English Language Islamic Fiction (ELIF)
Before Islamic Fiction Was Defined
Fiction has been written by Muslims for hundreds of years but not recognized under this label. The lack of publishing opportunities in the Muslim publishing industry for Muslim fiction writers for reading levels beyond young children’s color picture books did not deter some Muslim writers. A very few managed in the early 1990s to get their fiction stories published.
From 1993-1995 Uthman Hutchinson was able to get his Juvenile mystery series Invincible Abdullah published by Aziza. When written and published the author and the publisher did not categorize the series as fiction or Islamic fiction.
Another Muslim fiction writer to successfully get her book series published is Umm Zakiyyah’s Tamika Douglass Trilogy beginning with If I Should Speak published in 2001. The book series was not originally categorized by the author and publisher as Islamic fiction.
There were also Islamic fiction writers who were not as successful as Br. Hutchinson and Sister Zakiyyah in getting their fiction work published. Around this same period of time Sister Rukhsana Khan, tried unsuccessfully to get her fiction stories published by Muslim publishers. Sister Rukhsana Khan (Canada) is one of the earliest known Muslim fiction writers to recognize the distinction between fiction and Islamic fiction. Sister Khan decided to write fiction stories which excluded religious content and publish her work in the mainstream book industry. Her fiction stories focus on culture and non-religious topics that are acceptable to the mainstream publishing industry. Her story is explained in an article she wrote, Muslim Books I Can’t Recommend by Rukhsana Khan: www.rukhsanakhan.com/muslim_books_i_can’t_recommend.htm
Another Islamic fiction writer who recognized the distinction between fiction and Islamic fiction is Yahiya Emerick. Running into the same problems with the Muslim publishing industry for fiction stories as other Muslim fiction writers, Yahiya Emerick decided to self-published his first youth mystery book series, Ahmed Deen in (1996). Brother Emerick labeled his series Islamic fiction. He has since had his Islamic fiction successfully published with a Muslim publisher (or two) and continues to write and publish Islamic fiction books for youth and teens. He wrote an article about his struggles as an Islamic fiction writer titled, Islamic Fiction: A Worthwhile Struggle by Yahiya Emerick. The article was originally published in the July/August edition of IQRA Newspaper 2008, Page 6. Yahiya Emerick chose to stick with writing Islamic fiction rather than choose publication of his fiction stories with a mainstream fiction publisher. Yahiya Emerick is thought of by many as the “father” of Juvenile Islamic fiction. He has authored over a dozen non-fiction books and has spent the last twenty years as an educator in private and public schools.
The author of this article has not located any other Muslim fiction author defining his/her work as Islamic fiction prior to Br. Emerick.
Another Islamic fiction writer who described and labeled her fiction stories as Islamic fiction before the Islamic fiction category was professionally developed and defined by the IWA organization was Linda D. Delgado. She wrote the Islamic Rose Books series in 2001and 2002. When failing to obtain publishing in the Muslim publishing industry, in 2003 she self-published her Islamic Rose Books series: www.widad-lld.com. The series was republished in 2006. A credible book review at the Islamic Education Foundation for the series is published at: http://www.islamicedfoundation.com/rose_book.htm
Establishing Islamic Fiction as a Sub-Category of Adult and Juvenile Fiction
In the mid 1990’s and during the next decade (2001-2011), this new style of Muslim fiction writing began to grow among Muslim fiction writers— predominately by Muslims living in westernized countries or Muslims having come to Islam as converts. Muslim writers began creating fiction stories which included Islamic religious topics or referenced Islamic religious practices within the stories. Many of these Islamic fiction stories are written in diverse genres and at different reading levels: youth chapter books, novels specifically targeting Muslim teens, and novels for young adults and adults. The Islamic fiction writers intend for readers to learn something positive about Islam when reading their stories. The stories are creative, imaginative, and non-preachy. Many of the stories focus on contemporary Muslims living in modern times.
In 2005 and 2006 the Islamic Writers Alliance (IWA), a professional Muslim organization based in the USA with an International membership, took on the work of defining Islamic fiction and determining the criteria to establish it as a fiction sub-category of Adult and Juvenile fiction. The membership then began the process of identifying published Islamic fiction books that were at that time described as Muslim authored books or children’s books in the Muslim book industry. The founder of IWA, Linda D. Delgado, created the Islamic Fiction Books blog to list Islamic fiction books including author names, book titles and when known the locations where the books can be located.
Readers of Islamic fiction want books with book characters, plots, themes, and geographical settings they can identify with. The number of genre and number of Islamic fiction authors is growing despite the Muslim book industry’s lack of publishing Islamic fiction books for Muslim readers.
Not all Islamic Fiction books written and published are identified by author and/or publisher as Islamic fiction. Some Muslim fiction writers are unaware of the work being done to categorize fiction books written by Muslims as: Main Category of Adult or Juvenile Fiction, sub- category Islamic Fiction, (genre) of Fiction.
The Muslim publishing industry has made no attempt to do what the IWA organization and Muslim Writers Publishing business has done to develop, define, and promote Islamic fiction for Muslim readers and especially for Muslim students in Pre K through 12th grades.
The majority of Islamic fiction being published today is in the English language. However, in the last seven to eight years Muslim writers of Islamic fiction in other languages have been seeking English language translation and republishing in the USA for sale and distribution in westernized English speaking countries.
There also is an emerging trend with some foreign language Muslim publishers to seek out English language Islamic fiction books and translate the stories into a different language and republish. Most notably are the countries of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Islamic Fiction Genre and Age Appropriate Examples
Islamic Fiction is being written in many fiction genres. In the last 10 years the diversity of genre has grown and includes such books as:
- The Size of a Mustard Seed authored by Maryam Sullivan. The book is the first Urban Islamic fiction book published. Teen-YA and Adult.
- Sophia’s Journey: Time Warp 1857, a teen novel authored by Najiyah Diana Helwani.
- Muslim Pitfalls and Pranks, a teen novel authored by Maryam Mahmoodian.
- Boy vs. Girl, a teen novel authored by Na’ima B. Robert.
- The Gift, an adult romance novel authored by Zaipah Ibrahim.
- Echoes series, Young Adult-Adult: a five-book modern day Muslim family saga authored by Jamilah Kolocotronis.
- Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel, a fantasy novel by Irving Karchmar. Young Adult-Adult: This book has been translated into eight languages other than English.
- Eid Series and over twenty other children’s books authored by Fawzia Gilani-Williams.
- Tap-Tap and Circles of Hope, children’s cultural books by author Karen Lynn Williams.
- Acorn & Berry book series, a children’s mystery series authored by Sajda Nazlee.