My reflection on Laury Silvers’ The Lover recently got published on AltMuslimah, along with three other worthwile reflections of fellow Muslim women.
One of the interesting aspects of The Lover is how blackness is one of the central themes in this book and how it is portrayed. Writing blackness is no small feat for a non-black writer, and the fact that a book about medieval Islam centers black people and dares to take on race without painting a rosy picture, or only portraying black people as pitiful enslaved persons waiting for an Arab, Persian or white saviour, makes it unique in and of itself. The main character has a Nubian mother and a, presumably, non-black Arab father. Her mother is only known as Al-`Ashiqa al-Sawda, the Black Lover, a woman of great beauty and spiritual depth, who is totally taken by her love for God. Zaytuna, her daughter, tries to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but goes through the motions without the ecstatic love her mother experienced. Her mother’s spirituality could not save her from rape, Zaytuna’s scrupulousness could not save her from colorism, and her twin-brother, Tein, from racism. Black people have a long, complex and intense relationship with Islam. The first hijra went to Ethiopia, and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had many black Companions and family members. Black Muslims were, and are, scholars, warriors, saints, kings, Sufis, writers, poets and musicians. God-willing, The Lover will become one of the starting points in exploring this heritage and legacy, and will help giving black Muslims back our rightful place: At the very heart of our religion.