A Busy Novel That Mirrors The Lives of Everyday Muslim Women
It’s Monday. I have moved my work desk into my bedroom because it’s warmer and cosier in there. The air is dry and dusty and my windows are locked. I feel a mix of emotions as I begin to write this review, looking back at the day I got a request to review this book and searching for any expectations I might have had before delving into it. I find none. I was scrolling through my phone on a Sunday afternoon when an email notification popped up. I checked and found that it was a book review request. The author, Muti’ah Badruddeen, a Nigerian Muslim woman based in Saudi Arabia, had just published a Muslim fiction titled “Rekiya and Z”. I love any book about Muslim identity, especially when it’s centred around women. And this little detail was all I needed to dive into it.
‘Rekiya and Z’ is a story written from the points of view of two women, who are both bound by ties of faith and friendship. Rekiya is the product of an inter-tribal and inter-religious secret marriage; the unacknowledged daughter of one of the richest businessmen in the country. Zaynunah, on the other hand, is from a modest Muslim home. The two women met as high school teenagers, having no idea where their friendship would take them. Along the line, their relationship was strained by the heart-wrenching power of unresolved trauma and spiritual meltdown only to be rekindled years later by a mutual loss. But what happens after they reunite? How do they begin to unravel the baggage that has held them back? Can their friendship stretch a little longer?
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Gripping, all-encompassing, and poignant, ‘Rekiya and Z’ is set in the author’s home country, Nigeria, in Ibadan, the largest city in West Africa. The book opens doors. It tells a profound story of self-discovery and spiritual evolution, unveiling the characters’ past struggles and exploring the nuances of what makes us who we are. It offers insights into the strange workings of the human mind, as mini-battles play out within its complex chambers. It reveals the trials and tribulations of being a woman and explores it all from a religious lens.
‘Rekiya and Z’ is a small but busy book that explores a diverse range of themes; sure to spark conversations along the lines of grief and loss, trauma and healing, gender-based violence, spiritual struggle, Muslim Identity, love and relationships, polygamy and the diverse realities of Muslim women against the background of Nigeria.
Length: The book is just 270 pages long. It’s fascinating how the author could weave a complex range of themes into a concise read.
Relatability: The author gave the characters such depth and relatability that I found myself crying in between it all. I could relate to the two main characters in ways that seemed like my life was being presented to me in a book. It was a heavy read. I had to put it down at some points to shed tears. And I think that in a way, it has made me more aware of myself. The author touches, strokes, triggers and lures, and I have given this priceless book my heart. ‘Rekiya and Z’ is one of its kind. There’s the inclusion of du’as for healing and highly reflective statements that would cause you to rethink a lot of things. The book is infused with so many lessons and reflective takeaways.
Authentic Representation: Shunning conventional simplistic narratives about Muslim women, the book is unapologetic in its portrayal of Islam and Muslims. The characters aren’t just some women with Muslim names to gloss over genuine Muslim culture. It revealed the fact that as humans, we all face everyday struggles with our faith; that our Iman oscillates like a pendulum and that all we need to recoup is empathy and support as opposed to the vilification that we face in our communities. This is a topic we don’t often talk about and this book will surely open up conversations along this line.
The portrayal of Women: Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m very big on the rights of Muslim women in our communities. ‘Rekiya and Z’ is a celebration of everything that is ‘woman’. It celebrates strong female friendships and does a very good job at portraying religious Muslim women as strong, independent, and financially liberated, driving home the point once again that Muslim women do have agency.
Separation of Religion from Culture: In the past, I’ve read Muslim fictions that had me asking if certain things were part of Islam or just some cultural baggage that we brought into it. ‘Rekiya and Z’ is not one of those. The author did a great job, showing that culture and faith are worlds apart from each other.
A Painfully-Beautiful Ending: Just when you begin to feel flutters of joy in your heart, the author sends you another hard-hitting blow, leaving your heart hurting over again.
– Trigger Warnings
– Childhood Trauma
– Sexual Assault
“You sabotage relationships. You tell yourself you couldn’t possibly be good enough, that things must be too good to be true. And you pull back. Or worse, you wait for the other shoe to drop. You never let things just be right.”
“With so many factors against us, and so many people ready to dismiss us, victimize us, condescend to us, was it really too much to ask that our menfolk — those with whom we supposedly shared a faith, an ideal, and our very lives — support us?”
“I think love is a verb, something you do. A choice. And choosing to love a man you know cannot fulfil your needs just so you can be in a relationship is asking for misery”
“But you have to stop treating relationships like a credit transaction — afraid to give too much when the other party isn’t making adequate repayment deposits.”
“The pain does not go away; time does blunt the edges. The sharp lances become dull aches, they scab over and we heal the best we can. The invisible scars, occasional twinges and aches … are the lasting reminders of all we have lost”
It’s a ‘must-read’. The book can be purchased on Amazon, eBay, Indigo and Xlibris. Both physical copy and ebook versions are available.
Wardah Abbas is a lawyer turned full-time writer. She has been published in various magazines, online media platforms and anthologies. She is particularly passionate about women’s liberation and dismantling the global patriarchy and is currently co-working on a book on human rights for Muslim women. When she is not running around with her two-year-old toddler, taking online coding classes on Pluralsight or bleeding out honest words on Medium, She can be found struggling to meet’s a client’s deadline on a writing assignment. Catch up with her on twitter @Wardah_abbas or Medium @Wardahabbas