If I Should Speak is the first novel from U.S. author Umm Zakiyyah. The novel tells of three college students, their new friendship, and spiritual challenges faced by each young woman. Tamika, a Christian and a student of religion, has many questions for her Muslim roommates, Aminah and Dee. Her interest in Islam begins as academic curiosity, but to Tamika’s surprise and confusion, she finds herself drawn toward the faith. As Tamika explores, Aminah and Dee also ask themselves questions about what faith means in their own lives.
Aminah is a disciplined young woman, committed to practicing her religion to the best of her ability. In contrast, Dee, who has known Aminah since childhood, has moved away from many religious observances. Often Tamika looks from one woman to the other, trying to determine the best path to follow.
Through Tamika’s questions and Aminah’s explanations about Islam, readers can learn quite a bit about the basics of the faith. There are brief passages of Qur’an, with chapter and verse mentioned in the text or in footnotes. Their conversations are realistic, and readers unfamiliar with the faith may find many of their own questions answered. Occasionally the teaching element feels heavy-handed, but the novel provides a great way for readers to learn about Islam through fiction. This book would be a good addition to high school, college, and masjid libraries, and will appeal to parents seeking clean literature for their teens.
The author’s passion for sharing about Islam seems to shine through Aminah’s voice. We have fewer glimpses into the internal struggles of Dee; since we do not see her as deeply, I connected with her much less.
By the end of the novel, I wanted to know Aminah better, and to see the development of Tamika’s spiritual journey. Happily, her story continues in A Voice and Footsteps. I look forward to exploring themes of faith and self-discovery in Umm Zakiyyah’s other writings.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Al-Walaa Publications. My thanks to them for making the book available.