Finding ‘Home’ in Islam:The Diversity of Muslim Identity in the Fiction of Leila Aboulela

Mohammad Said Meshaq Omet, Aida (2022) Finding ‘Home’ in Islam:The Diversity of Muslim Identity in the Fiction of Leila Aboulela. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis offers a detailed investigation of Leila Aboulela’s literary oeuvre. It represents the first in-depth, longitudinal, single-author study of Aboulela’s work, particularly in relation to female Muslim identity and ‘home-making’ in Islam. Using a post/colonial modernity framework, the thesis explores the development of the notion of ‘home’ in Aboulela’s corpus in relation to the conjuncture of translation, migration, and female Muslim identity formation as this is represented in her fiction. In Chapter One, I analyze The Translator (1999), examining its portrayal of the female Muslim diasporic experience and highlighting multiple translation processes that lead to the protagonist’s spiritual growth and finding ‘home’ in Islam. Chapter Two addresses possibilities of alternative forms of rootedness at the center of dislocations and displacements in Minaret (2005). In Chapter Three, I explore the construction of multiple Muslim national identities in Lyrics Alley (2010), exploring how national, ethnic, and gender identities change as part of the immigrant experience, and how protagonists question the fixed notion of a ‘nation’ and ‘home’. Chapter Four examines how The Kindness of Enemies (2015) challenges stereotypes about Muslims and jihad recently associated with terrorism and demonstrates a more complex approach to the relationship between literary representation and historical retrieval. In the Epilogue, I offer a comparative study of the two short story collections Coloured Lights (2001) and Elsewhere, Home (2018), underlining changes in the portrayal of Aboulela’s protagonists from alienated displaced victims to adapting global citizens. The overarching aim of this thesis is to investigate the development of Aboulela’s aesthetic in the post-9/11 era. The thesis highlights how Aboulela offers alternative spaces where mainstream discourses about Arabs and Muslims are challenged, reviewed, and revaluated. It emphasizes that Aboulela’s literary texts respond to post-9/11 historical and sociopolitical contexts by capturing and challenging homogenized depictions of Muslim women. The thesis also highlights the transcendental nature of Islam, its appeasing role in dealing with immigrant identity complications, and the sense of ‘home’ and rootedness that it offers its believers. In so doing, I provide an original investigation of how Aboulela addresses stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam and contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between Muslims and the West.

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06 May 2022 11:25
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 03:11