn’t have to open my mouth or do anything for people to judge me. I just had to be born into a Muslim family and grow up to want to become a visible member of my community by wrapping a cloth on my head.”

Zayneb just wants to be able to practice her faith freely and also be able to be your average teenage girl and go swimming and hang out with her friends. Yet she finds barriers to even doing something as simple as swimming because some people find it unacceptable for her to be fully covered while in the pool despite adhering to the policies there. She can obviously choose what to wear but only as long as it is acceptable to those people.

And then we have Adam who I love so much because I related to him so much, because he found out about his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis during college and I also was finally diagnosed with my chronic health issues just as I graduated university. He struggles at first with adjusting to his new reality and how his life will be so different now and what he may or may not be able to do now and I related so much with all of this. I felt all of this and still do at times.

I absolutely loved seeing such a well rounded character with such great and realistic disability and chronic illness rep. I understood why he felt he should leave college, I understood his misgivings about telling Zayneb how he felt about her because it would not be a “typical” marriage as they would both be affected by his chronic illness. I went through all of this, I still feel a lot of these and struggle with it. I also loved how his faith impacted the way he dealt with his chronic illness. The way that Sajdah captures all of this and more while still making this a love story is exceptional.

“Hope – she was giving me hope. She was trying to light the way forward with hope. Amazing. To think I’d not been alone.”

Their story is a love story but not like the usual love stories we read in books but it doesn’t make it any less of a love story. The way they interact with each other and how they spend time and speak to each other, they develop feelings for each other but they both also keep in mind their faith and it filled my heart with such joy. I remember going through this exact thing myself and even when others told me to date because how can I marry someone I hadn’t dated or been intimate with I knew I could never compromise on my religious beliefs and it kept me going. I remember feeling all the emotions and just like Zayneb I remember seeing my now husband and first thinking, he’s cute and that he’s tall (my husband is 6 ft 3″). And my husband told me the first thing he noticed about me was my hijab as I was the only one in our university class who wore one.

This book captures so many important parts of my life and I could relate so much to the characters in so many ways from them slowly developing feelings for each other yet also practicing their faith and also dealing with their own issues while navigating their feelings. I absolutely fell in love with this book and Adam and Zayneb. And also, while I saw myself in Zayneb, I also saw my husband in Adam (minus the chronic illness) and it felt like this book was written for me.