Book Review: Tightrope

Official title: Tightrope

Author: Sahar Abdulaziz

Book length: 350 pages

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Djarabi Kitabs Publishing

Year of publication: 2017


Style/Summary: Set in present day America, Tightrope is a thrilling suspense-filled tale of the triumph of good over evil. The author introduces the story with a brief prologue which I almost skipped but it turned out to be very vital in understanding the story. The story’s protagonist, activist and social justice advocate, Nour Ibrahim, while dealing with emails and cryptic messages from an anonymous online racist bully, is secretly struggling with an ugly illness which eventually turns out to be her saving grace. Other characters in the book represent different aspects of the current American socio-political situation. However, they are relatable in so many ways and their feelings, fears, and aspirations can be felt through the author’s brilliant use of language and her general portrayal of these individuals.

Some of the themes explored in this novel include racism, xenophobia, love, family,religion, mental illness and so on. The characters, through their everyday lives, show the importance of unity and solidarity in the face of oppression and prejudice. One of my favourite things about the author’s style is how she dedicates chapters to each character. This gives the reader the chance to understand each character’s point of view without, for lack of a better word, getting interrupted by another character’s voice. Another great thing about the chapters is the length with each chapter being about 3 – 5 pages long. This is perfect for readers who have a short attention span and who are only interested in taking in small amounts of information at a time.

Of all the characters, Maryam’s story is a personal favourite and I’m certain that her life would be relatable to many people, men and women alike, who come into Islam from cultures or countries where Muslims are a minority. Maryam faces rejection from her family and even some part of the Muslim community for her choice to be Muslim. Even when things look bleak, she does not give up.

Overall, each character expresses themselves, both in thought and action, in ways that will either make the reader sigh and nod or cringe in utter disgust. I especially enjoyed reading about the love connections and the eventual death of the antagonist, Russell J. Tetler.

This novel is so relevant at the moment because of the state of politics in America. It highlights the value of safe spaces, the need for a strong support system, the beauty and meaning of family, and the importance of solidarity and unity in the face of injustice. Tightrope shows that beyond the political rhetoric and debates, actual lives are affected by the words spoken and actions taken. The author, like many before her, shows the essence and importance of social justice and political fairness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and even though it started out a little slow, it picked up the pace and had me on the edge of my seat sooner than later. Much praise to the author for her brilliant work.

Rating: 4/5.

Book Review: A Taste of Honey

Official Title: A Taste of Honey – Sexuality and Erotology in Islam

Author: Habeeb Akande

Book Length: 333

Publisher: Rabaah Publishers

Style/Summary: A Taste of Honey explains and showcases the importance of sexual enlightenment in Islam. The title of the book was actually derived from a hadith narrated by A’ishah (R.A.) and it can be found in the first chapter. The book commences with an introduction that focuses on the sharia and sexuality, differences between erotology and sexology, decline of erotology and other matters. It is divided into two main parts and the first part deals with issues such as modesty and prudery, sexual desire in both men and women, beauty, fidelity & infidelity and many more underlying issues of sexual ethics in Islam. The second part delves into much deeper matters such as the art of lovemaking itself, spiritual & psychological benefits of sexual intercourse, desirable traits in men and women, various love-making positions and much more.

Many individuals, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have been drawn into this false narrative about Islam being a religion that is practiced by sexually oppressed people as there is no room for honest discussions about sex and related issues. The book essentially tries to dismiss this notion by drawing from the work of early Islamic scholars, stories from individuals around the Prophet (S.A.W), the Quran, contemporary research findings, and hadith narrations. It reminds us that our predecessors lived a full life; sexually, socially, and spiritually. The lives of the early Muslims show that a sexual act, within the bounds of marriage of course, is in fact an act of worship and they revelled in the joy that the pleasure of Allah could be gotten by seeking pleasure with their spouses.

downloadMy favourite part(s) of the book happen to be the opening quote and the conclusion. The conclusion talks about the superiority of the love of Allah by his creatures over all types of love. The author reminds us that while seeking sexual love and pleasure with our partners is essential, love for the creator should be paramount in the heart of every Muslim and this love should be unconditional. The opening is a beautiful quote by Jalal ad-Din As-Suyuti: “This is my faith as well as my ancestors’ and the profession of my father before me – the faith of the lovers and the religion of the beloved”.

Speaking on research however, I found it strange that the author used certain hadith that are considered weak. Even though he stated in the footnotes that the chains of transmission of such narrations were weak, I find that it can still be confusing to the reader such that one is armed with knowledge that is not generally accepted or is straight up wrong. Also, the paperback I purchased had a couple of typographical errors. Hopefully, this is something that the publisher would fix in later editions.

I recommend this book for young people, married or single, and really anyone who is interested in learning about the place of sexuality and sexual enlightenment in Islam. The author also should be applauded for his research efforts as the book definitely touched a lot of areas that other books on Islam and sex skip over.

Overall, A Taste of Honey was a great, informative read and it was definitely worth every minute for me.

Rating: 4/5.