There are many types of books out there involving Islam and/or Muslims. An increasingly popular genre amongst English-speaking Muslims is English-Language Islamic Fiction (ELIF). Some distinguishing traits of ELIF include the following:
- It is usually authored by Muslims for a primarily Muslim readership.
- It contains Islamic themes and portrays Islam in a positive light, illustrating how Islamic precepts and teachings can solve problems and moral dilemmas for characters and bring peace and harmony to their lives. An effort is made to include accurate information about Islam.
- Similarly, ELIF shows the negative consequences of going astray from Islamic values. Un-Islamic behaviors are thus identified as such and portrayed as undesirable.
- Ideally, ELIF should not contain vulgar language, sexually graphic scenes, and other content that may be religiously objectionable, especially if it does not serve a literary purpose or advance the story in any way.
ELIF is roughly the Islamic equivalent of Christian fiction and also differs from the following categories of fiction:
- Muslim-authored fiction, which is any work of fiction authored by a Muslim and may or may not include Muslim characters or Islamic themes.
- Fiction with Muslim characters. Just because a book’s characters are Muslims doesn’t mean that the characters have Muslim values, or that the book has anything to do with Islam. Such books may be authored by Muslims or non-Muslims.
I have worked with many authors, including the wonderful Sister Jamilah Kolocotronis, whose intent was to write ELIF. As you can imagine, well-written ELIF does not happen by accident. In fact, it often takes a team of people working together to make sure that a story adheres to Islamic standards. With so many authors self-publishing these days, however, we often find that books branded as ELIF fall short of the ideals listed above.
If you are an author who writes ELIF, my suggestion is to work with a professional Muslim editor specialized in this area. Such an editor can provide you with expert-opinions and point out potential problem-areas in your novel or story.
It may also be wise to test out your work with beta-readers of different backgrounds to see how they react to your writing. Do not underestimate the importance of other people’s opinions, particularly if you are writing for children, teens, or young adults, as parents need to be comfortable regarding what your books communicate to their kids about Islam.