Q & A with author Fawzia Gilani-Williams

I’m sure somewhere on your bookshelf at home or at school you can find at least one book, if not several, written by Fawzia Gilani-Williams. Many of her books are stories based on one of the two Eids Muslims celebrate; Eid Kareem Ameer Saab and The Lost Ring: An Eid Story  are good examples. The Adventures of Musab and Nabeel’s New Pants are some other books she has written. Her newest book is Cinderella: An Islamic Tale. She also has adaptations of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in the process of being published.

Today I am excited to share with you my interview with Fawzia Gilani-Williams. Sit back and read about the moment when she knew she had to write stories for children. Her poignant words I am sure will not only touch hearts but make readers aware more than ever of  the need to have books about Muslims and by Muslims available on the shelves of bookstores and libraries. 
{And I am excited to tell you that Fawzia has very generously offered a copy of her book, Cinderella, for a giveaway! See details below.}


UmmahReads [UR]: Welcome Fawzia! It’s so wonderful of you to be here.

Fawzia Gilani-Williams [FGW]: Asalaamu alaikum. Thank you so much for the invitation.  It’s a pleasure to be here.                                                                              

UR: Please tell us a little about yourself.

FGW: I’m of Punjabi heritage. I was born in England. I currently live in Ohio with my husband and daughter. I became a teacher in 1993 and since that time have worked mostly in Islamic schools in the UK, USA and Canada. I also worked as a librarian for over 3 years.

UR: Did you always want to be a writer? How long have you been writing?

FGW: I didn’t know I was going to be a published writer. However, I do remember I liked to write as a child. My father always encouraged me to write but it was for higher education not children. My father didn’t live long enough to see my first book. But he was a very powerful, encouraging force in my life and a strong proponent of women’s rights. He is still my inspiration. In fact I wrote his childhood story last year; it includes how he lost his father in the Indo-Pak partition of the 40s. It’s called My Father’s Hand. It remains unpublished.

 UR: How do you come up with ideas for your stories? What inspires you?

FGW: I mostly write Eid stories. I do a lot of adaptations. I’m motivated as a teacher to give visibility to my students. Eid is a celebration that is generally shadowed – even Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize the word Eid. I like to think that my stories are useful resources for parents and teachers.

UR: Of all your books which of your books did you enjoy writing most?

FGW: It’s not quite like that. As a teacher, I find trying to get time to write is a challenge. I suppose I like Eid Kareem Ameer Saab and The Jilbab Maker’s Eid Gifts.

UR: Many of your books are centred on or around Eid, either Eid ul Fitr or Eid ul Adha. What makes you chose Eid as the focus for your stories?

FGW: I had cancer in 2002. The only place I would frequent twice a month was the children’s department of the public library. In December of that year, it was also Eid. The children’s area was filled with displays of Christmas and Hanukkah books and even Kwanzaa. But there was nothing on Eid. Not one book. It was very sad and embarrassing that my child’s religious celebration – the second largest in the world – was not acknowledged in any shape, way or form. It was at that moment that I made a silent prayer to address the gap.  When I was hired at the library I contacted all English-speaking national libraries (USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, Jamaica etc.) and provided them with a bibliography of Eid Stories so that they could improve their collection. At one workshop on storytelling for children’s librarians, I asked if anyone knew what Eid was. No one did. Yet these librarians had been in service for over 30 years. I believe that as educators and parents we need to follow the example of the Jews and make Eid as visible as Hanukkah is today.

UR: How important are stories and books with Islamic themes and Muslim characters?

FGW: Children need a sense of belonging and a sense of place. Mainstream publishers are only now including multicultural characters but from my recent experience I see that Muslim children in Islamic schools and public schools do not use Islamic names in their own creative writing. I recognize this as a flaw of the educational system because I also suffered from it in the 70s and 80s. Books need to give children visibility. If they are not visible they will always feel inferior and apologetic. It’s a sad point that over the past 40 years there has not been much progress.

UR: From your experience working in libraries do you think there are enough books available out there about Islam and Muslims?

FGW: No I don’t. And because of that there is a lot of wrong information or no information. I recall Dorling Kindersley publishing a book on world celebrations for younger grades. They included obscure festivals but omitting Eid. I wrote to ask them why they had seen fit to omit Islamic celebrations. I received no reply. Imagine a Muslim child reading through that book, how would the child feel seeing that his or her festival does not exist in the USA? I review books for the School Library Journal on Islam on a regular basis; I find books written by non-Muslim authors have mistakes, omissions and generalizations. Moreover public libraries tend to select books from websites controlled by select publishers. It’s important that Muslims have their own publishing companies and their own writers to respond to this problem.                            

UR: How can Muslim writers, illustrators and poets change this when getting into mainstream publishing is so difficult?

FGW: Yes there is gate keeping but this is why we need to develop our own publishers.  It’s an eyebrow raiser that Muslim countries source their books from British and American publishers.

UR: Are you working on a book right now? Any hints what it might be about?

FGW:  I’m not working on any writing project just now but I am visiting schools in Canada and the USA to share my stories. I’m also quite busy with my grade 4 students who participated in Studentreasures last term and so I’m getting their work ready. Studentreasures is a company that publishes children’s books. Lots of schools participate in it. 
In terms of my recent published work Cinderella – An Islamic Tale was released in November 2010. I have two titles – Salaam the Selfish Merchant and Little Red Kufi, which is a Ramadan story based on Little Red Riding Hood that were recently accepted for publication. I also have Eid Mubarak Meetah Sahib and Jihad Bin Taye and the Jar of Gold coming out later this year, insha’Allah. Last year, Nabeel’s New Pants was published by Marshall Cavendish. Islamic Book Service published A Grave Trial and Baba Salaam and the Bag of Gold

UR: Are there any last comments you would like to add?

FGW: I would like to encourage more Muslims to write. There’s a pool that needs to be filled with children’s Islamic stories. We need to encourage more people to write.

UR: Shukran (thank you) very much for generously sharing your experience and thoughts. It’s been wonderful!

FGW: Jazak Allahu khairan. It’s been a delight. Thank you!

For a more information about Fawzia Gilani-William’s newest book visit this page


Book Giveaway

You can have an opportunity to win Cinderella!

All you have to do is leave a comment about the interview OR comment about one of Fawzia’s books you’ve read (please state the title of the book) and why you liked it.

Only one entry per person please.

Please use your name or kunya (no anonymous comments).

Post comments using your email (so that I can contact you if you’re the winner).

This book giveaway ends on Tuesday 5 April 2011.

The winner will be announced the day after, insha Allah.

You are more than welcome to link this post to your blog so that your readers could participate in this giveaway.

This Book Giveaway Contest is now closed. Thank you to participants. Please see results in the comments below.


16 thoughts on “Q & A with author Fawzia Gilani-Williams

  1. Asalaamu Alaikum

    I got Nabeel’s New Pants from my library and read it to my kids. I thought it was a cute story but was wondering why the men had no mustaches which made them look like jews instead of muslims.

  2. I think what Fawzia had pointed out is important. When the Prophet Muhammad was instructed to recite, “Iqra'”, already that was a message in itself to tell muslims to read to be well read. In order for that to happen, books need to be written. Islamic children’s books will be the best way to start them young and at the same time to get them acquainted with Islamic values. Imagine the rippling effects it will have in the muslim household, parents read to their children, better bonding in the family and making reading a passion in the muslim family. We cannot elude the fact that knowledge will remain as the weapon to fight off wispy invasion of social ills onto young muslim’s mind. Thus having a good pool of Islamic children writers will get the ball rolling. It is not impossible to see children’s books with Islamic theme on the book shelves of public schools read by all in the near future. After all, they have Eid ecards in Hallmark ecard service.

  3. As’salaamu’alaykum
    Unfortunately the only book I’ve read is Eid Kareem, Ameer Saab.
    Having grown up on “classics” I am glad there are Islamic versions of some of the tales in which lessons can be learnt. Ameer Saab is basically Scrooge and this tale rather than have the Christmas Spirit, is set around Eid. Classic lessons of sharing wealth including Aya from the Quran! May sister Fawzia be blessed with more inspiration to create better and new “classics” for our children insha’Allah.

  4. Salaams

    Very good Interview. My opinion about non-Muslims, especially librarians not knowing anything about fiction books written by Muslims and our Eid celebrations is because most Muslim publishers and booksellers don’t use the word fiction on their web sites or promotions of books they sell. also it is a fact that Islamic Fiction or Muslim fiction are not subcategories of Fiction in the BISAC database(categorgizes all genre of booksboth fiction and non-fiction in the USA etc.) that retailers, publishers, librarians, schools etc use to locate books and new books. It is as if Muslim authors who write fiction and Islamic fiction do not exist. This is why our books are never listed in catalogs or databases of libraries, p retailers, wholesalers, distributors etc. Just recently some Muslims have begun recognizing islamic fiction for children’s books like Sis Fawzia writes and books authored by Muslims for older youth, teens, young adults. Change takes time and some people resist change. 😦

  5. As salaamu alaykum,

    Maa shaa Allah, what a soul inspiring interview. May Allaah bless Sister Fawzia’s works as she continues to inspire our Muslim children in today’s world, aameen.

    We have “Eid Kareem, Ameer Saab” at home, and we thoroughly enjoyed the book. My kids kept on asking questions all over and all over again. It centered on alms-giving and sharing one’s wealth, which truly had a positive effect on the kids. My kids now have their sadaqah bank at home, which is a recycled snack jar. So, whenever it’s al jumuah, the best day of the week, they are super thrilled to take the jar to the masjid and give out their one dollar bills or coins. It does melt my heart as a parent of young kiddos to see them in positive action as a result of an excellent book like “Eid Kareem, Ameer Saab”
    Baraka Allaahu feeki, Sister Fawzia, and Baraka Allaahu feeki, Sister Saara, for interviewing an IWA member.

  6. i havent read any of ur books… abd i agree with what u said …. that children should me more exposed to islamic books… so that they can relate it to their life n enjoy reading as a habit..

  7. Masha Allah. I’m very impressed by Sister Fawzia’s contribution to children’s Islamic literature. My kids love going to the library and are very delighted when they see any kids books about Islam & Muslims. I truly agree that there are very few muslim books in our libraries. We need to bring that to our library’s attention, especially around Ramadan, Hajj & Eid. We have “Eid Kareem, Ameer Saab” and my kids love it. It’s wonderful to have our kids learn islamic values through Muslim children’s literature. I really appreciate all your efforts. May Allah reward you abundantly, Ameen.

  8. Muslim fiction writers need help. We need parents to tell their school teachers/admins that they want Islamic Fiction books in the library and in student classrooms. Parents need to buy Islamic fiction and give these books as gifts. We need parents to tell bookstores to get Islamic Fiction books and make them available. Parents need to tell librarians about Islamic fiction books. Go to the Islamic Fiction Books website. You can copy author names and book titles and in many instances the web location of where the book can be viewed/purchased. Give this information to librarians and Muslim book store retailers. Use it yourself to find quality-halal fiction boks written by Muslims! http://www.IslamicFictionBooks.com. See my own web site http://www.MuslimWritersPublishing.com where I have listed 18 IF books I have published by a dozen authors! We need your help. Allah willing you will give us your support!

    • Assalamu ‘alaykum sister Linda.

      JazakuAllahu Khairan for your excellent feedback! You passion and hard work in pioneering Islamic Fiction and encouraging Muslims to read and support Muslim writers is phenomenal. My intention is to encourage parents, teachers and leaders to make reading on the whole, and especially Islamic Fiction, part of their daily lives.

  9. Asalam Alaikum

    I too have only read Eid Kareem Ameer Saab as it was the only of the collection available at our local Muslim bookstore when we were in Canada and now in Turkey find NO English children’s books let alone children’s Islamic books. I must say though that that book became a quick favorite and my daughter was very curious about why some people had “no money and no food” and why the characters in the illustrations “were crying”… It was a great lesson about sadaqah for us, and she still loves this book after reading it countless times.
    We would love to add this book to our collection…
    jazakallah khair
    jdivleli at hotmail dot ca

  10. Salaams everyone:

    The book giveaway has now ended.

    Thank you to all those who visited and read the interview. Those who have left comments are eligible to win Cinderella by Fawzia Gilani-Williams.

    I will be randomly selecting a winner. The winner’s name will be posted here within the next 24 hours.

  11. Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Dear Sister,

    I dont know if I could to participate, because here is 11:32 pm, but I dont know what time is in your country, I hope accept, Inshallah, my message.

    I really liked your interview, unfortunately I have not read any books yet, but I mean two things:

    1. When I was 10 years old I had already read Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty … among others … and when I was a teenager (and adult too) thought and dreamed of Prince Charming, perfect love, and butterflies in my stomach. And you not imagine how bad it was, but Alhamdulillah, I found Islam and understand that true love is when two people love for Allah. Then I decided it was not going to read these stories to my daughter. And when my husband’s aunt gave to him the book of Cinderella for her daughter (my stepdaughter 5 years old) I told to him not to give it to her because is a bad influence for her and also I no want that she think that all stepmothers are evil.

    2. In the country where I live now, are not many Islamic books, so I decided to start my own store of Islamic books for children, and Alhamdulillah, we gradually working in it. It’s a little hard work to raise awareness on Muslims to invest in books for their children, and with much more reason Islamic books. It’s amazing how many parents can spend hundreds dollars on toys and find it difficult to spend a few dollars on books, which are an inexhaustible source of knowledge.

    Well sister, I want congratulate to you and Jazaka’Allah for your great contribution with this page.

    Allah bless and reward to you. Ameen

    • Wa ‘alaykum assalam Linah:

      Ameen. Shukran for your comment.

      I think I may have miscalculated the time difference. So I will allow your comment and enter you in the random selection.

  12. Assalamu ‘alaykum Everyone:

    AlhamduLillah we have a winner of the Cinderella book.

    Congratulations (Mabruk) goes out to Helmy Haz! MashaAllah!

    Helmy Haz please contact me for details. My email is muslimkidsbooks@gmail.com or you can use the form on the contact page.

    After assigning a number to each email address I used random.org to input the numbers in the ‘True Random Number Generator.’ I then matched the number generated in the display with the email address to find the winner.

    JazakuAllahu Khairan to everyone who took time to leave a comment. If this was your first time here, I invite you to keep visiting the blog. To those who are frequent visitors, I always welcome your ideas and questions.

    I hope that I can hold more giveaways in the future, inshaAllah. So keep visiting and share. 🙂

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the interview and feel even more passionate to try to spread Islamic writing (stories and poetry) insha Allah. Very inspirational. Keep up the excellent work!

    • Thank you for your kind words Nazma.

      I think children need to read widely but always have their roots grounded in good Islamic literature, ficiton and non-fiction.

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