5 Books on Women Empowermentby Humairah Jamil
We learn about the stories of the amazing women around our Prophet ﷺ; our foremothers in Islam, who were the pioneers in championing women empowerment. We find inspiration in stories and it is encouraging to see a rise in contemporary works that touch on empowering women, no matter which stage of life we are in.
Here’s a list of fiction and non-fiction book recommendations which explore the topic of women empowerment:
1. Rumaysa: A Fairytale
Rumaysa: A Fairytale is a twist on Rapunzel, and this modern fairytale invites us into an enriching discussion about the fairytale genre and Muslim representation and inclusivity. We particularly liked how Rumaysa is depicted as a young girl who embodied values of courage, independence and resilience, and how the Muslim lifestyle is normalised through her practice of praying five times a day.
The reversal of gender roles also scored points as the prince did not eventually get the princess as how typical fairytale storylines would have us believe. The question of masculinity and what it means to be a man was also surfaced when Suleiman, the boy with the flying carpet, mentioned how he would rather be indoors and create things instead of going outdoors to save princesses.
In this story, you will meet two other different fairytale princesses (Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara) who crossed paths with our endearing main character. Rumaysa: A Fairytale is a middle-grade novel which adults can also enjoy. More unconventional, non-conformist Muslim fairytale princesses please! Binti and the Beast, anyone?
2. Amal Unbound
Amal Unbound is another middle-grade novel which touches on weighty issues like equality in education, classism, women empowerment, corruption & misogyny. Amal, an endearing bookworm, aspiring teacher and a curious learner, found herself stuck in a ridiculously unfortunate situation after supposedly disrespecting a revered VIP. Through it all, she carries the unbridled voice of the empowered young girl we know we want our future daughters to be, despite being bounded by unreasonable rules and traditions.
3. Smart Single Muslimah
“Why aren’t you married yet?” “When’s your turn?” “Do you have someone already?” “30+ and you’re still not married?” Oh aint these questions familiar. If you’re a single, independent woman who’d been asked these questions, this book is for you. Smart Single Muslimah starts off by addressing the increasingly trending notion of marriage being out of fashion. It addresses contemporary relationship issues and refutes liberal views that waters down the institution of marriage which is vital in every society, dating back to the birth of civilisation itself.
This book also helped to frame my understanding of marriage in light of the Qur’an and Sunnah. I love the self-reflection questions included in this book, foregrounding the importance of building your personal identity and relationship with yourself first, before being in a committed relationship with someone else. She also dedicated a chapter on the purpose of our existence, which is essential to recalibrate our intentions, and remind us of why we are getting married in the first place, and steer us away from being too pressured about getting married.
Concluding the book is a useful list of questions to ask a potential spouse. Every smart, single Muslim woman on a journey of seeking a compatible husband should read this comprehensive and honest marriage guide before finding someone who can complement you, and not complete you.
4. Show Up
This is a book I would keep on my shelves to refer to over and over whenever I need a voice of reason and inspiration to push me to show up as authentically and sincerely as I can. In this book, Na’ima showed, through her personal story, and the stories of the women around our Prophet ﷺ, how resilience, patience, gratitude, trust in Allah, and a shift of perspective are what it takes to change our story from a victim to a hero.
We learn to embrace that tests are a sunnah of life, and that we should live our life to the flow of things as decreed by Allah SWT. The book is interspersed with verses from the Qur’an, hadith, motivational quotes from contemporary thinkers, and even some of her own poems.
5. Love from A to Z
Love from A to Z is unlike any other romance novels because it is not just another romance novel per se. The author also addresses pertinent issues like Islamophobia, which was fleshed out through the tension between Zayneb and her hateful teacher, Mr Fencer. The story centers around Adam and Zayneb, hence, Love from A to Z. Adam is a convert who met and fell in love with Zayneb, an opinionated and strong-headed woman who stands up for what is right and knows what she wants.
Adam and Zayneb met by a stroke of fate — a chance encounter on a plane — and their relationship blossomed slowly through the serendipitous events that caused their paths to converge. Real issues revolving around dealing with the realities of friendships, family, grief and love, are explored in the story. I like how the characters are not the token, good, saintly Muslim. The characters feel like friends we know in real life. It is a breath of fresh air to read about the struggles and the not-so-fun-parts of falling in love and taking care of the relationship with God before the creation.
Love From A to Z is read in a diary format, as we take alternating peeks into Adam and Zayneb’s journals, both of whom, by some stroke of fate, had had a journal of marvels and oddities since young. They document their ups and downs they had each been experiencing on the daily. We get to read their perspectives and observe the progress of their relationship through their journals.
Humairah Jamil is a writer, book reviewer, teacher and author of Homebound, her debut book of poems on grief, hope, faith, and love. Penning down her experiences and reflecting on His words is a pursuit she strives towards. You can read more of her writings on www.thebookjacket.com and her Instagram @thebookjacket.