Sandcastles and Snowmen

I find it interesting when I hear people refer negatively to interested Auntie figures in the Muslim community because I wanted and craved a religiously concerned Aunt when I was a teenager. Someone who would take the time to care about how I was managing with the various issues related to practising faith in the face of all the complexities of my contemporary climate … including all of the unkind rhetorical questions people threw at me to knock me, a believer, down.

But I suppose not every Auntie is as ideal as the figment in my imagination because day to day we humans are all susceptible to swaying somewhat from ideal intentions when we reach out to try and guide others. And I remember from my teenage experience being very susceptible to emotional wounds from contentious topics that I felt were in any way entangled with my pulled, pushed, and confused emerging identity.

Sandcastles and Snowmen COVERSometimes a written guide is much more fitting, reliable, and helpful to begin processing issues from the macro level of society that impact us personally. Since we know a book has a beginning, middle, and end, its invitation to self-improve along a journey is more attractive than an invitation to talk to a community elder whose constancy in faith emits an illusion of inaccessible status quo. As a general rule community members do not uncover their sins and pitfalls, which is good practice, but it can mean we look at ourselves – in knowledge of our own shortcomings – and feel inadequate to approach someone or unable to open up.

In Sandcastles and Snowmen Sahar El-Nadi is open about her journey to rediscovering Islam. She discusses a long list of topics related to being Muslim and getting on with being so today.

For example, her topics include: The Culture of Instant Gratification; What Makes a Person a Practising Muslim?; Pigs, Dogs, Fashion and Sex; Diversity Vs. Conformity; Why Some Muslims Don’t Shake Hands; Define Gender Equality?; First Islamic Universities; Cultural Dilemma of New Muslims and Immigrants; and Art: A Tool for Conflict Resolution.

Saha El-Nadi is a public speaker and her easy-to-read spoken flow comes through in her writing – I felt I sensed her smiling to me in some passages.

With so many topics covered, Sandcastles and Snowmen is the kind of book I like to dip into every now and again – much in the way I like to approach peers and elders every so often to learn and to process various issues. I still haven’t finished the whole book, but I think it will take me years insha’Allah, and you may have missed out on finding it this year if I waited until then to write my review. And I wouldn’t like to deny you anything that can help you stand up as a Muslimah and yourself.

Find-ability is my concern about the book. Although the title is fitting for the book, as it is explained in its introductory pages, the name of the book may be an obstacle to discovery by potential readers. Also the gendered snowmen irritates me a little.

So, based upon my experience of the book, and directly using text from page seventeen, I like to refer to the book as Let’s Shift Illusions and Talk Islam: Saha El-Nadi Shares Joys, Pains, and Discoveries Like the Auntie You Always Wanted. What fond title will you give to Sandcastles and Snowmen when you start reading it?

{Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children  like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.}

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Hadeed (the iron) 57:20

Elizabeth Lymer is the Editor for Young Muslimah Magazine. Alhamdulillah she is in the habit of frequently making time for the processes of reading and writing, even if her visible achievements are few. You can find all of her writing sites via http://www.elizabethlymer.co.uk. She is on Twitter @elizabethlymer.

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