Muslims of the World by Sajjad Shah and Iman Mahoui (Book Review)
Starting as a small Instagram page, Muslims of the World was created by Sajjad Shah and Iman Mahoui as a way to showcase Muslims in their everyday lives as simply “human beings”. In an effort to combat the negative portrayal of Muslims in the West, this collection of portraits and stories is a powerful reminder of the importance of representation and understanding both within and outside the Muslim community.
“We started Muslims of the World because we wanted to share stories that would drive people to love one another. This feels especially important today, in a world in which it often seems easier to hate than to love.”
Sajjad Shah and Iman Mahoui
Summary of the Book
Focusing in on stories from Muslims revolving around issues of fate and faith, refugees, racism and prejudice, hijab, female empowerment, prayer, and love, Muslims of the World is a bold and brilliant collection of stories from Muslims about their relationship with Islam and the world. With more than sixty different stories from a diverse range of Muslims from around the globe, as well as a poignant foreword by international speaker and author Yasmin Mogahed, this book knows almost no boundaries. Ranging from stories on wearing hijab in the West to stories from Muslim refugees themselves, each story and each portrait reminds readers that being Muslim is a beautiful contradiction of both being part of a larger community as well as being a unique individual.
With enough negativity surrounding Muslims and rampant Islamaphobia in our world today, this book attempts to showcase the good in Muslims and to help provide a narrative that combats negative stereotypes. By focusing on the beautiful parts of Islam and of Muslims themselves, Muslims of the World is helping create an empowering narrative on how Muslims see themselves.
“The more of the lives of Muslims we all see, the more we can start to appreciate one another as less foreign pieces and more as integral parts of a single human body, living a shared human experience.”
Sajjad Shah is the founder of Shah and Co. LLC, a consulting firm that focuses on Muslim start-up companies. He started the Instagram page of Muslims of the World with the goal of someday turning it into a book, in the hopes that by showcasing everyday Muslims, with everyday dreams, struggles, and love, he could help combat Islamophobia and the rampant misconceptions about Islam in general. Iman Mahoui is an undergraduate student at Indiana University, majoring in Neuroscience and International Studies. Her involvement with Muslims of World began from her devotion to social activism, poetry, and the empowerment of women.
With the photography taken by Ala Hamdan, each portrait captures the raw and beautiful emotions that come from telling stories of pain, love, faith, and determination. Capturing the humanity of each storyteller, Ala Hamdan helps the reader forge a connection to what otherwise might have been a complete stranger. With empowering stories paired with striking photography, Muslims of the World is a celebration of faith, hope, and humanity.
Review of the Book
A timely and groundbreaking force for good, Muslims of the World is a book that everyone should have on their shelves or coffee tables. From heartbreaking stories on loss, pain, and family struggles to stories on hope, resilience, and finding love, everyone can find something to connect with among the more than 60 different tales and excerpts. And that is the beauty of this book, in that it somehow manages to unite Muslims in common struggles or beliefs, and yet gently reminds all of us that the true beauty lies in the uniqueness of one’s relationship to God.
Through humanizing each storyteller, Muslims of the World sheds light on an often underrepresented point about Muslims: through the ups and downs, struggles and gains, faith and questioning, Muslims are still regular human beings with more similarities than differences to people who are not Muslim. Although Muslims may look different or practice differently, the point that this book brings home is that Muslims are still people at the end of the day. As simple as that sounds, with the delusions of Islamaphobia, it can be hard to truly see Muslims in that light.
Muslims of the World helps change that narrative and successfully navigates through the often blurred line between forcefully promoting a positive narrative and showing the reality of Muslim life. The reality, according to authors Sajjad Shah and Iman Mahoui, is that without washing over genuine struggles, Muslims can still be inspirational and empowering role models.