Although I’m not one to judge a book before reading it from cover to cover, I’ve come across enough quotes from E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey to make my “inner goddess” want to gouge her eyes out with a rusted spoon. It’s wonderful how such a despicable, intellectually and morally bereft compilation of gutter scum disguised as a book ever managed to creep its pathetic, lowdown self into publication and fester in its defilement on our public bookshops’ shelves, to be eventually picked up and taken to people’s homes to infect them with its noxious filth, can gain so much popularity so quickly. And by wonderful I mean not.
More wonderful (not) than this is the influence it’s having on our Muslim youth. The phenomenon of our generation is that garbage such as this becomes wildly popular unnervingly fast, because word of mouth travels faster than the masjid aunties’ gossip among different social media sites. That means we as the people of the internet have more power than what any production company and publication house could dream of, and that’s why most of them are using these means to endorse their products. Bandwagons have now been upgraded to tour buses and spring boards have been installed to make jumping onto them easier. But our Muslim youth should not be bandwagoners; they should not be sheep. Our Muslim youth are shining examples of self-respecting, principled individuals who refuse to be swept away by the demoralizing trends of popular culture. Our Muslim youth are dem boyz.
Don’t get me wrong, being cultured and well-rounded is important, and the literature we come across reflects the society in which it came from, and helps us develop as beings of this race and understand the vast, diverse world we live in. Note: I wrote literature, not drafted pornography. Although it’s commendable for us to read, understand, and experience the different lifestyles around us, we should keep in mind that not everything is halal. Just as we censor the things we watch on tv or online, we need to know where to draw the line with books and understand the difference between timeless fiction and erotica.
We live in an age of instant gratification and the concept of fast food has crept into our libraries. Deep, thought-provoking fiction is becoming as rare as Nickelback fans and shallow, vapid, lascivious nonsense breaks the New York Times Bestseller’s record. One critic, Matt Walsh, upon chancing across a particularly obtuse quote  and realizing it wasn’t a joke, wrote this:
“That line actually appears in a best selling piece of literature. That line was written by someone masquerading as an author, approved by someone masquerading as an editor, published by someone masquerading as a publisher, and then consumed by millions of people masquerading as literate.”
More and more cases of satisfaction without nutrition, without benefit, are coming up in our surroundings. It seems like no one has time to think for themselves anymore, to contemplate what’s beyond the provincial. Proof of that is in the books we choose to make popular.
But fear not, lads and lassies, for there are countless options for fiction better than Fifty Shades of Astaghfirullah:
Ladies: “you is smart, you is kind, you is important” . You are so much better than Anesthesia or whatever her name is. You want to know who else is better than her? How about Elizabeth Bennett , who basically snapped her fingers and said “aw heyall no” to patriarchal society and refused a marriage proposal that was given pridefully and presumptuously. Or Jane Eyre , who had to make a soul-wrenching decision to leave the love of her life because their relationship was, well, haraam. Or Hazel Grace , who refused to be pitied for having cancer. Or Hermione Granger , who faced aggressive racism and genocide, and used that as a drive to be the best she could be academically as well and humanly, and who became an activist for all creatures’ rights, human or not.
To the gentleman, you’re our hope for a better future. Be not like whatshisface Catholic Grey. Want a better fictional character to read about? Try David Copperfield , who married out of infatuation but came to regret it; who became ashamed of his humble beginnings and ashamed of being ashamed. Or Guy Montag , the man who dared to read in a world where books were prohibited, despite working as a fireman (which ironically meant incinerating books rather than putting out fires). Or Charlie Bucket , who reminds us that nice guys don’t always finish last, and humility and honesty pays off in the long run. Or Atticus Finch , the lawyer who holds his kids to the same high standards as he holds himself, and treats them as equals rather than subjects.
Want horror? Sci-fi? Comedy? History? Romance? Adventure? All of the above? Go out and READ. Read until your eyes get sore and your vision gets distorted. Read fiction, nonfiction, articles, critiques, plays, blogs, poetry… the list goes on. Read, and feel your mind expanding; your horizons widening. Read to escape the push of the crowds who are blindly rushing towards a cliff edge with enthusiasm. Read to learn to reject what you’re being spoon-fed by the infinite amount of sources around you seeking to influence your principles and way of thinking – whether you’re aware of them or not. Read to liberate. Read to see. Read to live.
Our Muslim youth are one shade: brilliant.
FOOTNOTES This – brace yourselves – is the line:
“Finally, my medulla oblongata recalls its purpose, I breathe.”
Thankfully, there are better quotes from the books referenced above that will hopefully buoy your enthusiasm for literature:
“If chocolate was a sound, it would’ve been Constantine’s voice singing. If singing was a color, it would’ve been the color of that chocolate.” From Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen –
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” From Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte –
“If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” From The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green –
“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
 From the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling –
“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
 From David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens –
“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.”
 From Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury –
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
 From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl –
“You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.”
 From To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee –
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”