When Rekiya and Zaynunah met as teenagers, neither had any inkling this would be the start of a lifelong friendship. That the bond they formed so young would see them through the best and worst of times…
An unlikely alliance, Rekiya is the unacknowledged daughter of one of the country's richest men while Zaynunah is the Ibadan born-and-raised hijabi with a more modest background.
Years later, a monumental loss tests the ties that bind them; in friendship, of family, of self, and healing.
Rekiya & Z explores the themes of Time and its fickleness, trauma, loss and the varying realities of Muslim Womanhood against the backdrop of Africa’s most populous country.
“A balanced rhythmic voice… gripping in its emotions, compelling in its ease… An absent narrative has finally found its medium…” - Prince Adewale Oreshade, Author, 18th and 19th Century Afro-American Poets and i.
Muti’ah grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and claims Ibadan as the hometown of her heart.
A self-proclaimed bibliophile who reads everything except fantasy and paranormal, Muti’ah started writing in high school, hand-written stories in lined notebooks; invariably filled with teenaged drama, American high school themes and foreign-named characters. Her writing has improved somewhat since then.
When she is not reading, writing, doctoring or parenting, Muti’ah can be found watching documentaries on historical and social justice issues, exploring physical bookshops with her children or sleeping. She also enjoys building elaborate fantasies of what her life would be like if she didn’t have to work.
In many ways, Muti’ah is the reserved bookworm from her adolescence. She is still figuring out these new fang’d means of human connectedness called Social Media. She can be found on facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all @deenprogress.
Some books rally on your heart, some books tear at it, and some other books just bowl you over into a new universe you knew existed, but was yet to visit. Rekiya & Z was one such book for me.
Set in Nigeria, this book depicts the lives of two women - Rekiya and Zaynoona - two teenage girls who became friends due to their mutual understanding of each others’ pains. With time, both of them grow apart and go their separate ways. The strong bond they shared during their early years has turned into a feeble friendship, but is once again put to test when Zaynoona’s mother dies. This is a story of friendship, recovery, and discovering oneself while learning to live with the past. My emotions while reading this book can easily be represented as an exponential graph. In the initial stage when you get to know the characters, I was kinda detached to them, especially Rekiya, who had more of a ‘tell-not-show’ kinda arc. There are so many references of her past that we aren’t aware of, which made it difficult to connect to her emotionally. On the other hand, Zaynoonah’s character was lovely right from the beginning. Z’s mom was adorable. The bonding in their family despite their conservatism was commendable.
Through the two main characters, we get to see two different hemispheres of humanity - the rich who has seen suffering, and the middle-class who doesn’t realize the privilege of their loving family. The buildup of the storyline was crafted so beautifully that when it finally hits you what it has been telling you all along, the blow is severe. I could relate so much to Zaynoonah’s understanding of Rekiya’s trauma, how she reflects upon her undramatic life, and how she realizes the importance of not taking everything for granted. Rekiya’s story was so easy to sympathize with once the realization hits.
I also loved how we were taken through Nigerian cities so graciously, describing the nature and culture of the people, and the Islamic traditions (which aren’t very different from ours btw) among practicing and non-practicing Muslims. The representation was spot-on and natural, at times I forgot I was supposed to take notes of the representation because everything was perfectly captured.
I can be nitpicky and say that the only thing I felt a bit lacking was Rekiya’s healing process. Her recovery from trauma, and her discovering religion was a bit quick. I would have loved a deeper exploration of what attracted her to Islam, and why she found solace in religion after so many years of not practicing. Although, the Hajj and Umrah descriptions were absolutely phenomenal, and undoubtedly my favorite part of the book. I think those few pages beautifully captured the deepest desire of every Muslim soul.
Towards the end, the characters simply grow on you. I found myself thinking what a particular character would say and think in a scene they weren’t present in - and I think that is the biggest compliment I could give the author. Still, the ENDING will shook you. I certainly wasn’t prepared, but I can’t think of any other way I’d have liked it to end. This book emphasizes normality in terms of religion, mental health, marriage, and healing, all the while allowing you to glimpse the lifestyle of Nigerian Muslims.
It was one of a kind reading experience for me, and I’m sure it would be for you too. Absolutely recommend it!
'If the lone tree falls and there's no forest to hear the sound it makes, did it exist?'
'Why do you do this Z?'//'Do what?'//'You sabotage relationships. You tell yourself you couldn't possibly be good enough, that things must be too good to be true. And you pull back. Or worse, you wait for the other shoe to drop. You never let things just be right. You poke until it gives. Isn't that what you're doing now?'
"The pain does not go away; time does blunt the edges. The sharp lances become dull aches, they scab over and we heal the best way we can. The invisible scars, occasional twinges and aches that remain are the lasting reminders of all we have lost. The hard-won gains we will always treasure."
Rekiya & Z by Mutiah Badrudeen is written with switching points of view between Rekiya and Zaynunah in the first person narrative as it shifts between present and past events.
With evident Muslim characterization, the pages hold bold representations and some are Mental Health, Therapy, Faith (The loss of it/the struggle between a shivering and firm hold and the focus faith here is Islam), Friendship, Career, Tribe, Family, Loss, Women's rights, Motherhood, Sexual Assault, Trauma, Infertility.
Reading this fixed my mind to a world that's fictional yet so tangible that I could relate to a lot and the narrative style flipped between two perspectives which brought the story together, from different parts, as a whole.
So what is the plot like? What's the story about?
Rekiya & Zaynunah are teenage girls when they accidentally become friends, pushing away their social class/family background differences away until Rekiya leaves the country and several years pass with lots of experiences and new mental/emotional baggage, the women meet again thanks to a shared loss. Two best friends now meet as strangers while they try to relive what they used to share.
I liked the character development and the way the portrayal of emotions with Mutiah Badrudeen's words were real. I could feel every emotion gone good or wrong. There was a really good description of Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state in Nigeria and I loved that too. Rekiya schooled in Houston, Texas and wherever any character was, Mutiah described with efficiency which is important for a book to stand when it comes to plot. Rekiya & Z gives us an insight on how family and friendship play an important role in our personalities, behaviour and mentality, how faith should be balanced with knowledge, wisdom, patience and compassion, how girls can become women and lose what they once had, how love and friendship can be found in the most unexpected ways/circumstances/people.
It's a book worth reading till the end.
I can not wait to read more works of this author.
I received the ARC from qamar blog tours. Thank you guys, I absolutely enjoyed this one.
The realness of who we are and the knowledge to be better.
It's a strong story and everyone will find themselves in bits and pieces of the 2 women.
The doors this opens on aching topics in this clime; mental health, death, discovery, life...and a lifetime for us all. I am in awe of the work that went into such detail.
The writing process is one of great skill, narratives that paint such rich images of colour, places, people, time and situations you could almost see them...touch them.
A slow deep dive through a renewal, a thoughtful realignment of a living and life in so many new scenarios and a reminder that in the end we are a matter of days and we must do the best we can for our name to echo on the earth and in the heavens long after we are gone.
As the olds adage goes, opposites attract, and we see such a notion still rings true in the tale of Rekiya and Zaynunah. It is the tale of a friendship strained by the winding, confusing, and often painful path of unprocessed trauma, and its effects on ones spirituality. Not many relationships can weather the storm of unchecked pain, and in the midst of such emotions, their diverging paths eventually hollows into an estrangement where the echoes of their companionship reverberate into nothingness. This is until they are once again fatefully pulled together by the mutual loss of a loved one: Zaynunah’s mother. It is here we are allowed a glimpse into the past of both Rekiya and Zaynunah’s life and are taken on a journey to explore the nuances of what make them who they are and how they ended up here. The question is, will the death of a loved one be enough to force them to face these hard truths about themselves and ultimately rekindle their forsaken bond of friendship?
For starters, this book really hit for me, which is why I gave it. I believe what I most loved about this novel was its authenticity whilst illustrating the complexity of trauma, spirituality from an Islamic point of view, healing, and just relationships in general (female ones especially). Mutiah gives the characters such depth and believability that I found myself empathizing and even relating to them on so many levels that I could not put the book down. What is missing from a lot of stories nowadays is backstory and depth of characters. The characterization in this novel is insane. I also like how this novel breaks down stereotypes that often surround Muslim women. We all heard it before: Oppressed. Dumb. Socially inept. Slaves of their husbands, and the list goes on. The characters, Rekiya and Z display a stark contrast to such notions, demonstrating through carefully crafted prose the true nature of how most Muslim women really are, which is actually quite intelligent and successful. It is important to note how this is not made the focal point of the novel, though. It’s almost as if the author intentionally wanted to create authentic representation, but not make it about pleading for acceptance from the outside world for Muslim women. We do not need to be accepted, just fairly represented, and for me that is gold. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested. Go snag yourself a copy of Rekiya and Z. You won’t regret it.
This was a fantastic read! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story of 2 friends reconnecting over the loss of a loved one and their individual journeys of faith and life. It teaches about the Deen without being "too in your face" and celebrates the strength that comes from the support of family. The author weaves her words in a way that pulls you in and has you engrossed until the last page. Just when you think the story is going great, the book ends with a bittersweet ending that leaves you empty and in search of more.
I love how it explored how much of a struggle it is to maintain teenage friendships when transitioning into adulthood. How easy it is to just let go of the friendship because the alternative is to put in the work.
Another highlight for me was how the background of your psychologist/therapist can play such a huge role in your treatment. Having a doctor from a similar background, be it black, muslim, female etc makes it easier for her to understand your struggles.
A work of love, of faith, of death, of birth, of rebirth, and of living.
A balanced rhythmic voice, the like I have never read before; original in its entirety, unapologetic in its convictions, true in its theatrics, gripping in its emotions, and compelling in its ease of flow to the mind.
An absent narrative that has finally found its medium, its soul and its existence; enchanting, genius, a must read.
“The pain does not go away; time does blunt the edges. The sharp lances become dull aches, they scab over and we heal the best we can. The invisible scars, occasional twinges and aches…are the lasting reminders of all we have lost”.
“You sabotage relationships. You tell yourself you couldn’t possibly be good enough, that things must be too good to be true. And you pull back. Or worse, you wait for the other shoe to drop. You never let things just be right.”
“Why does a woman’s success have to be a blight on a man’s masculinity? Was it too much to ask that our menfolk— those with whom we supposedly shared a faith, an ideal, our very lives- support us?”
Though, hard to pick but these three made my favourite quotes.
A story of friendship, family, identity, marriage, religion, love, loss, pain, death and trauma. Rekiya & Z revolves around the life of two childhood friends; Ruqqayyah and Zaynunah. A friendship that started in Noorah, a girls-only secondary school in Ibadan.
The story set predominantly in Nigeria; Ibadan & Abuja and along the line, USA, Qatar & Saudi Arabia. The story span across three generations in the lives of the characters.
Ruqqayyah, the self-appointed top of the social ladder, Hausa-Yoruba daughter of the rich businessman —Sadiq Gbadamosi had innocently walked in on Zaynunah who was crying. The reaction and attitude of Rekiya would be the beginning of an eternal friendship.
‘Crying is a luxury affordable only if you have someone to console you’. She had said.
As fate would have it, the two girls soon became best of friends and even, family. But fate like it always does, soon throw them a jab when Ruqayyah’s rich and uncaring father insisted she moved abroad to further her studies after secondary school. This would be the start of the end of their friendship, and also the start of the end of the companionship, love and identity Ruqqayah had found in the Zaynunah’s family especially with Mummy. And more importantly, her deen.
Read to find out how the trauma of losing a loved one, a mutual loss and pain brought them back together, despite their initial resistance.
Reqiyah and Z is a book that will resonate loudly with any Muslim girl in the world. A book that honestly portrays the struggles, doubts, challenges, and life of a Muslim lady using two different characters, though friends but with so much difference in background, personality & circumstances.
This book taught me a lot, noteworthy is that we shouldn’t judge others, as everyone fights an inner battle. The characters are so relatable I could see myself in their actions and inactions. This made me emotional especially in the begining of the book. But towards the end I was smiling and then the epilogue and tears couldn’t help but flow again. Yet, that is just the reality of life.
I love that Mutiah Badrudeen portrayed life in all honesty, its fickleness & vanity. Written in simple, accessible, and clear language. A very fast-paced read, you won’t want to drop the book while reading. Also written in the first-person narrative, in the voice of the two main characters. It’s hard to choose a favourite between both friends. They both had different struggles. The book is also enriched in deep, thought-provoking sayings. It is also not just the story of Rekiya & Z, it is also the story of ‘mummy, Reqiya’s parents, Zeke, Habeebah & Aisha Ayoade & also of Zaynunah brothers.
It also boldly explores the theme of marriage and love. Mirroring the Muslim woman and her challenges in building a home and family in our present world while not neglecting her own dreams.
It’s a book worth reading, worth keeping. I’d give it 5/5 and despite I don’t like to read books twice, I think I would love to read this again.
When @deenprogress sent me a copy of her novel "Rekiya & Z" a while ago (how long ago exactly, I am embarrassed to say...), I wasn't quite in the right headspace to read & appreciate this story. Now that summer is in full swing & I'm not overloaded with classes, however, I decided to pick it back up & give it the chance it deserved.
I was quickly swept headlong into the complicated friendship between two Nigerian Muslim women, Rekiya & Zaynunah, who came from dramatically different backgrounds but had bonded deeply at school. Now, as adults who have drifted apart, the two women find themselves pushed back together - & must unearth one another's histories & navigate their new relationship.
In many ways, this book was a learning experience: set solidly in Nigeria, the story gave me a glimpse into a culture I'd never known much about. I appreciated the many ways that the author didn't pander to the ignorance of readers, but expected them to keep up (or Google what they didn't know!) - a refreshing change from diverse books that stop & explain things to non-Western readers.
The author does an incredible job of weaving together Islamic values throughout, making it relevant but not preachy - even & especially in the story arc of a "non-religious" character. She packs in so many elements: faith, niqab, polygamy, prejudice, trauma, grief, & loss - but I never felt overwhelmed. I was, however, left in shock at the final plot twist!!!!!!
I did have some issues with grammatical errors, the use of far too many semicolons, & occasionally the usage of a word used in the wrong context. While the writing needs some tightening up, Muti'ah Badruddeen's talent is clear - & I look forward to her future novels!
Muti’ah Badrudeen delivers a beautiful tale of the reunion of two women whose bond of faith and friendship is threatened by an unresolved trauma.
Written in the alternating perspective of past and present and from the points of view of Rekiya Gbadamosi, the product of an inter-tribal and inter-religious secret marriage; the unacknowledged daughter of one of the richest businessmen in the country and Zaynunah Sanusi, the modest daughter from a typical islamic home. Rekiya and Z tells the story of two women who met as high school teenagers under accidental circumstances, having no idea just how deep the roots of this friendship will grow and how it might be the one last anchor for each of the two friends in their later years.
Rekiya and Zaynunah bond as close as friends and as a family through their teenage years until Rekiya leaves the country and after several years, returns with a load of experiences and trauma over her like a burden.
The women meet again as strangers trying to connect and relive the beautiful past of their friendship now lost beneath years of estrangement, loss and trauma.
The author describes places in vivid colours and imageries. She paints brilliant pictures of places, cultures and lifestyles from Ibadan, Nigeria to Houston, Texas to the House of Allah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in ways that unfold brilliantly in one’s mind.
The book is divided into two parts, with the first part following Rekiya’s journey to coming to terms with her trauma and the second part narrating her ordeals as she goes in search of healing. Even though the first part seems to hold more in terms of intrigue, it is a book worthy of being read to the very end.
Muti’ah’s excellent characters and plotting capture the complexity and beauty of friendship, family, the difficulty of coming to terms with trauma, and the healing that comes with love and faith. In this novel, she manages to make an interesting blend of Loss, Faith, Therapy, Friendship, Career, Family, Motherhood, Trauma and Nostalgia. A beautiful tale of loss and friendship and reunion and healing.
Muti’ah proves her worth to the world with this excellent story.
This was such a refreshing book to read. From the perspective of a Muslim Nigerian woman, there are many things that always feel unique to you and this book reminds you that you're not alone. I know it's fiction but I haven't read a book that I could easily relate to in the past. I found bits of myself in almost every female character in the book and often find myself nodding to gems of advice from the book. R&Z is about Love, Lost and finding one self in a world that wants you to be like others. There were several parts of the book that almost felt to me, like I was reading a journal. It did take me a bit too get into it hence the 4 stars but once I got going, it became unputdownable. Despite the many triggers, the book showcases hope when most feel hopeless. I can't wait to read more from the author and pray she'd write about some of the other female characters introduced in R&Z.
A very wonderful book about the realities of living as a muslimah in the modern world. Very entertaining and educative. It's one of those books that you think will take you a week to read but ends up taking you a day because you just cant stop reading it. What I love the most about this book is that it makes one really think and brings home so close.
Salaam Alaykum I had to finish the book before I slept yesterday. It's been a while since I read hard copy, but it felt good.
On the book, i loved the cover page; simple but beautiful. I loved the print; paragraphs were not too long text was clear so no reason to skim over paragraphs or pages.
I loved the easy manner of dawah; not coming up so strong that the story would be ignored.
My favourite character was Z's husband. I understood what he was going through (even though I don't know why many men feel threatened by the success of their wives especially if she used to depend on them for sustenance). But I wish I could be like him when he diffused the divorce problem.
Cons: missed words, typos (not up to 10 of these). I wish those wrong islamic ideologies could have been clearly stated. (Don't ask me how).
I absolutely would recommend this book to anyone looking to read about Muslim women in strong, time withstanding friendships, top-notch Muslim representation and a heartwarming reunion between friends.
The writing is raw and tweaks all the right cords of emotion. You feel with the characters, the fears, the nostalgia, the heartwarming feel of a group falling back into long forgotten patterns of banter.
I would praise the flow of prose as well but not as much as I would all the other aspects of the story— it boasts of clarity and clear language. But there were moments of spinning fall into flashbacks and there were some I skipped over those— for some readers, this might have given them a grounding effect but their amount wasn't really for me.
Another point of praise is the character arc given to both characters. On beginning, I assumed we'd have Zaynunah simply given a saviour role in helping her friend back into spiritual strength but she was given flaws too and that really helped me get through the first half of the book.
An incredible story all in all and I'll totally be looking out for more stories by the author.
This is one book that I didn't want to drop, each time I thought I would know what would happen next, boom, it changes! I enjoyed every bit of it. I experienced so many emotions. It touched on so many issues. Sexual violence is a modern day pandemic and it touched on it too. There's a lot to learn and enjoy.
This story is gripping. A masterfully-crafted piece of delicate art. Its portrayal of friendship and hurt and loss and rejuvenation of the soul truly sends one on the path of self-reflection. I loved the author's style of inclusion of modern play on words, humor and awww-moments. That twist at the end, totally unexpected. It's a fine read. It projects the Muslimah in all her struggles and successes and leaps of faith just as any other human Totally worth the hype and time. That book you know you'd read again. 10 of 10
Finally, a book that portrays Nigerian muslim women in a good light and not the negative stereotypes that seem to dominate today. A book about love and friendship and how untouched traumas can have a devastating effect if not dealt with. At times, I was a bit confused on what was happening but alhamdulilah, it was a good read.
I love that the book I got was hardcover, loved the paper and print.. Easy on the eyes... loved the use of italics and the fluid and yet not distracting transition from present to past.
The depth of the characters was beautiful and the way they unfold and transform before our eyes was to me breathtaking. When I started reading it, I was expecting it to be more fast paced, at a point I felt it was slow....but I realised I was on page 67...and wanted to read more.
I've not really read a book in a long time that got me so immersed and distracted!... So get a comfy chair.
The story was perfectly woven, mirroring the life of Muslimahs in our many shades and colours...The use of language was expertly done...merging seamlessly between English and local Nigerian language.
And I connected with the characters, their emotions, failures, triumphs and eventualities especially Rekiya.
Zaynunah gave me something too, love and appreciation for the Man I choose to spend life with, knowing as a Muslimah wanting to fulfil all one's roles, you can find a balance ...sometimes ...and can be grateful for little had, little achieved...as in reality, they may be great.
All in all, I want to thank the Author for a book that forced me to slow down and appreciate, evaluate past traumas and how they affect us, reminded me of how falling in love and its giddiness is, mourning and grief and how to continue to have hope, and the ultimate reality that all does not end here... hereafter is waiting and we should prepare.
Rekiya&Z is the most relatable story I have read in a while. The vivid imagery of Ibadan, especially areas that represent my childhood, was pleasantly nostalgic. The depiction of the Bamidele Eleha's and the old-fashioned, heretic Alfa's got me smiling and thanking Allaah for guidance...
I guess many of us have at least one Rekiya and one Z in our history of friendships. I met my "Rekiyah" as a fresher in the university our relationship has stood all the tests of time. I see a good chunk of my story in Zaynunah's - a muslim woman trying to juggle all the balls making sure that nothing falls - at least not her Deen and sanity.
I picked a lot of lessons from this wonderful book, especially the things I could have done better in my early twenties.
May Allaah bless Dr. Muti'ah for writing this masterpiece. JazaakiLlaahu khayran.
An ARC of the book was provided to me by Qamar Blog Tours as part of a promotional tour.
I didn’t have a lot of expectations when I first started reading. I’ve been disappointed in the past by several authors’ portrayal of ‘authentic’ muslim characters and was hoping that this time it wouldn’t be the same. And it wasn’t! Muti’ah’s portrayal of muslim characters are almost near perfect!
Something that some authors don’t understand is that religions and cultures are worlds apart and Muti’ah has done an amazing job showing the differences in culture and in faith.
The author’s writing style is refreshing! She doesn’t use words just for the sake of reaching a word goal but instead to drive a point home. Her eloquence while speaking about relevant yet understandably hard topics and issues like grief, mental health and sexual assault (to name a few) is impressive.
People don’t talk enough about the struggle that we all face with our day to day faith or ’iman’. Its no secret that as humans our iman is always fluctuating. Reclaiming faith is often romanticized and sometimes even vilified. Rekiya’s struggle with recouping her faith is inspiring and uplifting.
The book educates readers about certain topics such as polygamy in islam, divorces and mourning which are often overlooked and grossly misrepresented in medias.
Rekiya & Z celebrates womanhood, motherhood and strong female friendships all while representing career-driven women who are frequently looked down in certain cultures. The book also emphasizes family bonds - how sometimes the family we choose for ourselves is closer than the ones related by birth- and encourages taking second and even third chances in life.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed more than a few tears while reading this beautiful book. And could go on and on about how much I loved it! And how amazing of a representation this book provides of practicing muslims.
I can't believe that I finished this book within 24hours!!!Once I started it,I couldn't put it down.I love the way the author depicts the amazing friendship between the two main characters.Her characters development was amazing.I was not really prepared for the ending.MashaAllah!It was really an amazing read!
This was so well written. I found myself going pages after pages just to know what happens next. I was attached to the book emotionally as well as the author touched on some aspects of life that are important. I will really recommend this book to everyone irrespective of age, gender and religion.