What Does It Mean to Be a Muslim Writer?


Some Notes Against the Burden of Representation.

by Rahat Kurd

In the 2018 biographical film MANTO, directed by Nandita Das, the Urdu fiction writer Ismat Chughtai selects a pine nut from the handful in her palm and cracks it open with her teeth. She’s in a shoe store with her friends, the writer Saadat Hasan Manto and his wife, Safia Manto. While Safia tries on a pair of sandals to wear to an upcoming wedding in her family, Ismat and Saadat trade rueful jokes about their feet. The two Indian writers have gained renown for bringing a progressive outlook to Urdu literature, for their innovations on the modern short story form, and for their collaborative friendships with actors and screenwriters. The blunt social realism of their stories has drawn accusations of obscenity from the public, and each writer has recently defended their work in court. But in that moment, all is well. It’s a sunny …


Our Place.

by Mona’a Malik

There are only a few days in town that really blister, the kind of days that smell like hot garbage. And that quickly shifts into snow and months of rain. And drizzle and fog and dampness that settles into clothes and skin. It had just started to get warm again. Warm for June in St. John’s. Rebecca said that goldenrod reminded her of our first summer—there were bunches sprouting all over Davis Park near our high school—us rolling around in the weeds after basketball practice. A year ago. Burdock in our clothes when we got home—tiny stalks of grass down our t-shirts, staining and itching at our skin. I smiled, kissed her neck, the little line that reached down her collarbone. The taste of sweet sweat almost cloying. My arm slid around her shoulder, moving down to her waist. She kissed my cheek. “You remember?” …

Seven Lists.

by Shawk Alani

2X17 It took seventeen minutes for the policemen to arrive. I was standing at the edge of the front lawn, balancing on the curb, encumbered by both ...

Excerpt from Blood Towers.

by Tariq Malik

Of all the things he said I can recall only two: He said it all begins at the churning He said this world and its inhabitants are the color of half-...


Hagar Poems: A Selected Reading.

by Mohja Kahf

— No, I am awake Mary, have been listening for this call   — Yes, you will bring forth beauty I, Zekariah, always knew   from “Mary Phones Her Old High School Teacher from the University Library at 4 a.m.”   In Hagar Poems, Mohja Kahf continues a venerable feminist practice: the reclamation of sacred texts. Focusing on the lives of women revered in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Kahf gives primary place to Hajar, the young Black woman whose trials on facing exile in the Hijazi desert would form a crucial junction between the Abrahamic faiths and the inspiration for a number of significant Hajj rituals. Celebrated as the mother of Ismail, progenitor of the miracle of Zamzam, and founder of Mecca, Hajar and her life before the point of exile have nevertheless remained obscure within conventional Islamic tradition. It is her personal history, in …

Field Marks.

by Laboni Islam

Sometimes I go birding without binoculars, without lenses to augment my own. Identifying a bird has to do with quick discernment of detail, often fr...

Two Poems.

by Amal Rana

Iftah Ya Simsim In the streets of Al Nasiriyah or was it Al Nassriyah? Nasriyaah? Bhai jaan, do you remember the bougainvillea vine escaping our spi...

Two Poems.

by Fred Pond

The Strangest of the Pilgrims are Companions The silkworm warms the dragon’s tail scaled golden. A mirror wears the silkworm’s veil, invisible tonig...

For Immigrant Parents.

by Manahil Bandukwala

Your father doesn’t appear in poems because it’s your mother’s hands that feed hungry mouths, your mother bouncing babies on one knee, nudging bedro...

Two Poems.

by Sumayya Syed

Look at the Moon “Look at the moon and tell me what you see: Is the moon half-empty or half-full?” I do not want to sound crazy. So I tip-toe around...


by Anis Shivani

The distance, from gryphons of stone stuck in place, from the young Muslim woman who grows up in such few square meters (the star Delta Gruis is fru...

Four Poems.

by Wend Yasen

Secret #3: I Hate What I’ve Become. I have never been prone to honesty. Swallowing the thorns of truth, still, I prefer the leaves of dishones...

Two Poems.

by Efemeral

Cardiopathy baby sister, listen: my people got me feelin so I step up real quick to protect em, right? jihad-fi-sabeel an-nas I gotta save the peopl...


Making Peace With English: What I Learned from Reading in French.

by Barâa Arar

On his release from prison in the spring of 1962, Ahmed Ben Bella proclaimed: “Nous sommes des Arabes! We are Arabs!”1 When I first came across his declaration, I laughed under my breath. The Algerian freedom fighter who later became the country’s first president triumphantly proclaimed his Arabness (and that of his fellow Algerians) in the tongue of the foreign occupier. His three simple words, spoken in the colonial language he rejected, demonstrate that no matter how hard we try to construct pure, coherent identities, elements of our complex histories creep up and expose us. I am the child of parents who came to Canada from two different countries. This duality had less significance for me growing up than it did for adults within my Muslim community. Tunisian congregants at the mosque would ask: “So you’re more Tunisian than Syrian, right?” And whenever my father’s …