Title: Amina’s Voice
Author: Hena Khan
Genre: Middle Grade/Juvenile Fiction
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Released: March 2017
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
Source: I borrowed a copy from Abu Dhabi Children’s Library.
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
“I could barely pronounce Khokhar myself until I was at least eight. And since I don’t want to embarrass anyone by correcting them more than once, I just let them say my name any way they want.”
– Amina’s Voice, by Hena Khan
Amina’s Voice focuses on the life of a typical eleven-year-old girl going through phases of turmoil in the realm of friendship, and dealing with self-acceptance and self-doubt, all the while keeping up with studies and family issues. The story also touches on one of the most important aspects of life – harmony and tolerance of one another. Despite the differences of religion and faith, in times of crisis, there is just one community – the one of humanity.
Among the characters, I loved Amina’s mother, Mama, the most. She reminds me of a mother bear who is always there to protect her child no matter what, and who is there for her physically and emotionally. I also love Imam Malik’s character – a medley of calm, fun, caring, and a brave soul. Character development of all characters were good, except for Thaya Jaan, Amina’s paternal uncle. I couldn’t connect with him well.
Reading the blurb of the book, I assumed this would be an Islamic-themed fiction where Amina’s Voice would mean voicing out her opinion to make a difference in her world. However, I feel it is more of a cultural fiction with Islam as the religion of the main characters. The story is set in America and as such, I feel it caters mainly to the audience in the West.
Through the story, it is shown to the reader that though one interpretation of Islam doesn’t approve of certain issues like music, and taking part in pagan festivities, there is another opinion of Islam that approves of them. The former opinion is shown as being strict or orthodox, whereas the latter is shown as liberal.
Time to get technical 😄 :
I do understand that in matters of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), there are differences of opinions between maddhabs (schools of thoughts), but there are certain issues wherein they all agree on, such as music being forbidden, and avoiding pagan festivities (especially Halloween) – both of which the story condones.
Islam is based on one shariah (law), but the rulings differ according to situations, time, place, etc. And though each madhhab has its own ruling, they don’t differ on the haram being halal or the halal being haram. But when it comes to sects of Islam, then the difference is not only in the ruling, but also in the belief system. So the domino effect takes place here, where when there is a change in the core, the direction and the way of life (= Islam) changes too.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “What is lawful is clear and what is unlawful is clear, but between them are certain doubtful things which many people do not know. So he who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and his honour blameless. But he who falls into doubtful things falls into that which is unlawful, just as a shepherd who grazes his cattle in the vicinity of a pasture declared prohibited (by the king); he is likely to stray into the pasture. Mind you, every king has a protected pasture and Allah’s involved limits is that which He has declared unlawful. Verily, there is a piece of flesh in the body, if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Verily, it is the heart.” (Riyad as-Salihin, Book 1, Hadith 588)
Overall, it was a good read for me, a good Muslim-authored fiction, but definitely not an Islamic-fiction.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the book if you have read it 🙂