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Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women

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Romance, dating, sex and - Muslim women? In this groundbreaking collection, 25 American Muslim writers sweep aside stereotypes to share their search for love openly for the first time, showing just how varied the search for love can be--from singles' events and online dating, to college flirtations and arranged marriages, all with a uniquely Muslim twist.  
These stories are filled with passion and hope, loss and A quintessential blonde California girl travels abroad to escape suffocating responsibilities at home, only to fall in love with a handsome Brazilian stranger she may never see again. An orthodox African-American woman must face her growing attraction to her female friend. A young girl defies her South Asian parents' cultural expectations with an interracial relationship. And a Southern woman agrees to consider an arranged marriage, with surprising results.  
These compelling stories of love and romance create an irresistible balance of heart-warming and tantalizing, always revealing and deeply relatable.

290 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2012

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Nura Maznavi

2 books48 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 201 reviews
Profile Image for ريحانة.
127 reviews127 followers
February 17, 2012
Poignantly disappointing.

I was expecting a few inspirational stories with the main focal point being Islam, but instead I read about breakups, new relationships, other relationships, more relationships, lust and maybe a story or two about love; I'm still not sure though.

I shouldn't have ignored the big red flag of "The *Secret* Love Lives of *American* Muslim Women". What was I thinking?

People always find stories of conversion to Islam to be "impressive". I personally call that the "Farangi Complex".
Wow, a French Jew embraced Islam? See? Islam is cool!
A British Christian raised Catholic converted to Islam? I told you. Islam is great!
A hot celebrity joined our cult? Woot, woot! We be rockin' our deen or whattt?

Let's get it straight right now, right here: Islam doesn't need anyone's validation. Islam will never be tarnished by any Muslim's bad reputation.

That being said, I don't really see the "Muslim" part in this book. It could as well have been just about women, or American women, or American women of born foreign parents. There is very little emphasis on Islam per se in some stories that it's hard to relate to them.

I was really hoping to read real stories about the challenges of modern Muslim women who take their religion seriously. As I see it, most of these stories were about women who choose to be identified as Muslims, but who push Islam down their priority list. Freedom of choice, no question about that; but I'm still disappointed overall.
Profile Image for Sarah.
159 reviews47 followers
February 2, 2012
Love, InshAllah, at first, brought me face-to-face with a glaring prejudice I have unconsciously created about what for me is fair game for love stories.

When Bollywood started to produce movies that involved more explicit love scenes, I remember my best friend, the least prejudiced person I know, saying “Aurgh, I don’t want to see that!” I chuckled: “So, what, it’s okay if white people do that onscreen?” She tried to explain what she felt: “No, but that’s brown people. That’s us!” Thanks to the media’s disproportionate portrayal of what particular acts should look like or whom they should involve, having intimacy is being acted out by people of “our kind” can be temporarily disorienting for even the least ideologically prudish Indo-Pakistani Muslim ladies like myself.

I confess that, on some level, that’s what I was feeling when I read Love, InshAllah. It’s one thing to know, abstractly, that those stories are out there. Before reading this collection, I did know about gay Muslimahs, about the niqabis who have multiple sexual partners, about Muslim children having to live dual lives because they could not conform to their parents’ standards. But it’s one thing to have these faint blobs of abstraction floating around in one’s consciousness. And it’s quite another to be reading a succession of those stories by the women who own them. For reading such works constituted an experience I could never have readied myself for.

I, of course, mean that in the best way possible.

Being a single person who’s been feeling a bit shortchanged in the love department lately, I did at times have to face the demon of loneliness while reading the stories. And being a Muslimah–which for me means having an inner universe that is shaped and conditioned by the moral tenets of the Islamic faith–means that the moral quandaries raised in some of those stories make reading them a gut-wrenchingly conflicted experience. Yet, ultimately, reading Love, InshAllah created a glowing, steadily increasing burn of recognition of myself in the stories as a whole.

The beauty of this collection lies in how pluralistic it is, and how any attempt to explain the experience of reading these stories will fail to do justice to this collection in its entirety. Therefore, I have decided attempt to group the stories based on my experience of reading them. These categories are far from perfect, but they help provide some insight into how varied the reading experience can get within the scope of such a collection.

1. Deceptively Traditional Stories: These stories moved me because they revealed the beauty of what might, on the surface, seem to be unappealing ways to meet a significant other. Aisha Saeed’s “Leap of Faith” is a dream for any South Asian girl who’s had to go through strangeness of having her parents play matchmaker. “Otherwise Engaged” is an endearing account of Huda Al-Marashi’s yearning for a date with and formal proposal from the boy she was set up to marry.

2. Too Good to Be True Stories: Stories that seemed too good to be true to the point of irrelevance. Although I recognize that they were a necessary part of the collection and are as true as the other stories, they’re not the kind of situations most Muslim women are lucky enough to be in. Ayesha Mattu’s “The Opening” and Angela Collins Telles’ “Love in the Andes” both involved meeting gorgeous non-Muslim men who ended up converting to Islam. Again, while I’m extremely happy for them and for all the women who have been so blessed, I’m too aware of the thornier issue of women who fall in love with good, worthy non-Muslim and are forced to choose between love and deen.

3. Stories that are Not for the Faint-hearted: This collection of stories are better skipped by those who are squeamish, especially about Muslim women. In Tanzila Ahmed’s “Punk-Drunk Love,” Taqwacore sensibility intersects with the heartbreak and the transience of intense passion in a way that that seared my heart. Najva Sol’s “The First Time” recounts her coming to an understanding about her sexuality in a way that pulls no punches.

4. The Real Stuff of Married Life Stories: These stories dealt with what married life (as far as I can tell) is really made up of. Melody Moezzi’s “Love in the Time of Biohazards” is a beautiful portrayal of true spousal devotion in the face of pancreatic complications. “Love at Third Sight” by Patricia M. G. Dunn provides much-needed lessons about what real love, in the context of marriage, is, and the kind of trials or uncertainty one might have to go through in order to actualize this form of love.

5. Self-Defining Stories: Rather than relegate these stories to some overloaded form of a “miscellaneous” category, I wanted to highlight some gems in this collection, freestanding entities that made impressions I won’t easily forget:

Aida Rahim’s “Brain Meets Heart” is a story about how she and her daughter found the right husband and father (who incidentally is none other than Hijabman!) for themselves. I felt that this story brings out the much-needed voice of the smart, independent, admirable Muslim woman who doesn’t become any less of those things just because she happens to be a mother and a divorcee.

Nura Maznavi’s “Last Night on the Island” I found to be a wonderful story not just for its plot and narration, but because it functions as a portal into a grander narrative about being single. To see this included in a collection of love stories was something I had not expected, and this act of inclusion deeply moved me.

“Sex by Any Other Name” is a wonderfully uncomfortable read that explores virginity, perceived ownership of such a virtue, and the complications and anxiety that result when these phenomena are continuously confronted.

Asiila Imani’s story “Three” traces the usual journey of love towards an unusual and controversial form: polygny. Given that a considerable number of Muslim women hold Imani’s perspective and have had experiences similar to hers, I was especially glad to see the inclusion of such a voice in this collection.
Suzanne Syeda Shah’s “Kala Love” is a raw, powerful account of complex family relationships, a pronounced clash between first and second-generation immigrants, the trauma of assault, and redemption through faith and sex. Because there was not only redemption, but redemption through a worthy man, I feel that this story epitomizes what–to me–is the real stuff of romance stories.

When I look back at the climate that surrounded my education on love and sex, I am bemused by the skewed ways that women of my religious and cultural background learn about these things: the way we would devour romance novels, the ridiculous myths about female anatomy that would circulate the unmarried girls’ side in dinner parties, the simplistically treated assumption that one transforms from being ‘innocent’ to being someone who knows of these matters over the course of a wedding night. To realize that I made the transition from that background to being part of a Love, InshAllah post-publication world gives me a great deal of hope and self-affirmation. It is now, by virtue of this book, becoming a world I want to raise my daughter in.

At first I wasn’t sure if should put myself through reading this book, thinking that it would only make me confront the demon of emotional loneliness. And to an extent, it did. Amazingly enough, however, by the time I reached the end, it had done the opposite. It instilled me with a sense of hope and empowerment I couldn’t have gained in any other way. Although a little disorienting at first, it eventually lead me to breathing sigh after sigh of relief, knowing that my story–be it that of failed love, triumphant love, or singlehood–is part of a narrative that can never be conveyed simplistically, a narrative whose beauty comes from the plurality of experience and candidness about the places they come from.

This collection may be subtitled, “the secret love lives of American Muslim women,” but this book brings those lives out in the open, making them secret no more. I applaud its honesty and its celebration of female sexuality from within the Muslim universe. And I hope it paves the way for more such works about Muslim women in other places and countries and other conceptions of intimacies, starting, perhaps, with Canadian Muslim women.

(This review was originally published on my blog: http://amuslimahwrites.wordpress.com/...)

Profile Image for Fay.
16 reviews
February 5, 2012
Well, I just finished this book a few moments ago and I've got to say that I loved it. This is NOT a book to teach you about Islam though you may come away from it with an understanding of some of it's tenets. With this book we are allowed to enter the world that these women, all of whom identify themselves as both Muslim and American, some practicing a little, some a lot, others not much if at all so openly shared with us. This wasn't a foreign world for me because I too am both Muslim (convert) and American.

These are their stories-their love stories. I am quite sure there will be Muslims that will read this book and think some of the stories should never have been told (we believe it is a mercy from God when our sins have been hidden from others therefore we aren't supposed to go telling people about them) and though I believe and practice that as a general rule I am hoping that the forthrightness shown in this book will begin to open some people's eyes and help build bridges. Muslim women are people too. We are human and we want and experience love. One would think this wouldn't be such a hard concept to grasp but it seems that for many, it is. We are a diverse lot, and I think this book does a great job of showing that.

There were stories of women who only met their soon to be husband once, others who met their loves online or married after having built up sincere admiration for them in a platonic friendship, born-again virgins, punk Muslims, flings, polygynous family lives etc and through it all there are lessons learned, loves lost, love found, and even love found again. These women learn things about themselves and love, and we can learn along with them. I'm sure many readers will be reminded of the love stories of their lives.

Is this a book about Muslim American women or a book about love? I've asked myself. I'd say it's both but I kind of feel like it's really a book about love, it's just the major characters happen to be Muslim American women and I for one, really like that. As for me, I think this book couldn't have come out at a better point in my life. It's renewed my faith in so many things and it's one of the books for which I will always be grateful.

If you liked this book then you may also like the book called Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak I really think that this book Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women is far more relatable and enjoyable than the other which I found far more dreary but it's been years since I read it and really only one story from it that touched me (the one about the mother of an autistic child). I also remember coming away from it feeling they didn't quite show much of a diverse lot of Muslim American women unless diversity only means showing those that are more alienated from the mainstream Muslim community.

The timing of this book coming out this past month leading up to Valentine's Day is perfect. If you celebrate the day and are looking for a book for your best friend I'd suggest this book and some chocolates. :) I think this book could make a light yet really interesting and fun read for a book group.

Being a part of the American Muslim community I did not have any issue with the foreign vocabulary drizzled throughout the book. I can see however this being an issue for some people. Before you start reading you may want to bookmark the glossary in the back that has all the words you need to know and even a few (or at least one) that wasn't used in any of the stories. :)

I read the ebook version and there is one change I would make to the formatting. I think the foreign words should be hyper-linked to their definitions in the glossary. I just may have to write the publisher about that one.

** This review has been edited for spelling.
Profile Image for Khadijah Qamar.
10 reviews19 followers
July 20, 2013
I was excited about this book when it came out and special ordered it through my library. As my rating indicates, I was very disappointed. The negligee on the front cover should have warned me. This book simply falls into a long line of oriental literature that sexualizes Muslim women. What's the biggest shame is that it's written by two Muslim women. This was their opportunity to delve into a subject rarely spoken about and explore the nature of romantic relationships among Muslims. However they chose to do it insensitively and chose stories that were usually racy, if not downright raunchy.

Perhaps the authors were trying to demonstrate that "Muslim American women are just like other American women" - if I remember correctly, they might have even said something to that effect in their introduction. But that's painting Muslim American women with too broad a brush stroke and ignoring the nuances that differentiate them and the spirituality that guides them.

Their audience was obviously the broader American public. In order to appeal to them, they chose cheap stories that had very little "Muslim" about them. I'm not just referring to the "un-Muslim" behavior that many of the women displayed - that's ignorant of how varied and diverse actual Muslims are in their character and behavior. The fact that many of the stories hardly referred to anything Islamic at all suggests that Islam had very little to do with they way many of the women lead their lives. For a reader unfamiliar with Islam, this book gives the wrong message about what Islam professes. For Muslims, this book might aim to generate tolerance of the diversity with Islam. However, too many of the stories depict behavior that most Muslims would consider un-Islamic. For that reason, it likely creates more divisions that it does build bridges.

I understand that the authors were trying to show Muslim American women as they really are. But if you are going to tie Islam to a book about love, you should choose a more responsible message that actually reflects the teachings of Islam. In many cases, the women in these stories just happened to have been born Muslim. Islam was not something they seemed to reflect on when they made their romantic choices. This book should not have had "Muslim" in the title. Of course without it, the authors would probably have lost the "shock and awe" factor they earned from the racy stories inside that helped the book to sell.
Profile Image for Huma Rashid.
847 reviews157 followers
March 11, 2012
Some of the stories in this book are better than others, but the book itself is a must-read simply because of the picture it presents. Everyone has an image of Muslim women. Especially those who don't know one personally.

In reading this book, you'll see a whole world of feeling and passion and angst that's never part of the discussion of Muslim women, and for that reason, this book goes a long way in fighting misconceptions about women like us.

I want to do a full, meaningful, carefully written review, but I just can't. So much of the stuff in this book hits too close to home. If you're inclined, you can read my many posts on the subject here at my book blog . I discuss specific stories, certain quotes, general ideas, and even personal thoughts and experiences.

I'm so glad a book like this was written. (And screw the haters who will only talk about how the women in this book are all hell-bound for daring not to adhere to that particular critic's narrowly tailored view of what Islam is and what it demands.)
24 reviews
October 27, 2012
I was excited when I heard about this book-finally someone was going to tell our stories! However, overall this book wasn't what I expected it to be. As a practicing single Muslim Arab girl in my 20s, 80% of the stories were unrelatable. In addition, maybe half of these stories were told by self-proclaimed non-practicing girls. I understand wanting to be diverse but come on!!! That was my main issue with the book-that it does not represent. Also, this book could have a lot of potential to be great when talking about the relationship issues Muslim women face, however most of these stories were superficial and not very insightful. Maybe there can be a part 2 that redeems itself by being more representative and intellectually stimulating.
Profile Image for Viola.
180 reviews38 followers
February 29, 2012
As a non-Muslim American, who likes to be generally worldly and culturally sensitive, I was drawn to this book because I love love. Love is one of the most universal human experiences; it is powerful enough to breakdown boundaries and unify people of all different backgrounds. With this book, I was ready to be charmed by some love stories and to be enlightened about the Muslim-American experience. Instead, I should've prepared myself to be disappointed.

Before I purchased the book, I downloaded the Kindle sample and was immediately drawn into the first story, “Leap of Faith.” It is what I think of as a traditional Muslim love story, one in which the marriage is arranged and love doesn’t necessarily come before marriage. An arranged marriage may seem very foreign to non-Muslim and non-Indian Americans, but, as this story depicts, love can prevail. This young woman’s heartwarming story makes you believe that love can appear anywhere, even in arranged marriages; you just need to take that leap of faith.

This first story prompted me to purchase the entire book of some two dozen stories. Unfortunately, not all of the stories are as good as the first one. In fact, many are not good at all. Despite the fact that the editors sought diversity, the stories all seemed to meld together for me after awhile. Most of them are very forgettable and not particularly well-written. A few stories aren't about love at all, but rather lust. Other stories end abruptly, leaving you feeling unresolved and shortchanged. And, instead of being about love, by and far, most of the stories are actually coming of age stories -- young women trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be -- young women caught between the world of their parents and their own world -- young women wanting to remain faithful to their religion and also wanting to find a compatible husband.

The diversity in this book shows up as diversity in the level of each woman’s Muslim practice from very conservative to very liberal. At the extreme ends, there are a couple of gay Muslim stories and one of polygamy. But, like I said, all the stories seemed to feel the same after awhile. Maybe that is what the editors intended -- that is, to show how similar our experiences are despite our differences. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t make for a very interesting anthology.

I’d say in total, there are four, maybe five, stories that are worth reading. My top four are “Leap of Faith,” “Love in the Time of Biohazards,” “Rerouting”, and “It Will Be Beautiful.” The fifth on my list is “The Birds, The Bees, and My Hole,” if only for the scene in which the girl’s mother describes the birds and the bees to her daughter.

In sum, although there are a few gems in the book, as a whole it was rather disappointing.
34 reviews
January 10, 2013
This book was a surprisingly good read; I finished it within a couple days. It was on my to-read list for a long time before I finally decided to give it a try, since I'd heard a few negative reviews about it. I'm glad I picked it up, though. What kept me reading despite a few stories that made me feel uncomfortable (e.g., they were unnecessarily crude) were the brutal honesty, faith, and vulnerability-driven courage that each woman (Muslim-born or revert) wrote with. For example, one was experiencing a love-filled arranged marriage after having met her husband once before the nikkah, another was actively dating and having sexual relations before marriage, and another was struggling with a queer identity while trying to find love. But each woman identified herself both as American and Muslim (this was the authors' only requirement for them), and wrote with such intense faith in Allah, mA, that I couldn't help but admire them. Of course, I definitely would not do or write about some of the experiences mentioned in the book, but who am I to judge them? We're all on our own path. For this reason, I recommend the collection to everyone.

I'm really glad Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu helped make this book happen, and I'd very much like to read the American Muslim man's perspective (next book, Ayesha and Nura?). It opened my eyes to the dynamics of love in the lives of American Muslim women like myself, a topic I've admittedly been very naive about, and allowed me to witness first-hand the beautiful ways Allah SWT brings people together. Because at the end of the day, we are all just reading the book He wrote.
Profile Image for Motasem.
61 reviews
January 18, 2013
As a Muslim, I feel this collection of short stories succeeds in portraying a diversity of relationships experienced by Muslim Americans but at the same time it may improperly normalize some of the more extreme examples that certainly exist but are arguably very rare. With some of these stories, I don't believe the editors sought shock value but rather to open an honest dialogue which is certainly an admirable goal. But the introduction identifies a parallel goal of breaking stereotypes and I think some of the more controversial (in a socially liberal sense) short stories overreach and create newer perceptions that many would argue are just as misrepresentative of our Muslim American community. This causes ethical concerns within the community and the non-Muslim readers may walk away with misconstrued judgments given the brevity of the context.

But all that aside, from a literary perspective, I thought the writing for most of the short stories was mediocre and thus my rating.
Profile Image for Hannah.
111 reviews6 followers
April 30, 2015
I have read a lot of negative reviews for this book. People are expecting something based on the title and the cover of the book (which they shouldn't). This book is not going to teach you a whole lot about the Muslim rules for dating or marriage (some, but not a lot). It will, however, tell you a lot of personal stories and experiences of American women who identify as Muslim. People can identify as something and not accept every practice of the group they identify with. There are practicing Muslims, lapsed Muslims, cultural Muslims, and Muslims in name alone. This book deals with a little bit of each. Each woman tells their love story (failed and successful) and talks about how Islam played a role in it. I think it is a beautiful collection and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If you're looking for a book on the Muslim rules of dating and marriage however, this is not it.
Profile Image for Sabeeha Rehman.
Author 3 books71 followers
May 20, 2016
An eye opener for the Muslim mom, who is in denial. Touching stories of Muslim women, whose love lives are no different than any other. Its a beautiful read. After reading it, I recommended it to my Book Club, and they loved it.
Profile Image for Sarah Lameche.
133 reviews63 followers
January 9, 2014
I wanted to give it a 2.5 star but as I didn't have the option its nearer a 3 than a 2.
I suppose I found it a little disappointing. There weren't many stories I could relate to I suppose. Many seemed to be jetting around the world or discovering their sexuality.
One of the stories just seemed like erotica and to be honest I couldn't see which part of her life was supposed to be that of a Muslim.
I was expecting more stories of arranged (not forced) marriages and how love really does grow. Or what steps people took to find their husband. Instead I felt like I was reading stories of girls who after several boyfriends finally found the one they married. Don't get me wrong some stories I really enjoyed reading but there weren't enough practising Muslims in this book for me.
I did like the fact that at the back of the book a little was written about each storyteller. I would definitely be interested to find out what happened to those who lost in love. Did/will they ever marry? Its a quick easy read but I waited a month for this book to arrive and it wasn't worth the wait.
Profile Image for mckenna ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ.
458 reviews6 followers
February 19, 2023
No pun intended here but, love love love!

This book explores the lives of various Muslim women is various life situations all dealing with one common emotion: love. From dating, to arranged marriages, to falling in love to losing somebody important to you, this book shows that everybody can be different and have different experiences even while all believing in the same faith.

Some stories had me crying laughing and some had me simply crying, reading this book helped me understand more all the different views various people can have and it made my heart simply swell.

While there were a handful of stories in this anthology that I did not enjoy I give this book four stars instead of five, but despite that, all the other author's stories make up for those I didn't vibe with. I believe that both Muslims and non-Muslims could read and enjoy this book exploring all different paths under the same culture in this wonderful showcase of emotions!
Profile Image for Madiha.
4 reviews
April 1, 2012
I have mixed feelings about this book. My initial assumption of what the book would be about, or rather it's content were very inflated. That balloon burst almost as soon as I began to read the book.

This book shouldn't be taken to represent Islam. Rather it should be seen as an anthology in which women, who have a common belief system, which vary in intensity, share their love stories. Many of which were very dry.

I do not see the point of the book. I see it as a source of "fitnah" and a medium to expose that which God has allowed to remain hidden. It's an exposé of one's own faults, sometimes spiritual journey, and love. It's content is dry and not very relatable in my opinion.

I'm unsure as to who the targeted audience is. Overall I don't see any point in its content. What message the book attempts to send is lost.
Profile Image for Momal Rizvi.
20 reviews
February 6, 2023
i enjoyed reading this book. i appreciated the authors intention not to portray any specific form/experience of Islam or level of religiosity, but rather share the different stories of Muslim women in the US.

this book showcases the message that there is not just one clean-cut way for Muslim woman to love (meeting one Muslim man early in life, speaking to parents and maintaining a halal engagement period, getting married, and being partners until death). in actuality, it shows that Muslim women get divorced, remarried, have premarital sex, are queer, deal with betrayal, and sometimes just end up alone. I think this is something important that Muslims and non-Muslims can take with them, as marriage is often used to determine the value of a Muslim woman.

my critique would be that the language is somewhat outdated and I found some accounts and wording used by some of the authors to be inappropriate and offensive (why are white Muslim converts making jokes about Brown Muslims? you’re still white when you convert lol) but beside that, I liked it

this is the longest review I have ever written 😲

Profile Image for Zainab Bint Younus.
233 reviews267 followers
April 30, 2018
“Love Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women,” edited by Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, a brutally honest and eye-opening look at the oft-overlooked romances of self-identifying Muslim women.

From stories of traditional arranged marriage and the struggle of marrying outside one’s own culture, to finding love, losing it, and rediscovering it in the most unexpected places, “Love Inshallah” is a one-of-a-kind anthology.

The contributing authors are from almost every type of race, cultural background, age, and affiliation imaginable; as such, some of the stories may make some readers feel uncomfortable. What must be kept in mind, however, is that it is all too easy to judge others, but far more difficult to accept the vastly differing experiences that contribute to the multi-faceted, sometimes paradoxical Muslim Ummah.

The stories in “Love Inshallah” are neither saccharine nor fraught with over-politicized analyses of Muslim women’s sexuality. Rather, they are frank, open accounts that read more like a close friend’s trusting disclosures. Complete with humor, heartbreak, and the recognition that Allah – Al-Wadud (the Most Loving), al-Hakeem (the Most Wise) – teaches us through these love-ridden experiences, “Love Inshallah” will move you, entrance you, and shock you.

Perhaps one of the most unique features of this particular anthology, especially given its subject matter, is that it is not limited to the narrow representation of one particular “stream” of Muslimah. Conservatives and extreme liberals, born Muslims, converts and reverts – all are included, and all share their stories honestly and openly.

Familiar names to SISTERS magazine (S. E. Jihad Levine and J. Samia Mair) write alongside anonymous and previously unpublished authors. Together, these women force all readers – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – to recognize and acknowledge the decidedly pluralistic, un-monolithic nature of The Muslim Woman’s Experience.

Whether or not one agrees with the lifestyles and choices discussed within this book, it will most certainly provoke a great deal of thought. Perhaps more importantly, it provides a much-needed glimpse into the lives of Muslim women, and hopefully create the opportunity for empathy amongst those who have previously had no exposure to this significant and influential group.
Profile Image for Roxana.
13 reviews
June 12, 2020
The premise of the book seemed unique and promising, especially for someone who loves to read about real love stories. As a Muslim revert myself, I was very interested in seeing what other, "more Muslim" women have to deal with when it comes to finding the perfect husband.

You don't need to dive too much into the book to realise that the stories don't really hold any substance. They lack any type of message you could take out and contemplate on and a great number of them are very..unislamic. What surprises me is that this was edited by two Muslims women, who seemed to be more focused on the "American" element of the title more than the faith itself. Without the occasional Islamic terms, duas, and Quranic verses (often uncomfortably associated with the situation), you couldn't tell that this has anything to do with Muslims women.

Not all the stories were bad, some were better than the others. But I couldn't help becoming infuriated at the never-ending attempt of the women who approached clearly unislamic ways to find love, to then portray themselves as pious, exemplary Muslims.

I think this book comfortably hides behind the "happy ending" of the stories, after all, who hates a happy ending?
Profile Image for Khairul Hezry.
702 reviews124 followers
February 4, 2012
(The following review is an excerpt from my blog: The Malaysian Reader

There are stories of arranged marriages like Aisha Saeed’s “Leap of Faith” who was so adamant against the idea that when the boy’s family asked for a photo, she did her best to pose with an annoyed look. Far from driving him away with the look, it intrigued him. “Love In The Time Of Biohazards” is an endearing and humorous story about a spouse taking care of his wife, Melody Meozzi, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer and “A Prayer Answered” is about a Muslimah looking for love from another Muslimah. Gay love. I’m half expecting this book to be included in Malaysia’s 2012 list of banned books. Or maybe it won’t be sold here at all. I bought mine from Amazon.

Most of the stories are by women of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent and a few converts to Islam but there’s one from Malaysian-American Aida Rahim whose journey to find her one true love prompted her husband to say, “we plan and God laughs”. True that.
Profile Image for Juwi.
426 reviews85 followers
April 9, 2018
This is a great collection of essays from all kinds of Muslim Women writing about love and relationships. If you are someone looking to get married, or if you are married yourself...whether Muslim or not, it's an insightful read.

As a young Muslim woman, i could relate to a few of the stories but at the same time i haven't found the one for me yet so i'm like THAT IS FAKE THAT NEVER HAPPENS PLEASE WHAT HOW DID THEY REALLY MEET LIKE THAT but it IS real and yeah...God works in mysterious ways. some of the stories were REALLY CUTE AND MADE ME BELIEVE IN LOVE AGAIN. lol but seriously it's so strange how people end up with their partners...

It's good to see a mix of views from people that were born Muslim as well as converts and how everyone deals with relationships, marriage, sex, divorce and other various issues differently.

Thanks to the editors for deciding to make this book happen and for all the contributors for sharing their stories.

I would specifically recommend it to muslim women but also men. But you don't have to be Muslim to read it obviously.

Profile Image for Jennifer Donahue.
Author 1 book11 followers
February 26, 2012
I slowly made my way through these stories and I am very impressed with the diversity and depth of each contributor's experience. Different backgrounds and cultures are represented throughout, there are those who are born into Islam and others who converted to the faith, but every woman's struggle is unique and insightful. I say "struggle" because even though these stories are about love and relationships, they are also about the search for self and forging an identity.

I always love "how we met" stories of other couples. There is something almost magical in hearing the ways ordinary moments can become defining ones for two people. But I also love reading about real love, how it endures over time, what happens after that blissful new period. Overall, I am very impressed with this collection of voices. Some of the stories border on the sensational or sentimental, but there is much to admire in the style and skill of many of the writers included in this work.
Profile Image for Yasmeen.
1 review1 follower
May 28, 2014
It was a quick, enjoyable read on my flight back from Chicago on Memorial Day. I mostly laughed; it was nice to be able to relate to the many anecdotes that the writer's described i.e. American friends who don't really understand the nuances of our culture that is intrinsically tied to our religion. It brought me back to my awkward teenage years and oddly enough, I didn't mind. It also brought me back to my college years where I discovered and lost love. And no, he wasn't a Muslim.

I'm quite content with my life now, and have found ways to navigate through my dual-identity. But for all you that are feeling a bit repressed and follow arbitrary rules imposed by familial influences, I would recommend this novel. But fair warning: don't expect to be enlightened. The only thing you may gain from this read is that you'll realize you're not alone in your kooky yet loving family.
Profile Image for Kelley.
420 reviews12 followers
June 22, 2012
There were some stories I didn't care for but a few good ones really made this book a pleasurable experience. It was a fun and quick read. I've read a lot of reviews of people saying that this books is needed and a "revelation." didn't get that. I kept thinking this book could be written by any group of women, there's nothing innately Islamic or Muslim about it for the most part. But I guess that's the point? "Muslim women are just like women everywhere." But for me that was a weakness in the book because I already knew that. Most people who choose to read this book will already know that. So for me the lack of Muslimness and Islam was a disappointment. So I enjoyed this book not as a Muslim but as a Woman.
Profile Image for Tanzeela.
11 reviews
June 8, 2022
I absolutely loved this book. Every author is strong-willed, witty, and inspiring. With every story, I developed a sense of pride and gratitude for my heritage. I cried at least three times.

The premise of this book is similar to “Good Girls Marry Doctors”, which is a collection of stories of south asian girls struggling with conservative backgrounds and modern rebellion. However, I like the writing in “Love, Inshallah” a lot more.

It's comforting to know that romance is pretty universal and ridding ourselves of the shame will allow us to have more open conversations. My hope is that this book will foster an environment to discuss and resolve those internal conflicts in Islam.
Profile Image for Cristina Ana.
54 reviews2 followers
July 9, 2013
Meh… disappointing. My assumption was that the book would tackle complex identity issues and it probably had this initial ambition, as it is tailored as an anthology of Muslim women’s love stories attempting for Islam’s reconciliation with American culture. Just that most of the stories are dull and dry, poorly written, and only succeeding to present an exposé of something like tales from women' magazines.
Profile Image for Jessica.
597 reviews27 followers
May 18, 2019
I read this for my Jewish and Muslim women's book club. The writing was uneven and some of the essays dragged but for the most part I enjoyed the variety of voices. I learned a lot about Muslim dating and marriage customs from different parts of the world.
Profile Image for Victoria.
78 reviews18 followers
January 29, 2012
This is a fabulous insight into a variety of WOMEN's lives, who may be defined by their faith but are ultimately sympathetic to any woman. It is a shared experience, and it is so worthwhile.
Profile Image for Tuscany Bernier.
Author 1 book118 followers
January 3, 2014
I was not a big fan of this book. It was not very memorable, but it was not poorly written. It tackled a lot of taboo subjects in the Islamic world.
Profile Image for Lady  Zainab.
3 reviews
September 9, 2015

General Thoughts and Comments

When we first came across this book, we didn’t know what to expect from its 213 pages, and we were a bit skeptical about its anthology, because while we think it is good and commendable that many of us, Muslimah Voices included, are trying to defy and challenge stereotypes of Muslim women, we wondered whether books of this nature are needed to accomplish this. Is this book going a step too far? What purpose will such a book serve? Did the Authors set out to send a message? And if so, what message were they intending to convey? Furthermore, if we do discuss issues such as sex, sexuality, dating, courtship, and our love lives in the open – how much is too much? And are we as Muslim women allowed, from an Islamic perspective, to openly engage in such discussions ? If yes, then what would be the appropriate forums to have those discussions? And what should such forums consist of or look like? We were also curious about the women who contributed their stories. Why did they agree to participate? What were their initial feelings and thoughts about being a part of such a book? Did they have concerns about participating? And if so, what were those concerns and why? And now that the book is out, do they regret participating? And how did their families react to the news of their participation?

But apart from that, when our book club decided that Love, InshAllah would be one of our monthly selections, some acquaintances of certain team members were not in approval, and expressed very strong feelings against the book, accusing us of promoting or encouraging “unislamic behaviour.” The subtitle The Secret love lives of Muslim Women, especially raised eyebrows. Mind you, these are people who didn’t even bother to read the book before forming an opinion. Just the mere subtitle and the image presented on the cover of the book was an issue and caused people to form certain assumptions about the book. Nevertheless, we were not willing to pull the book off our book list simply due to this because it was never our intention to promote nor support “unislamic behaviour.” But rather, to take the opportunity to open up discussions and talk about some of the subject matters touched on in the book. Subject matters such as sex and sexuality – topics which are almost never spoken of openly within our sister circles nor within the wider Muslim community, and not even in private do many of us have such discussions.

The Authors have also come up against heavy criticisms for writing this book which has raised some controversy, much more than they anticipated. Some people accused them of “playing into an Orientalist fantasy about Muslim women,” or of writing a salacious expose” of the faith community. But there was no doubt in our minds that the Authors did not write this book in a bid to promote any ‘unislamic practices’ or ‘immorality.’ In essence, their intention was merely to create a platform for the voices of Muslim women to be heard – and for Muslim women to be able to share their authentic experiences. They intended “… to challenge stereotypes of the wider American audience by presenting stories that are rarely heard of within the faith community, and to create a space for Muslim women to share their lives honestly, across the full range of their experiences with the hope that each of the stories told will help to start conversations within families and between communities about the similarities that bind us together, while recognizing and respecting the differences that enrich us…”

Now, whether a book of this nature was the right way of addressing stereotypes, is another matter which can be dealt with separately, and in a civil and non-judgemental manner, and on a platform which would allow for authentic, free and open discussions on how we as women can go about addressing the subject matters brought out in this book.

It also seemed obvious to us that this book was not written solely for a Muslim audience.

What we liked about the book

It is refreshing to read about Muslim women in a different light from what is usually portrayed, especially mainstream media’s one-dimensional portrayal of Muslim women. And so, this book has in a way reaffirmed the many diverse shades of Muslim women.

It provides a reality check, and is a shocking revelation for some – both Muslim and non-Muslim alike; especially for the more conservative readers, about the sexual realities, personal struggles and experiences of some Muslim women on their journey to finding love. And it reinforces and reminds us in one way or the other that Muslim women face some of the same carnal demons as non-Muslim women, and that the realities of sexual relationships and intimacy before marriage, and love and lust are not alien to Muslim women. In that regard, the Authors have definitely accomplished what they set out to do, which is to use the stories of these women to challenge conventional stereotypes of Muslim women, and to create a space for Muslim women to share their lives honestly.

We also felt as though this book not only serves to challenge stereotypes and to open up discussions, but it also provided a voice for each of the women that participated in telling their stories, and a created a platform which allowed them to be authentic and open about their shared experiences as women; and we salute them for having the courage to share their stories and personal journeys so honestly and openly with the rest of us.

Some the stories were interesting and intriguing; and others were laugh out loud funny. We particularly enjoyed and found interesting the stories of some of the older contributors like Asiila Imani. Her perspective and approach on polygamy is likely to attract mixed reactions, and may cause readers to pause and reflect on their own feelings about polygamy. However, while husband sharing is not exactly an appealing idea for many women, but there are some women who are absolutely fine with this type of marriage; and the reality is that there are successful, heathy and happy polygamous marriages where there is mutual respect, love, cooperation, compromise and understanding from all the parties involved. And so, we feel that her perspective is refreshing and defies the many negative stereotypes of polygamy that exist today.

In the Chapter THREE, we are given insight into her thoughts on polygamy. On page 199 she says, “Even though I had heard that polygamy always ended in broken hearts, mayhem, and dismemberment, the idea of sharing a husband had never bothered me. I had never understood why women fought so much over men. If a man loved two women, the woman could either leave or share him. I believed women should be confident enough in themselves that they wouldn’t need to be the sole object of a man’s affections. I knew there were men who loved and supported two families with equal devotion. To me, husband sharing sounded like a perfect blend of being married and single at the same time… In short, polygamy seemed not an unholy aberration, but a sacrosanct communion between a family and God…”

Then there was ‘The Birds, The Bees and my Hole’ by Zahra Noorbakhsh. This story was laugh out loud funny and interesting at the same time. Zahra grew up in a strict Muslim home, a first-generation daughter born to Iranian Muslim parents. She recalls, a date night out to see a movie with a group of her high school female friends, only thing was, a boy – Ryan, was going to be there that particular night, and Zahra dreaded what her mum’s reaction would be if she found out Ryan was going to be at the movie. Her mum’s reaction might be a bit too blunt and raw for many, but she has a valid point, doesn’t she? “Zahra,” she cut me off, I just wanted to tell you … ” She had a distant look in her eyes, but then suddenly zeroed in on me with intense concentration. “Zahra, you have a hole. And for the rest of your life, men will want to put their penis in your hole. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, who is your ‘friend.’ Even at the movies, maman jaan, whatever – it does not change. Ri-anne seems like a very nice man, but he is a man. And all he wants is your hole. So, I will pick you up here at five O’clock…” I saw Ryan sitting in the third-row center, with an empty seat saved for me next to him… Nothing about my relationship with him [Ryan] felt platonic anymore. I felt awkward and clumpsy…I sat through all of Johnny Mnemonic with my jeans pulled up to my waist and my legs crossed tightly together. Every time my legs started to relax and slide open, I felt like I was exposing my hole to the world, and clamped them back together again. The longer I held my legs together, the angrier I became at Ryan. Look at him, all stupid-faced and smiling, sitting there dipping his disgusting hands into the greasy popcorn. This movie sucks. Why is he smiling? He’s probably thinking about holes. Gross! All I knew at that point was that, date or not, he’d better not be thinking about my hole, or I was going to kick his ass…”

We see how her mum’s crash course in sex ed impacted Zahra’s perception of sex and men in general. ” My mum’s crash course in sex ed was a scarce tactic that kept me at arms length from guys throughout my teens. American culture only reinforced that fear with the confusion surrounding sex in high school. If a girl had sex, she was either naive and sheltered or a frigid prude. The only place I felt I could be safe from judgement was asexuality: a place of fist pumps, video games, oversized black hoodies, and comfortable physical distances. But by the time I made it out high school and began college, I didn’t want to be invisible anymore. I wanted to be seen and desired, even. I was no longer hiding from “men…”

She also talked about loosing her virginity at the age of twenty-two.

What we didn’t like about the book

We admire Love, InshAllah’s bold attempt to challenge stereotypes of Muslim women. However, we felt as though the Authors needed to go a bit deeper. By this we mean that as Muslim women trying to challenge stereotypes of Muslim women, we need to in some way or the other focus on educating and enlightening both non-Muslims and Muslims alike about the Islamic perspective on the subject at hand because it is only through education that we can truly and effectively defy and challenge stereotypes and perceptions of women. This can be done in many different and creative ways.

We also felt that some of the explicit revelations, and strong blunt language used by some contributors were unnecessary. Only necessary, maybe, in their own right, for jaw dropping effect and to add some spice to the book. But still unnecessary.

Furthermore, the lifestyle practices or choices of most of the contributors as far as finding love and romance are concerned, does not represent nor reflect the Islamic approach nor perspective on such matters. So we were a bit disappointed that there was barely any reflection of Islam in this book – there was way more culture and tradition rather than Islam. And even though the Authors have pointed out that this book was not intended to be an Islamic book, the contributors have identified themselves as Muslims, and so, one would at least expect to read more about their struggles reconciling faith with finding love. What aspect did Islam or faith (if at all) play in the way they went about finding love and romance? Hence, we think the book would have had more depth and meaning had it included more of the contributors’ spiritual battle between with their faith/ religion versus battling their own carnal desires, and the cultural and social pressures of finding love.

Tolu Adiba’s story, A Prayer Answered, in particular was somewhat refreshing and eye-opening in this regard.

Sharing her story of finding love as a gay Muslim woman is utterly courageous and bold, especially since Islam has very strong textual prohibition and views on homosexuality, and because of the many stereotypes and prejudices against homosexuals that exist today, many of whom become ostracised from their community. We just don’t often hear of the struggles of gay Muslims, especially within Muslim communities, period. The subject remains very taboo. And so, Tolu’s story gives a voice to those within our communities who are battling with their sexuality and trying to reconcile their faith with their sexuality. Through her story we learn of some of the challenges and inner turmoil she faced generally in her life as a gay Muslim woman, and how those challenges impacted her life and her journey of finding love. On page 20 she writes, “I didn’t realize it then, but my conversion to Islam led me to embrace a very conservative form of Islamic belief, even though I’m rather liberal politically. I had created an identity that revolved around conservative religious piety, a sort of “ideal Muslimah,” yet that very same identity was what would cause enormous spiritual and emotional turmoil for me as I tried to understand my conflicting impulses …”

Final thoughts

Love, InshAllah is one of those books you will either love or hate. But keep an open mind. It’s bound to stir up heated debates and discussions, and raise many eyebrows in disapproval. However, each story highlights key challenges and issues that exist within Muslim communities world-wide. And whatever your feelings and thoughts are, let your voices be heard – submit a review of the book. Go get your copy today, grab a cup of tea or coffee, and let’s start talking!
Profile Image for Nina.
281 reviews
May 11, 2017
When this book was released in paperback in 2012, I rushed out and bought a copy after NPR’s Bay Area affiliate aired a lovely, thoughtful interview with one of the editors. The interview portrayed the collection of essays as snapshot of the full breadth and diversity of American Muslim women – practicing and secular, socially conservative and punk rock, gay and straight, recent immigrants, converts, African American, Arab, desi, and other -- all united around the common themes of identity and (what could be more innocuous?) love. One of the more winning pieces of writing is the intro:

Muslim women. We just can't seem to catch a break. We're oppressed, submissive and forced into arranged marriages by big, bearded men and - oh, and let's not forget, we're also all hiding explosives under our clothes. The truth is, like most women, we're independent and opinionated, and the only things hiding under our clothes are hearts yearning for love. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Muslim women, even those -- especially those -- who have never met one. As American-Muslim women, we decided this was an opportunity to raise our voices and tell our own stories.

There were a few perspectives that made me pause and see the world in a different way. The Hybrid Dance captures the insecurity and inauthenticity that African American Muslims sometimes feel when faced with Muslims of Arab or Pakistani decent, sure that an individual with hundreds if not thousands of years of Islamic heritage must be more bone fide. I found it beautiful how, in most cases, the barriers between races and ethnicities were much more porous than in American society at large. I was saddened that, having grown up in a strongly gender segregated world and made honest efforts to honor these “old world” norms as adults, many narrators were baffled as to how to encounter or even identify a promising life partner. Also, I had no idea plural marriages was a thing, even a marginal thing, in the American Muslim community.

But the quality of the writing is shaky at best. I anticipated that it would be like reading 6 months’ worth of the Nytimes’ Modern Love columns, but honestly many (most?) wouldn’t have made it out of the slush pile.

Also, though the editors were clearly trying hard to capture a diverse array of viewpoints (there’s a plural marriage! Happy arranged marriages! Hook-ups! Ladies who are single and trying to discern their needs! Divorced Moms! A daughter who accepted ostracization in order to marry the man she loved! Women falling in (deeper) love with their spouses after marriage!), the overall effect speaks less to the women's identity as Muslims in particular than to their identity as members of a conservative, recently immigrated community. The social rites and expectations that these ladies must wrestle with strike me as very similar to those of second generation Indian or Korean Americans, or frankly to those of more conservative white American Christian minority sects (Greek Orthodox, say). Which is fine -- for these women, the conflation of their recent immigrant identity with their Muslim identity is a genuine reflection of how they experience the world. I just happen to be more curious about the latter than the former, and these stories weren't written to tease out the difference. To wit:

When you live between cultures and boundaries, invisible appendages take root. Tandoori chicken with macaroni and cheese is more than a fusion food – it is the zoom lens with which one experiences the world.

A Butterfly Mosque is a more thoughtful, insightful commentary on the wrestling between American and Muslim identities, and how love and the expectations around gender roles adds complications and messiness. Meet the Patels is a more thoughtful, insightful documentary on how the dual identities of mainstream American and second generation immigrant generates confusion and paralysis on how to find love and what makes for a good partner.

Last thought: I really do love the cover design. I like how the white bokeh effect in the background suggests the infinite (Allah, religion, mysticism); the burnt orange negligee stands for intimacy without any statement of race, ethnicity, or level of practice; and the pillow top mattress creates a sense of ease, of comfort, of well-being with one's intimate life. Well done, Soft Skull Press.
Profile Image for Keisha Camila.
49 reviews11 followers
September 5, 2020
Resonated with almost every story. The struggle is real and hope is unforgiving sometimes.
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