Her Heart Lies at the Feet of the Mother

Transformations of the Romance Plot in Leila Aboulela’s Minaret





Aboulela, romance, Islam, mother, Islamic feminism


Sudanese-British writer, Leila Aboulela’s novel, Minaret (2005) transforms the plot structure of Western literary and popular romance forms and develops further the plotlines of African-American Muslim romance novels. It does so by foregrounding the dissenting mother as obstruction to the union of the hero and heroine, against the backdrop of the unique status of the mother in Islam. Thus, the ending of the novel is neither happy nor tragic. Instead, the lovers are separated, and closure requires reconciliation on the part of the couple with the concerns of the mother. In addition, because of the significant differ-ence in age, the heroine is in some ways like a mother to the hero. Final contentment of the heroine is undermined by her questionable actions at the end, resulting in psychic and spiritual contraction. The novel is therefore open-ed up to ambiguity and uncertainty in the closure, notwithstanding the faith of the heroine. The specific form which closure takes, is determined by the dissenting mother as obstruction in Islamic romance.

Author Biography

F. Fiona Moolla, University of the Western Cape

Fiona Moolla is a lecturer and the author of Reading Nuruddin Farah: The Individual, the Novel & the Idea of Home (James Currey, 2014), as well as the editor of Natures of Africa: Ecocriticism and Animal Studies in Contemporary Cultural Forms (WITS UP, 2016), among other academic and non-academic publications. Currently she is researching romantic love in African and South African literature and culture.