Shaping Islam in America: 10 Young Muslim Visionaries – Murad Kalam – The Novelist
From Islamica Magazine
By HAROON MOGHUL
There will always be novels—books to sit on our laps with pages to be turned. No blinking screen, no gadget will ever replace the novel.” Can Muslims make sure of that? Can we contribute to a global civilization that simultaneously seems intent on sidelining us? Murad Kalam has already served notice with Night Journey, his spectacularly well-received novel. “Remember also that many, even well-meaning people in the West, think that Islam is no longer compatible with civilization—that we cannot produce art. Prove them wrong.”
For going where few Muslims remember how to tread, Kalam is no remnant—but a pioneer of a better way. Though for a while, he might find things lonely. His award-winning novel—the New York Times hailed Night Journey as “a kind of beautiful anachronism: a confident, poetic novel”—centers around Eddie Bloodpath, a boxer caught in a swirl of humanity never watered down. Rather, the worst tendencies in humanity drive Eddie to seek some manner of salvation. Is that belief, expressed with raw, uncomfortable optimism, not too lacking in Muslims today?
Booklist calls the work “remarkably assured.” Publishers’ Weekly calls it “blistering.” I found it honest, like blunt words in the raw air. “To be any good,” Kalam tells me,“ a writer must have something of great urgency and significance to write about.” Writing that’s recalling an Islam that will not become the vehicle for boot-stomping contentment—filled with mere adherents to a vapid pride that can quickly be mobilized in the service of everything that true art must stand against. In Arabic, his chosen name equals a thousand words—“the seeker after the pen.” For Kalam, writing is believing: “The responsibility of the Muslim artist is to affirm our humanity to the world and to ourselves and also to turn a mirror to ourselves.”
Months spent in Egypt convinced the young convert that “Islamdom” was no utopia—many of the same ills that menace the West have long infected the East. All the same, he never gave up.“It was impossible,” Kalam insisted, “to ignore the sincerity of the poor and righteous and the depth of the belief of Muslims and Copts alike. I studied Islam with a village sheikh from Giza; I watched shop owners feed strangers during the nights of Ramadan; the local beggars, men who should have lost all hope, prayed each day without fail on tattered sheets of cardboard.”