The is a wonderful exchange with the brilliant author, Sumbul Ali-Karamali. We cover her new book, Demystifying Shariah, and also what it means to be a Muslim in America. Not only today, but historically too. Sumbul brings a deep knowledge and load of wisdom to this enlightening conversation, as well an innate kindness and light touch.
Sumbul Ali-Karamali is an author and popular speaker whose books, articles, blogs,and speaking events are her way of promoting intercultural understanding in the world. Since she’s a Muslim American with expertise in Islamic law, that’s largely — but not solely — what she writes and speaks about. Sumbul – her name is the Persian word for “hyacinth” – grew up answering questions about Islam and Muslims, usually because she was the only Muslim her acquaintances knew. (Even though she grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles!) When the questions continued through her years as a corporate lawyer, she realized that books on Islam –the kind that answered the questions she’d been asked all her life – were nonexistent.
Naturally, therefore, she decided to write one. When her husband’s job took them to London, Sumbul earned a law degree (an LLM) in Islamic law from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
Since she already had a degree in English (from Stanford University) and an American law degree (from the University of California at Davis), she felt like she finally had the tools to write that book.
Her award-winning first book, The Muslim Next Door: the Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing, was published in 2008. In it, she addressed the kinds of questions she’d always been asked but which were never answered in the media or even classrooms.
While on her book tour, several teachers complained of the absence of age-appropriate books on Islam for middle-school and high-school students. As a result, she wrote Growing up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam (Delacorte/Random House 2012), a nonfiction chapter book for ages 10 & up. (But, really, it’s good for adults, too.)
Her newest book, Demystifying Shariah, was released in August 2020! It’s an engaging, relatable, and thought-provoking discussion of shariah.
Aside from writing and speaking to news and entertainment media, as well as audiences of all ages and backgrounds, Sumbul has been a fiction and nonfiction judge, a reviewer for Oxford University Press, a board member of nonprofits dedicated to multicultural education, and a member of both the steering committee of Women in Islamic Spirituality and Equality (WISE) and the Muslim Women’s Global Shura Council, both of which aim to promote women’s rights and human rights from an Islamic perspective.
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