A young Muslim girl joins a boy band at her new middle school to fit in while navigating faith, family, and friendships. Pitched as Julie and the Phantoms meets Amina’s Voice, this middle-grade story is sweet, powerful, and joyous. Published in October 2021, Barakah Beats takes readers on a journey where love for music and religious values navigate each other. It’s no surprise that readers had great things to say about this debut and School Library Journal had it listed as one of the best middle-grade books of 2021.

It’s also no surprise that the author’s announcement for her sophomore novel, Bhai For Now, have made readers happy. With Muslim twin boys, family drama, and ice hockey, this middle-grade is also set to have a whole lot of heart. It will be publishing months away from now but luckily, we can know more about it right here, right now. Needless to say, it’s a pleasure to feature Maleeha Siddiqui —the author of Bhai for Now & Barakah Beats— on this blog today! To view more such posts by Muslim authors, make sure to check out this collaboration, Muslim Musings, spanning over Ramadan 2022. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.

Credit: Maleeha Siddiqui

Q/A with Maleeha Siddiqui on her middle-grade novels, young Muslim characters, and tales driven by family and faith.

Starting with the introductions, would you like to help our readers know more about your upcoming novel, Bhai For Now, yourself, and the weather where you are?

Hi, Fanna! For those that don’t know, I’m Maleeha Siddiqui and I’m a first-generation Pakistani American Muslim author. My debut contemporary middle grade novel, Barakah Beats, came out last October and my next MG contemporary, Bhai For Now, is coming from Scholastic on October 4, 2022 (Cover reveal hopefully coming soon! Spoiler alert: It’s adorable).

It’s a fun new twist on the Parent Trap story about twin Muslim brothers, Ashar and Shaheer, who were separated as babies after their parents’ nasty divorce. Neither boy is aware the other exists. But then they meet on Shaheer’s first day at his new school, and the whole story comes out. Now, these two long-lost brothers who have nothing in common decide to secretly switch identities to get to know the parent they’ve been separated from. The problem is Ashar and Shaheer don’t exactly get off on the right foot… The weather where I live is finally SPRING! I love leaving the house without having to put on a jacket. I could do without the allergies, though. So much sneezing!

This middle-grade story of two long-lost brothers is sure to be heartwarming, fun, and so much more. How was your experience writing this story, especially with the fresh new spin on The Parent Trap?

Even though the initial idea struck me while I was driving home from work one day – Muslim Parent Trap! Twin boys! – Second Book Syndrome got me good. Bhai For Now had me stumped for a while. I even started writing the first 10K words of the first draft and eventually scrapped the entire thing to start all over again because something about the story just wasn’t working. It’s also written in third person dual POV. Add to that, I drafted and revised Bhai For Now all through the pandemic and that it’s different from Barakah Beats – it was the holy grail of recipes for the Sophomore Slump.

However, at its heart Bhai For Now is still very me. I think if you took my name, the covers, and the titles off both my books and started reading them from Chapter One with no other information to go off from, I think readers would be able to tell that both books were written by the same author.

So twins, separated as babies, will be secretly switching identities to get to know the parent they’ve been separated from. Who, Ashar or Shaheer, was more difficult to craft? Or were they twinning in that aspect? 

Ashar and Shaheer really pushed back hard before they allowed me into their heads. I’d say Ashar was easier to craft, which is totally in line with his character. Ashar is loudmouthed and impulsive, but he wears his heart on his sleeves. Shaheer is more reserved and gives off strong “leave me alone” vibes, but there’s a good heart in that boy. Ashar and Shaheer are based off my own brothers and the reason why I wrote Bhai For Now. My brothers aren’t twins and Ashar and Shaheer aren’t exact copies of them, but they are very close in age and are so different from each other yet remain the best of friends.  

It’s easy to understand why readers are excited for Bhai for Now—set to be published on October 04, 2022! How excited are you? Any thoughts on what you expect readers to take away from it?

I am very excited for Bhai For Now to be out in the world on October 4, 2022! I’m also extremely nervous because it’s different from Barakah Beats. There isn’t as much of an emphasis on faith or spiritual struggles, though the boys discuss their personal stances on their religion in the book. It truly is a story about these brothers and how they must learn to trust each other. One thing I hope readers take away from Bhai For Now is the meaning of home – what it really is and how we sometimes find it in the most unexpected places.

Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui

Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it’s time to go to “real school.”

Nimra’s nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything.

Unfortunately, middle school is hard. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids.

Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna’s good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school’s popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn’t allowed in Islam, and she knows her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out.

But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band-they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra’s lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna’s friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates-or herself. 

Buy now: Amazon US | Bookshop UK | Amazon IN

Much like these Muslim boys, your debut MG contemporary, Barakah Beats, also featured a Muslim girl who finds her voice by joining a boy band at her new middle school. Why specifically stories of these young characters?

I believe in writing characters that we see engaging with their faith in a meaningful way on the page, but also in characters who exist as they are without digging too deep on the spiritual side of things. At the end of the day, it depends on the story I want to tell and what it calls for. In Barakah Beats, Islam plays a huge role in Nimra’s life and informed her character’s decisions. In Bhai For Now, both Ashar and Shaheer are Muslim, but since they were raised apart, their views and the way they practice or engage with Islam is different and that never changes. I also really wanted to write about brown Muslim boys – brothers and friends. I think they are sorely underrepresented in today’s market. I didn’t want this book to have anything to do with prejudice, racism, bullying, etc. Just two brown boys living their lives determined to get what they want

Whether it’s Nimra wearing a hijab or the focus on music as a topic of discourse, the presence of religion is evident in Barakah Beats. How important was it for you to tell a story that shows faith and how there are many sides to it?

It was very important to me. As a young kid and as a teenager, I went through various phases and sides on the journey to understanding what my faith means to me. There were bumps on the road, of course. But if I had stories like Barakah Beats growing up maybe I wouldn’t have felt as confused or alone in that struggle.  

Family seems to be an overlapping focus in both the books, from Nimra’s loving family holding different expectations for her to Ashar & Shaheer navigating family drama and bromance. How important was it to reflect on ‘family’ through a lens of warmth and compassion?

I honestly don’t think it’s possible for me to write a story that doesn’t have a healthy dose of family drama. Family is a critical component of South Asian culture and far too often our elders or more religious family members are shown as the oppressive villains we must escape from, and I was tired of it. Families are complicated, for sure, but they give us a sense of hope. That there is always someone there for you when you need them.

With two books published now, what have you learned ever since that first step you took towards writing stories or getting them on shelves?

Write the story the way it feels natural to you. Don’t try to fit into a mould or meet expectations that don’t hold true to your vision.

This was a great chat! But before letting you go, would you like to share what you’ve been working on nowadays; any stories we should be excited for after Bhai For Now is surely going to win our hearts? Or maybe something you enjoyed reading recently?

Thank you, Fanna! I had a lot of fun answering your insightful questions. I’m working on a few more MG ideas right now, but nothing concrete that I can share just yet. Recently, I just finished reading an ARC of Debbi Michiko Florence’s Sweet and Sour and really enjoyed it! It comes out this summer. Other middle grade novels that I’ve read so far this year that I loved are The Girl in the Lake by India Hill Brown, Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed, A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo, and Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi.

Maleeha Siddiqui

She is an American writer of Pakistani descent who loves to tell unapologetically Muslim stories for all ages. By day, Maleeha works as a regulatory affairs professional in the biotech industry. She grew up and continues to reside with her family in Virginia. When she’s not working, reading, or writing, she likes to try new food and snuggle cats. Barakah Beats (Scholastic 2021) is her debut novel. You can find her at maleehasiddiqui.com or @malsidink on Twitter or @malsidink on Instagram.


Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the author’s answers and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.

One thought on ““I honestly don’t think it’s possible for me to write a story that doesn’t have a healthy dose of family drama”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.