Book Recommendations, Muslim Shelf Space

Why You Should Read Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

I recently reread this book and I really loved it as much as I did the first time I read it and I think I appreciated it more this time.

This book discusses sexual assault and having to deal with the aftermath of this especially if the person who assaulted you is a beloved member of your community.

You can read my review here about why I loved this book so much.

So here are some reasons why you should read Saints and Misfits:

Well, first and foremost the sequel will be out on May 25th and will feature a big fat Muslim wedding and a love story and will have cameos from Adam and Zayneb from Love From A to Z! Check out the hashtag #CelebrateMisfitInLove to see everyone sharing their wedding aesthetics and more!

Muslim Representation

We see so many Muslims in this book, from the Imam of a masjid to the young adults and teens. We see how Muslims aren’t monolith and how some practice more than others and that each one of them has their own difficulties and struggles that they deal with. We see how teens and youth are often active members of the community how the Masjid is more than a place of worship. It’s a place where the young and old alike can meet and find a safe place. I just loved seeing it all.

Janna is a relatable Muslim teen living in the West

I felt her struggles on a deep personal level. She wants to fit in at school but also follow her religious practices. Sometimes they collide and you can’t do both and it can be difficult to manage that. The expectations and pressures from both sides can feel like a lot for a teen. She had a crush on a classmate but didn’t want to date but still had these feelings and now she has to manage and navigate this amongst people who won’t necessarily understand her completely.

Discussions of Rape Culture and Victim Blaming

We meet Janna just after she survives a sexual assault by a monster known as Farooq. As he is in a position of power in the community she finds it difficult to tell anyone what happens and he constantly inserts himself in her life. He tries to convince her she wanted it and it was her fault. She has a lot of fears and struggles to come to terms with what happened and becomes angry about her situation and being unable to do anything about it. The complicated feelings she goes through and feeling unsafe in places she should be safe felt very real. These are discussions that are important to be had especially amongst youth who are often told by society that the victim is at fault and the abuser can often get away with little or no consequence especially if they are in a position of power.

Female Friendships

I loved seeing all the women that Janna is surrounded by! Her best friend Tats was such a wonderful character and truly looked out for Janna. I also loved Sausan who is a badass niqabi and has her own youtube channel. I loved the slow friendship that started to develop between Janna and Sarah and how your own assumptions about a person can be so wrong once you get to know them. I really loved Sarah especially and I cannot wait to see her in Misfit in Love.

Sibling Dynamic

I loved seeing how real the relationship between Janna and her older brother, Muhammad was! The bickering and sniping at each other and yet always being there for each other. The making sacrifices for each other and being the only one the other can turn to for help. How Muhammad relied on Janna for help in being able to meet Sarah in a halal way. It was just fun to see them!

Nuah the Cinnamon Roll

Look, he is the sweetest and I was SCFREAMING at Janna to see what was right in front of her the whole time. A practicing young man who respects women is kind and caring and funny and seems to understand Janna really well. He was adorable and I cannot wait to see him Misfit in Love!

So these are some of the reasons why you should read Saints and Misfits and of course pick up the sequel after!

Musings of a Muslimah, Muslim Shelf Space

Islamic Talks and Series I Recommend Listening To

It’s Ramadan and a time of self reflection and building our relationship with Allah and one way to do this is to learn more about Islam and what it teaches, to learn from the Muslims in the past and to learn more about Allah and the Prophet (pbuh).

I have already shared a post about book recommendations to read to help work on our spiritual relationship which you can read here but I know many of us like to watch talks and attend classes. I miss the weekly Ramadan iftars at my masjid where our imam would give a short talk on various topics before we opened our fast. So I thought that I would share some of the online talks I have listened to and benefited from and inshalAllah they will be of benefit to you all too.

Imam Omar Suleiman does a Ramadan series every year and this year is called Meeting Muhammad (pbuh). These are short 10 minute reminders to help us connect to him and our faith. I absolutely love them and me and my husband watch them together while we open our fast every evening.

I absolutely love Hesham al-Awadi’s series about Women around the Prophet (pbuh). He shares so many incredible women that lived at the time of the Prophet (pbuh). It’s been a while since I listened to it but I did love it a lot.

Yasmin Mogahed is one of my absolute favourite teachers and I recommend you listen to all of her talks that are available online. This one she discusses unhealthy attachments and true love.

Another series that I loved when I listened to was about the Mothers of the Believers by Suhaib Webb. Again, I haven’t heard it in a while but I did love it when I listened to it.

The Firsts series by Omar Suleiman is an incredible series and a unique take on learning about the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and Islam through their lives. This is an ongoing series.

Maryam Amir is another great teacher who I love listening to. In this one she discusses sustaining a healthy marriage.

I also want to share last years Ramadan series by Omar Sulieman that was about Angels in Islam. A topic that is rarely discussed but so important for us to know more about.

There are so many more I could share but I don’t want to overwhelm you all. These are all of course things we can continue to listen to after Ramadan as we won’t be able to get through all of these in a few weeks.

Book Recommendations, Muslim Shelf Space

Book Recommendations for Ramadan

Ramadan is fast approaching and it seems that we will be having a second Ramadan in lockdown. As we can’t go to the masjid and attend halaqahs or iftars, it can seem like we can’t benefit in the same ways as before.

Though we can still build our relationship with Allah on our own, through reading some great Islamic books. So here are some recommendations of books I have read and benefited from.

40 On Justice by Omar Suleiman

A History of Islam in 21 Women by Hossein Kamaly

Lessons from Surah Yusuf by Yasir Qadhi

Allah Loves by Omar Suleiman

Show Up by Naima B Robert

Angels in Your Presence by Omar Suleiman

Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed

Al Muhaddithaat by Akram Nadwi

Lessons from Surah Kahf by Yasir Qadhi

Prayers of the Pious by Omar Suleiman

Love and Happiness by Yasmin Mogahed

There are lots of amazing books that will be of benefit so please do share any recommendations!

Lots of these books are also available on scribd and you can use my link where you will get 2 months free and I will also get a month free.

Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali – Book Review

This is Sajidah’s debut book and a book I reread for the first time since I read it when it released.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

Honestly I appreciated this book a lot more during my reread than I did the first time I read it. It’s a story that deals with several important topics within the Muslim community that don’t get enough attention and ways to deal with these issues openly and without stigma.

Janna is 15 and going through what a lot of Muslim teens go through living in the west, how to balance your faith and trying to fit in. A lot of youth don’t have someone they can trust to turn to for help in navigating this so they do so on their own and no one is perfect so they can make mistakes, they can bow to peer pressure which does happen to Janna.

Janna is assaulted and harassed by a boy who is known to have a wonderful reputation within the Muslim community and so she finds it difficult to speak up about what has happened to her. It was heart breaking to read about how much Janna struggles to work through her trauma completely alone and she also has to listen to everyone talk about how amazing her assaulter is. She even has to be around him because no one knows what he did to her and she can’t find a way to avoid him. He begins to stalk her and start a smear campaign against her because that will make it harder for her to speak up and be believed. It felt so real to read this. She is trying to move on but keeps getting pulled back and navigating all these complicated feelings. She feels isolated and it affects her relationships with family and friends. It was heart breaking to read about it.

One of the things I did love was that Janna may not have been able to speak up about the assault but she knew that it wasn’t her fault, that even though that monster tried to manipulate her she knew it wasn’t. This is something so important to read and see, that it is never the fault of the victim. I think the only thing I wish we got to see more of was what happened after she finally spoke up. Maybe we will get to see this in the sequel!

I also loved the range of Muslim women that are in this book from niqbi Sausan to “Saint” Sarah and even Fizz. Suasan is amazing and a badass, her sass and and how she carries herself wearing the niqab was so wonderful to see. Sarah may seem like a saint to Janna but once she spends some time with Sarah, she realises that actually she isn’t perfect but just trying her best like Janna. Fizz is another person in Janna’s life but one who is also related to the monster, she can be a little judgemental and see Islam in Black and white and it causes a rift between her and Janna. It was great to see all these different women in the book because we are all different and everyone is on their own journey in their faith.

And then we have Nuah, who clearly has a crush on Janna even though she is oblivious. She has a crush on Jeremy and it was interesting to see her journey through navigating her feelings towards him and trying to figure out how to manage these feelings because she didn’t want to date but also did want to spend time with him. It felt real and relatable. She is 15 and many of us have to navigate and balance our faith and our feelings especially at that age it can be difficult and you can feel pressured to do things you may not want to. But by the end she has resolved her feelings and realises that dating isn’t something she wants to do.

Nuah meanwhile is actually a great friend to her and never pressures her to feel or be more than a friend. He also is one of the few people who figures out that the monster has hurt Janna in some way and immediately believes her and says he is there for her if she needs some support and honestly I just fell in love with how sweet he is. I cannot wait to see him in Misfit in Love!

This is a story that deals with many difficult topics that young people deal with in the Muslim community and I am so glad I reread it as I think I appreciated the story a lot more in my reread. I am so excited for the sequel releasing in a few months!

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

Blog Tour – The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani – ARC Review

Thank you to Harper Teen and Qamar Tours for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

I did not choose this fate. But I will not walk away from it.

Children have been disappearing from across Menaiya for longer than Amraeya ni Ansarim can remember. When her friend’s sister is snatched, Rae knows she can’t look away any longer – even if that means seeking answers from the royal court, where her country upbringing and clubfoot will only invite ridicule.

Yet the court holds its share of surprises. There she discovers an ally in the foreign princess, who recruits her as an attendant. Armed with the princess’s support, Rae seeks answers in the dark city streets, finding unexpected help in a rough-around-the-edges street thief with secrets of his own. But treachery runs deep, and the more Rae uncovers, the more she endangers the kingdom itself. 

I loved this book so much, it’s a story about a young woman who is often overlooked and underestimated but she is capable of so much more than anyone gives her credit for and it resonated with me deeply.

Rae isn’t like the usual fantasy heroines we see, she doesn’t have secret magic powers, she’s an average girl who has a family and doesn’t have a tragic backstory. She is however a young woman who will protect those she loves and will fight for the people who no one else will fight for. I think this made her so much more relatable and real because she could be any of us. She is smart and resourceful and she perseveres no matter what obstacles are put in her path. She is kind and empathetic but also knows that not everyone is trustworthy and is cautious about who she trusts.

I assure you I am well aware of what I am capable of

She also has a disability and it affects her mobility which means she is often underestimated and overlooked, she is seen as less capable but I really loved how she didn’t allow that stop her from protecting her loved ones and seeking justice. Her internal conflict was so relatable as someone who also has a mobility disability, I really felt for her, how she will sometimes push herself too far and that fear of being looked down on or pitied if someone finds out about her disability, how her disability is the only thing anyone sees. I loved her arc and how she realises her disability may affect some things that she can do but it doesn’t define her and only she decides who she is.

I also completely fell in love with Bren from the first moment we meet him. From his first conversation with Rae I loved their interactions and how he looked out for Rae right from the beginning without making her feel helpless or self-conscious about her disability. He never thinks less of Rae because of her disability and I just loved that so much. He sees her for who she really is and not just a helpless girl. I loved their banter and sass and how they worked together. It was such an interesting dynamic between them as Bren is a thief and Rae doesn’t always approve of things in his life but she accepts him for who he is. Some of my favourite scenes were between them two.

She has more power than the stories grant her.

It was also great to see Thorn again and especially see her happy with Kestrin and how she dealt with her family. I loved seeing their wedding celebrations and it reminded me of a big fat desi wedding! The beautiful clothes and all the functions and food and traditions. I just loved seeing it in the book. It was also a great contrast between the rich and the poor and how different the lives of nobles are compared to the average citizen.

There is also discussions of the violence women face and how they have to adjust the way they live and how they don’t always feel safe. Even Thorn has to deal with this and it was chilling because it was her brother and he was enabled by those around him who didn’t hold him accountable, instead ignoring what he did to her. The comparisons to how this happens a lot in our society was easy to see and I could relate to how Thorn and Rae felt.

While this is a character driven book where we see everything from Rae’s point of view we also got to explore a lot more of the world outside and the politics of the nobles too and how the nobles ignored what was happening to the children as it didn’t affect them directly. We see how it affects Rae and the frustrations she feels and it makes her more determined to help, it was interesting to see Thorn as her ally but she was also limited in many ways because of the politics at play. The end of this book and the plot twists and revelations shook me, I was not expecting them at all. And then the book ends in a cliffhanger which has me dying for the next book!

As much as we ask for help. We have to help ourselves.

I highly recommend this wonderful story with a main character you will fall in love with and root for and I cannot wait for the sequel as there are things which were alluded to in this book that I think will come into play in the sequel, especially the fae angle! Everyone please go read this book!

This is the tour schedule so do check out the other bloggers posts too!

Here are some quote art designs I made with some of my favourite quotes!