Mustard seed’s the word. And it’s marked my conversion to fictional literature. But not just any type of literature: Urban Islamic Fiction courtesy of Miss Umm Juwayriyah a.k.a. Maryam Sullivan. Thank you very much. Jazaha Allahu khair.
You know, I hated fiction before. Like detested it. Picking up a contemporary novel in mainstream American bookstores isn’t like looking at the ingredients on the back of an item in a supermarket to see if it is halal. If I read the back of a book these days, even it’s about Islam, you don’t know what will be thrown at you. Profanity, nudity, prejudice, you don’t know what you’re getting in to. So if it wasn’t non-fiction or completely out of this world sci-fi/fantasy (while still being clean and non-dark-side), or conversely, wasn’t in the classics section of the bookstore or library, I wasn’t reading it. On the other side of things, upon finding a delectable non-fiction work in the Islamic bookstore, it most likely was rife with typos and all sorts of grammatical mistakes, not to mention a serious lack of liveliness on the part of the author. All that to say, reading The Size of a Mustard Seed is a breath of fresh air for the Muslim who wants to read books that benefits one in this life and the next.
If you haven’t heard about it and haven’t read it, well, you may need to rethink your socialization. And by the way, I am a big cheerleader for hermithood, but even this hermit got wind of this book. The Size of a Mustard Seed is a beautiful piece of literature. Umm Juwayriyah does a brilliant job of making us believe her characters are real people! She writes the stories that American Muslims can identify with…she’s writes your story, my story, our story of imperfect Muslims trying our best to hold on to the rope of Allah. The Size of a Mustard Seed is truly inspirational, and not preachy like some Islamic fiction books tend to be. It’s just life, and it’s that simple. That book got me writing, and gave me the nerve to start this here blog. It’s even inspired me so much that I made a necklace in its namesake for a dear friend of mine.
Now you must think, what kind of crazy person am I to make a necklace off a book? Am I some obsessive compulsive book junkie? Well, I am a book junkie and I have diagnosed myself with OCD, but the true story of how I got to making this necklace goes a little something like this.
I was looking for a birthday gift for my bestie. I knew I wanted to give her this book as soon as I read it, but I wanted to give her something more personal as well, such as jewelry. Then I thought, what if I found a necklace with a mustard seed in it to give her to pair with the book and remind her of the essential premise of the book: putting one’s faith and trust in Allah? So began my Google search for mustard seed necklaces on OCD overdrive. However, all of the mustard seed necklaces I found were made by Christian groups and were either in the shape of a cross or had some Biblical verse on it. I got real close to buying one of them (I found one website with mustard seed necklaces galore!), but then decided that we don’t know which verses of the Bible are really from the Truth since it’s changed so much, even if the message on the necklace was “universal”, “non-denominational”, or just nonexistent.
Then I remembered that once upon a time, not too long ago before motherhood, I used to be an art teacher trained in all of the mediums. So I went into my stash of artistic supplies…and out came this:
Twenty-four inches in length of a mélange of wire, clay, beads, seeds (yes, those are mustard seeds paired with seed beads–I wasn’t kidding), glass, and recycled sari fabric. And I made those beads by hand too…alhamdulillah! The main pendant has the word “sabr” written in it in Arabic, for “patience”, as this was the main test for the main character of the book, Jameelah Salih, who was anxiously awaiting for somebody to love…and to love her in return. The story takes place during Ramadan and it should be on your Eid-ul-Fitr gift list, either to give or receive! It’s a great book to get your spirits up, and (unlike me, who read it in April) I’m sure reading it in Sha’ban or Shawwal will do wonders for the soul! The only reason I’m not mentioning reading it during Ramadan is because I’m OC about the precedence of reading the Qur’an in Ramadan. Speaking of which, reading this book made me look up the word “mustard seed” in the Qur’an, which in turn, led me to read Surah Luqman. This sister is getting a lot of sadaqa jariya already from this book I think!
“O my son!” (said Luqman), “If there be (but) the weight of a mustard-seed and it were (hidden) in a rock, or (anywhere) in the heavens or on earth, Allah will bring it forth: for Allah understands the finest mysteries, (and) is well-acquainted (with them). (Surah Luqman 31:16)
But that’s all I’m going to say! You need to get the book, and while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Azizah Magazine‘s Ramadan Issue (Volume 6, Issue 2) where my official book review for The Size of a Mustard Seed is featured! This is my first published writing as an adult and I’m very excited about it! By now you’ll probably find the breadcrumbs I’ve left all over the internet in regards to this book (just check your favorite online book retailer’s review section). You can’t tell me you don’t know who Umm J’s biggest fan is! And if you think I’m a little too enthusiastic about this book to take my opinion, dropping book reviews everywhere and such, then don’t take my sole word for it! There’s buzz from others as well, and it’s all overwhelmingly positive. Saara from Ummah Reads is excited about the book and hasn’t even read it. And Diana from Muslimah Media Watch and Brooke from Rolling Ruminations wrote their own blog book reviews. And as for me, I will be pasting a scan of my book review for The Size of a Mustard Seed right here as soon as it is published for those of you who don’t subscribe to Azizah! Let me know what you think! There’s more to come from me in that magazine insh’Allah!
12/21/10 UPDATE: As promised, here is a scan of my book review for The Size of a Mustard Seed in Azizah’s Vol.6 Issue 2!