The Split In My Bookshelf Is A Moon

Pages Of My Heart

It is said that there are a species of people who, in order to achieve their goals, must wake up each day with the mantra ‘I am a writer’. Similarly prophetic tradition dictates that it is highly recommended for the Muslim to rise from sleep with remembrance of Allah, an act which should instil in that individual the appreciation that one mustn’t forget Islam for a single moment.

I believe these two formulas struggle as a partnership.

I am a writer. I am a Muslim. I find that I myself am unable to fulfil both roles fully and simultaneously. I believe it can be achieved. However there is no blueprint; in the contemporary era there are very few examples of uncompromisingly practicing Muslim creatives. It is often as obvious as an abandoned hijab or open adoption of a heretical concept, but there are examples like Hanif Kureishi that have grown to detest the religion. On the other hand I’ve observed several fantastic wordsmiths diluting their creative juices and/or evolving into unrelenting preachers.

Despite having led a da`wah table in central London for four years, I am far from being a fan of straight-to-the-point propagation, so I’m unlikely ever to apply my skills to the mediums that so many of my co-religionists have. I’m sure this is neglect of my duty given the sub-standard writing we find in our Islamic bookshelves.

Much of my inspiration is sourced from the pre-Islamic period of my life. I’m a nostalgia-freak. For me to feature overt Islam in very much of my work would be to play me far out of position and effectively neuter my pen. Yet it is obvious that the better I become and the deeper I immerse myself in stories the lower my imaan drops.

I wish to be a writer who also happens to be a Muslim in the same way as a shoe manufacturer needs only maintain honest trading. Words are far more enduring than plimsolls though, and take far more from the (non-rubber) soul. I am as compelled to writing as a mosquito is to blood, although it is a struggle to find a Muslim brother or sister that believes me.

There are major compromises one is required to make in order to be a successful author (or otherwise) devoted to Islam, unless one’s inclination is the world of non-fiction. I have experienced a handful already and I am still three years away from the landmark age of thirty when a good proportion of writers conjure their first substantial piece of work.

This path is dimly lit because of the traditionally negative view Muslims take of the creative industries (squeezing our numbers down) and also due to the fractured relationships between creators. In the Muslim community I have found black writers to be suspicious of white counterparts, unskilled performers to dislike being on a bill with talented showmen, and liberal journalists to distrust conservative contributors despite the limited readership and scope of our products.

I am dealing with my own internal battle, but between Pablo Neruda and night supplication there is no direction to turn today for me or the biros that follow.

Image: flickr

Lori ‘Zakariyya’ King
Performance poet and budding short-story writer

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