Urban Islamic Fiction: A New Genre in Muslim Lit

Urban fiction novels have been filling up bookshelves across America for generations. Characterized by city settings and an incline towards the profane and dark, these novels are made to appeal to a mainly African-American reading audience. Urban fiction’s cousin, the Christian urban fiction genre, does not entirely exclude the profane, but instead inserts images of God and faith. Similarly, a new category of urban fiction is squeezing its way onto the bookshelf mix: urban Islamic fiction.

Differing from its Christian or irreligious counterparts, urban Islamic fiction opens up the relatively unexplored space of African-American Muslims and blended American Muslim families, which are often overlooked as part of the Muslim American community.

The Size of a Mustard Seed. Image via Amazon.

Spoken word artist Umm Juwayriyah crafts this relatively new genre with her first novel The Size of a Mustard Seed. This novel is aimed at American Muslims living in urban cities throughout America.

The novel strays away from the typically violence- or sex-based plots of urban fiction novels and instead tells the story of a single, ethnically blended American Muslim woman, Jameelah, who works as a hair stylist in a Muslim-owned-and-operated hair salon.

In addition to introducing the reader to a Muslim woman who is very much an active member of a multiracial American Muslim community, the novel tackles topics such as blended American Muslim families, Muslim marriages in America, conversion into Islam, as well as the prejudices multiracial American Muslims face from within their own community as well as from outside their community.

Unprecedented in its attempt to present Muslim American urban society and thought, urban Islamic fiction will not only serve to educate non-Muslims, but also Muslims who are unfamiliar with or even apprehensive toward blended American Muslim families or African-American Muslims—groups that are often marginalized within the greater Muslim American community.

Since this is a very new genre, I am very curious to see whether urban Islamic fiction will be primarily written by and for an African-American Muslim audience (as most urban fiction and urban Christian fiction is). It would be interesting for this genre to appeal to the ethnically diverse urban American Muslim communities consisting largely of first- and second-generation Arabs and South East Asians—perhaps urban Islamic fiction is where the narratives of these different communities can be woven together.

Thanks to Brooke for the tip!

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