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Book Review of 'Resilience: Stories of Muslim Women'

I read ‘Resilience: Stories of Muslim Women’ by Shubha Menon recently. The author, who belongs to one of my writing groups, requested a review of the book and also sent me a review copy. The foreword is by Syeda Hameed. Syeda Hameed established the Muslim Women’s Forum in 2001.

The author, Shubha Menon, has documented the life of Muslim girls and women of Nizamuddin Basti in Delhi. She discusses the origin of the basti, how it became a magnet for displaced Muslims and goes on to outline “scenes from the medieval ages” in the basti. Sordid realities such as the practice of halala and mutah are discussed, which are used to terrorise women.

The author shares the story of Farida, who has five sisters. By the time Farida was sixteen, she was a mother of two and abandoned.  She had been only accorded the status of a domestic servant. Her husband had cruelly divorced her saying “ Log teen bar talaq datein hain, mein tumhein hazaar baar talaq deta hoon.” After a few years, he had the gall to want to reconcile and have one wife in the city and another in the village. But by then, Farida had a job, self-respect and dignity, so she refused.

Shabnam Hashmi transformed Farida’s life and the lives of several young girls. Shabnam Hashmi is the central woman who transforms the lives of the girls she meets through the Seher Adult Education Centre. She started SAHMAT and ANHAD (
 , two organizations to “promote secularism, human rights and communal harmony,” according to Wikipedia. In 2017, she became an independent activist.

I also learned about the Tablighi Jamaat — a ‘”fast-growing ultra-orthodox Islamic movement”— which was started in 1926 by Islamic scholar Maulana Muhammed Ilyas. “It is guesstimated that there are 12 to 80 million members spread across more than 150 countries.” says the author.

The author tells the stories of several other Muslim girls; some who have discarded the burqa and others who have risen from the ashes after their husbands deserted them. Seema Mustafa whom the author describes as an “elite Muslim,” says, “The problem is that the Quran is written in heavy Arabic and has been interpreted mainly by the clergy. Scholarly interpretations see the Quran in a much more progressive light.”

Muslims are a community that is much misunderstood and maligned. This book is an important read since it reveals much about the religion that is unclear to people of other faiths. It is also a feminist work since it outlines the stories of resilient Muslim women.

The book has been published by Frontpage publications. Shubha Menon’s first novel is The Second Coming, which was published by Harper Collins.


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