10:40 AM

How much Romance in Romance?

Wrote: American Muslima Writer |

As Muslims there is a line between what we can say and what we can't say about sex. Or is there? Where are the hadiths, fatwas, Qur'an, about what can be said?

I'm a Romance writer (also sci-fi/fantasy but lets not go there with now). I've been reading romance lit since i was 12 and inherited my g-ma's collection. I've read some simple books where sex scenes are not included and left to the readers imagination (not always leaving the reader satisfied), other books that are so descriptive that I'm left in actual shock. Where did the author think of doing things like that? I've researched medical sexual books to understand things and learn thing better. I've tried to read far and wide for what people and the industry think is moderate sex scenes relating to the plot. The results differ wildly. Some writers write the scene poetically other writers are basically writing smut. But I have a very unique and worrisome position as a MUSLIM WRITER.

If I write a sex scene in my romance novels for sure there will be hundreds of angry Muslims writing me saying how could you blah blah blah. Maybe banning my books from their country (when it's the arab and western countries I want to write for mainly) and holding anti-Brandy A. Chase protests. Or I can remove the sex scenes and let the readers use their imaginations but that is not satisfactory for me. I want women to read my books and know they have the power to have pleasure in their married lives. I want men to read my books and know they are SUPPOSED to be giving their wives pleasure and not jumping their women like animals. (which is a hadith). But the part where people may think it's haram for me to write sex scenes is A) they think I'm basing it off my personal life which I'm not.... B) they think that I'm encouraging people to have sex outside of marriage, which is a good question C) I'm encouraging people with my words to masturbate because they might not have a halal outlet for their excitement and rising feelings, another good question D) a hundred other reasons I can't even think of but someone will be sure to point out.

I'll give an example. In the beginning of one of my books entitled thus far as "Veiled Attraction", the american atheist playboy-type is enthralled with women and has sexual encounters often at college. I want to show his loose morals and careless attitude. When he's thrust into a middle east country and falls in love with a niqabi muslimah he has to follow her dictates about what will take place based upon Islamic Laws and her powerful father. Then he has to choose to either embrace Islam and thus getting a chance at winning the father over for the girl (you'll never know the end til you read the book) or keeping himself in disbelief and she despises him.

To show his loose character in the beginning I need to show him dating, doing haram like drinking, zina, etc... then later to contrast it we have the main girl who is ultra pious niqabi who would never think of drinking or having relationship with a guy much less a non-believer and their conflict of his trying to catch her attention and she is flustered but firm in her faith.

So are the sex scenes needed? Maybe in this book you say yes but what about this book:

Titled thus far "Crescent Rider", an arab man in historical arabia raids caravans and is unmasked by his future bride. He has to keep her silence by wedding her and they fight a lot and obviously sex scenes are not crucial but would add more dynamics and certainly more drama.

This last example is where I cannot write the book without sex scenes I feel they are crucial to the story and no one would read it if there wasn't sex scenes in it. "The 4th Wife" obviously about a (fictional) woman who is the convert fourth wife and has to learn the ropes of not only islam but Poly as well and I'm going to write it in third POV so that the husband's actions can be seen with each wife.

So where is the line I should be drawing in the sand? I'm really nervous about this topic because some of my friends have already condemned my books to haram and other people are encouraging me. So I am just ripped apart and what has that led to? Me not writing dedicated to any of these right now until I figure this out. Remember my goal of wanting to start the publishing process on a book by the end of 2008? How can I do that if by sending out my book i will be doing something Haram and the money I earn from it will be haram and then using that money for food will be haram and so on and so forth. I do want to be a good muslimah but I have over 40 books waiting to be written all stuck in various aspect of plot in my head and sometimes it gets a little crowded up there you know.

So I really really really really need the reader's advice on this one. It's very important to my life that as many of you chime in as possible. Please tell me your opinions and if and where you can back them up with islamic knowledge. If you don't know any knowledge about it then just still tell me your opinions. Would you pick up any of these books on the shelf and read it as a romance book and then see my hijabed pic or autobiography on the back cover and be shocked I'm a muslim writing this. Bring it on...bring the comments and debate/discussion on.

29 intelligent thoughts:

UmmAbdur-Rahmaan said...

I think you can add sex scenes but use a little tact and don't go all hustler. Talk about it but don't give LOADS of details. Do you understand? Sex is perfectly natural and everyone does it (like it or not) In Islam I think it is haraam when it goes too far into detail, for example...positions and shapes and sizes I also think that in Islam it is looked down upon because it is something a husband and a wife do together not something that we should read for entertainment...If you were writing for the sake of knowledge(not entertainment) then a little bit of detail is ok........Of course I am not a scholar and I am far from harboring much Islamic knowledge but...If you need help or suggestions let me know....Good luck....

ammena said...

ooh, Im lookin forward to ur books sis.. let me know when you get everything sorted, would love to check out each of these u discuss :)

MuslimahBloggerer said...

Assalaamu alaykum American Muslima Writer,

I read your comment over at Susie's blog about the concepts of beauty and marriage in light of Qur'an and Sunnah and I was blown away. May Allah reward you immensely for telling it like it is and trying to shed doubt nobly (without having to insult others). Please continue posting clarifications because oftentimes people are confused and they remain confused (especially non-Muslims) because we don't speak up!

Insha'Allah, you've got a new reader in me!!

PS: I know I'm late but as I only found out about it a few minutes ago...Mabrook on your conversion to Islam. May Allah ta'ala bless you with good and happiness in this life and the hereafter!

UmmLayla said...

I think you will have to have a certain amount of sex stuff or it will seem like you are just omitting something. And there are times when it is an important plot point. You don't have to be graphic.

As for the bio pic... I say leave them guessing. Who says you have to give anything away? And unless you are writing something that it is an important thing to know, you might want to keep the being Muslim out of it. Not for the non-Muslims, but because you know how Muslims are. Unless you are writing something purely Islamic it might be in your best interest to lay low. Just my two piasters.

julaybeeba said...

okay, as an unwed muslimah, i think i would be more than happy to read ur books. if i was asked to read the odessey in an islamic highschool, i think muslims would be able to accept ur books as u would like them to be. just don't go overboard like ummabdur-rahmaan has stated u know with too much detail. and the whole catering to arabs and the west i really don't think it should or would pose a problem.....have u read the Arabian Nights.....i need not say more.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Sis:

Give me an email addy and I will send you, Insha Allah, an invite to a Yahoo group I belong to: Islamic Writers. We are a group of Muslimah writers. You can refer the group to this blog post and get real good feedback.

Miss Muslimah said...

Oh Dear...are you trying to tell me that my post" Islamic sex: How Muslims do it" was too risque?
You should've said something!No wonder you didnt comment! LOL!

iMuslimah said...

Assalamu alaykum ;)

I dont what the scholarly opinions are on the matter- so Ill just give you mine LOL. Please keep in mind that its just my opinion and I hope inshallah, my fellow esteemed blogeress, you are not offended :)

I think its a matter of personal preference. For myself, I prefer to avoid romance novels because sex scenes are usually inevitable(Ive read quite a few during my first marriage a decade ago). I dont want to know about anyone's escapades (fictional or real) and will never share mine!

I dont know if sex scenes (written) can aid in a marriage. I think the inherent risk in reading about these things (when its not written soley for educational purposes) is that more times than not, I think women will be more likely to be dissappointed with their experiences, because the real deal is unpredictable and riddled with nervousness for some. Sometimes real life occurences do not stand up to fantasy/imagination (and o course sometimes they are better). On the flip side- I do agree with you that women and men should know more about the subject, and take it to heart when it comes to pleasing their spouses and getting pleasure themselves; it can only add to a thriving marriage. I believe it can be accomplished through educational means (yes I know- men can be stubborn; and I am hard pressed to think that most men would consider the educational path of enlightenment LOL).

There is also the issue of being lured into impure thoughts. What if someone picks up a book and starts fantasizing about someone other than their spouse (and this is totally not your responsibility)?

For example: some Muslims argue that alcohol comsumption is ok in moderation if you dont get intoxicated....the thing is, how do you know, before you take that first sip, that youre not the UNlucky one who will like it TOO much?

It is possible, that too much exposure to sexual stimulus could lead to increased insensitiviy over time, thus causing one's inability to perform live! I know its extreme, I do realize that, but I guess I wouldnt be willing to take that chance.

I wonder about unmarried, or young people- would reading novels like this entice them to engage in pre-marital sex? I remember in JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL- my friends and I taking out Judy Blume's "Forever" from a JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL LIBRARY (aye carumba!) and passing it around to each other- earmarking the pages with the sex scenes.

What I am saying is that I believe that little things lead to big things, generally speaking. I also believe that everyone is responsible for their own personal affairs, and its not your responsibility to see that your books are read with pure intentions.

Not having read your novels- it would be hard for me to really say much more, but if I had to give you one tiny piece of advice that has NEVER failed me in life, it is.......(drumroll): Less is more :)

Interesing post as usual. I wonder what you will decide to do? Let us know!


American Muslima Writer said...

Wow such great resonses I'll take them one by one as my time permits hehe
Umm Abdur-Rahman: Very good point but where is the line between waht is allowed and not? Kissing? Touching? Hugging? More? Between married Poeple Between non-married poeple....I understand Moderation and could pull this off but still even if I put one simple kiss maybe some Muslims will be enraged (although why is that type of Muslim reading romance smut anyways?)
I heard for religious christian romance books they don't allow sex scenes at all and just wisp it away into darkness with a typical "Then he led me shyly by the hand to the bedrorom and shut off the lights" then the next morning " our clothes lay skattered haphazardly around the room and I looked around at it in amazement...I hadn't remebered kicking my heel ontot he nightstand..." that kind of stuff. But that doesn't show the growing relationship of the couple.
How can one show the heat and cooling effect of the relationship in crisis (hence the novel) without any romantic scenes....
But very good points thanks! :)

American Muslima Writer said...

Ammena: Thanks for the support unfortionatly because of my split heart about the sex matter the books aren't being churned out very quickly yet because I hate writing a whole wonderful love scene and the characters are happy with it and then I'll have to etch it out later grrr and re-write half the book. But When it is out you all will here it here first :D

Jayne said...

What a great post, honestly. I'm not religious, as you know, but have read through the comments & if I were in your position, I would sum up pretty much like 'imuslimah' has & would go for 'less is more'. In all the books that I've read, which contain sex scenes, the ones that leave you thinking are far more appealing than the ones that go into graphic detail.
It is understandably, a fine line you have to draw :-)

Canadian Muslimah said...

Something else to consider is that in Islam we're not supposed to divulge the secrets of the bedroom. We're supposed to stay clear of the zina (fornication) of the eyes, ears, and other body parts.

Consider this: what are some of the greatest romance novels in the history of English literature? Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre etc. and they contain NO sex scenes at all. And the male suitor (Darcy, Heathcliff) was a bad guy in the beginning.

The reality is, if you're good a good enough writer (as I no doubt believe you are) than you can pull of your ideas using your imagination and not getting sucked into this culture of revealing all. There are plenty of ahadith regarding intimacy between husband and wife in Islam (as you mentioned also) so perhaps you could emphasize these in order to get across your point that women also have rights sexually (think about it, a woman has grounds for divorce if her husband is impotent. This was 1400+ years ago, so Islam is for the true not gaudy liberationo of freedom sexually).

PM said...

I have never been one to read "romance novels" as you descibe them and I must say I have a hard time "reconciling" them with religion because they usually seem frivolous and trashy. However, I don't see why you need sex scenes to write about romance, and I would suspect a lot depends on the overall moral tone and message you are trying to send.


American Muslima Writer said...

MuslimahBloggerer: Wow! thanks for this really sincere compliment it really warmed my heart to know I helped someone understand something. Masha'Allah. I know I could say so much more on Suzies but i know others will jsut fight back and I hate blog wars they are tasteless and don't show peopel and ideas to the best light. So though I'd love to go in deeper I back off when someone seems to wantto go head to head with me and i know by going deeper I will repel people from Islam and good things. But perhaps on future posts that I'm opinated about I'll have to try to explain in more detail in the first message. thanks so much. And then you for your congrats about shahada :D amiin. welcome to my blog with all warmness!

American Muslima Writer said...

Umm Layla: good point about laying low really. But I think no matter what I write SOMEONE will disagree with it no matter if muslim or not and i shouldn't hide who I am in fear of retaliation...(though I will wince really hard if I get bad comments ;) )
Perhaps one of the most difficult things i will have to deal with is trying to "toe" the line between haram and halal in my books.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Sis:

I sent you the invite for IslamicWriters group. Look for it. I am moderator so I will approve it immediatley, Insha Allah.

Any other writers out there, let me know if you'd like to join us.


American Muslima Writer said...

julaybeeba again :)
thanks for chiming in about your marital status that does give me good background knowledge of readers and their likes. :D

American Muslima Writer said...

SAFIYYAH: I A M S O E X C I T E D ! ! ! ! E-mail is coming... but you do HAVE my e-mail :p
I understand that the truth hurts that my sidebar isn't very interesting on some of my other blogs but there is something there ;) hehehe anywasy i will e-mail you. YIY a writers group for muslims... a whole new way to be nervous now.... :p

American Muslima Writer said...

MM: Your post was not too risque. I didn't comment because I know myself when it comes to this topic that I can go overboard too easily. Because of all the books I've read both romance and scientific I'm more open about discussing this topic and educating poeple about this topic without a single blush but I felt like if I got into it on your blog I wouldn't shut up and didn't want to enter that can of worms hehehe. SO I loved reading it and everyone's comments but I held back (for once). No offence to you though intended :D

American Muslima Writer said...

iMuslimah, very good points:

It is interesting that you avoid the romance because of sex scenes... do you read say christian romance or light romance where they don't allow it in that genre? or just banned it all together?
I do liek the fictional escapades but I don't (and have promised my husband never to) write about our escapades.

"I dont know if sex scenes (written) can aid in a marriage."
I think if the man or woman doesn't know anything about how to attain or give pleasure to each other these kind of AIDS can help in a way to rediscover the tender romantic side of a marriage and maybe even a few new twists to try together. Some men reading it might discover that it will benefit them to benefit their wives. Some women reading it may discover that trying this or that technique might get her husband to pay more attention to her or improve thing tremedously and thus gain more love in the realtionship. After all only way to satisfy the sexual desire is through marriage so both partners should be open to learning more.
But yes, sadly some men wont be educated and neither will women and the pain of reading about what they don't have and cannot attain must be maddening. OK I KNOW FOR A FACT IT IS MADDENING!

"picks up a book and starts fantasizing about someone other than their spouse"
THis is a tricky question islamically: is it haram to fantasize in your head about another person than a spouse? i doubt it. we all have fantasy people in our head that origionally brought us to liking our spouse... i even have fantasy poeple in my head and I'm married but I'M "SPECIAL" whn it comes to the issue of imagination. But the fantasy usually is always better and will always be better than real life because it's just that: a dream a wisp of imagination with no fallability like real life. We control what they say how they look what they do in our heads. Even Writers characters that go off on unexpected tangents are still within the control of the writer. So I don't fear peopel imagining, I fear people doing haram because of what i wrote.
Good example about alcohol and I see your point but i want to add that those muslims are astray because the qur'an clearly forbids alcohol and hadiths forbid it in medicines too (unless on deathbeds)
I don't think that you couldn't perform as well from too much reading and thining about sex unless one takes matters into one's own hands ;) but I do think like tv too much sex on the brain leads to tuning it out. Most people don't even see miniskirts as horrible anymore after all there is always worse in public view like thongs o_0 but i think with romance books the fact that they are so much in love thoughout leads to a softness of the heart between somsoen and their spouse that is enhanced when reading about romance or seeing a romantic movie. You see others appreciating their romance and you appreciate yours too.

OH MAN high school and romance novels lol! and middle school too lol. I clearly remeber me bringin in the new romances and then when I get to a "good scene" we'd pass it around for the day to our friends and they'd read the scene and give it back. (of couse I'd only let them read it after i finsihed it the first time because I cannot put a book down and let others read it first hehehe) But yeah it increased our want of boyfriends or other things. Maybe for some of my friends they got ne ideas what to do with their boyfriends but i think girls chat no matter the society and no matter the religion and hormones rage no matter what too so the question remains IS it my responsability to not put scenes for fear of THEM doing Haram?
And Judy Blume just horrified me with that book because the previsous ones i'd read from her were so mild....
I'm glad you think it's not my responsability for their intentions.
Less is more true and good motto, but i'm wodnering where to draw the line still. It seems so far peopel don't want a muslim to be writting all out smut but phrasing it in a classy underhanded way is ok for them.

"Interesing post as usual. I wonder what you will decide to do? Let us know!"
Heh as soon as I know you'll know ;) and thanks for the long thoughtful comment.

American Muslima Writer said...

Jayne, thanks for the input it's good to hear that not everyone likes every book to be wild romping. that people still do love to let the imagiantion do the work. :D

American Muslima Writer said...

I don't see how, you don't see how, religion and romance can play key factors about each other. Romance and sex though seperate feelings, flow together and peopel's religions guide them how best to use their feelings. Christian romance has been hot sellers for decades. I understand not everyone LIKES rmance novels for whatever reson but they are not ALL or even Mostly trashy or frivilous. A few yes but on the whole NO. Leanring about the rollercoaster of the heart is always soemthing deep and intruiging for soooo many people. Writers just try to portray how REAL poeple act in various situations where the heart is conflicting. Conflicting with either body, religion, other people etc. Look how many poeple find real romance and love gossip sooo interesting and writers use that same curiosity poepel naturally have to knwo more about the greatest feeling Allah has given us (the power of Love) and to explore possible outcomes. SUre real life is not always a happy ending liek in romance novels but that's the satisfaction of romance novels that peopel do get to keep their love intact through the trials they faced. And somtimes jsut sometimes love does last the trials and peopel die married to their teen sweetheart still fully in love. So I think romance novels are far from flighty things to be rediculed.
Then again I'm a romance writer and maybe I'm idealistically biased
in my opinion.

PM said...

I never looked at "Romance novels" like that. Thanks for explaining the way you see it.

Susanne said...

I really enjoyed reading the great ideas in your mind for future books. The plots sound interesting though I admit that I don't read books with sex scenes, and I WOULD be surprised if I knew a conservative Muslim wrote the ones you described. I don't watch sex scenes on TV and choose not to read about them as I find my imagination something hard to contain and reading graphic things just adds fuel to the fire so to speak. Personally I don't need to know all the details, and am fine with the Christian romance novels. Francine Rivers' "Redeeming Love" and her "Mark of the Lion" trilogy are probably the most "sexy" Christian books I've read and they were tasteful (and exciting!) enough to me without making me feel trashy having read them.

I'm not a Muslim, but I found this quote interesting from your blog:

"Then he has to choose to either embrace Islam and thus getting a chance at winning the father over for the girl (you'll never know the end til you read the book) or keeping himself in disbelief and she despises him."

I was under the impression that Allah guided people to Islam. For all religions, I've never liked when people supposedly "convert" for the sake of a lover or family member. TO ME this is a decision between you and God ... and I don't become a Muslim or Christian or Jew so I can marry a person. I do it because I am convinced in my heart by God. Maybe I didn't understand that correctly, but it's how I read it on your post.

I am enjoying your blog. I just found it yesterday and, yes, I realize I am late in commenting on this topic. :-)

Anonymous said...

Asalamualeikum. I just stumbled upon your blogsite and quickly jumped to the polygamy section, wanting to see how an American, converted Muslimah views this all. (Sorry no prejudices or the like.)

Being a Muslim born and raised in the West I find the issue of explicit content in literature to be something we Muslims need to take DEAD serious.

I say this because up until the age of 15, I can confidently say that I was an innocent/pure soul - having kept away from all forms of sexual media (I didn't even know homosexuality existed until then ^_^) etc.

And then it so happens that this book my English teacher chooses for me turns out to have the most shocking things I'd never expect in a book. (Son of a Circus, by John Irving).

After reading the first 100-200 pages or so, I felt that I've had enough. I take the book back to my teacher and I tell him I'm uncomfortable reading it. Though I didn't give him the proper reason (it being inappropriate, explicit, too much for a Muslim teenager anyway...)

And he just dismissed it by saying it's a great book.

Anyhow, though I survived that book, many similar books followed in highschool, and what was worst was the fact it was no big deal for this Canadian teacher of ours who had us read Paul Auster.

Now this 'world class author' starts off one of his books by describing a man sitting in the toilet whilst the phone is ringing. He openly describes for the reader how many phonebells it takes before the person has done his business and heads to answer it. Further on, one his main characters sleeps with his mother in law.

Sister, you do realize that there're tonnes of books out there which are superb without having any explicit content within them.

As for romancebooks and you wanting to have them published in the Muslim world, you can describe a couples affection for one another without the need to go so far. Leaving the intimate scenes blank may not satisfy you as a writer but would you rather earn the status of those who create and publish pornographic material be it written or in videoformat?

You know that such scenes would only incite sexual feelings in the readers and that is no different from watching xrated movies or browsing porn on the net.

So please reconsider this and be content with leaving such scenes blank. I'm sure readers will still love your books without that. There's no need to ''compete'' with Western authors who think they're divine because they can describe scenes and feelings of their inbook characters to such extremities.

May Allah bring you success in your writing and let your earnings come though a halaal manner, ameen.

(P.S. I realize this is a superlate comment but here it is.)

Anonymous said...

Asalaamu 'alaykum wa rahmatAllaah,

I agree with your friends that don't think you should write these books. Based on the questions: will it benefit the ummah?
Will it benefit me in the hereafter?
Will it add to my scale of good or bad deeds?
Would it be something that rasulAllaah (peace be upon him) would do himself or encourage? And, most important of all, is it something that Allaah SWT will be pleased with?
I think the answer is no. InshaAllaah you can use your writing skills to write other things about Islam, promoting it, or doing good things with it without having these kind of stories which do have bad points to them.

Allaah SWT knows best. With love fi sabilillaah, a sister of yours in AZ (PS- subhanAllaah I think I might have met you once in Tucson years and years ago!)

Anonymous said...

I confirm. All above told the truth.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, it not absolutely approaches me. Perhaps there are still variants?

Anonymous said...

I don't think you should care what people say but if you want to make sure it is halaal you need to find a scholar to talk to about it to make sure it is ok. If you do this please let us know how it goes!

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