Ever wonder what it would be like to watch a reality show featuring Muslim Americans? Well, Hulu has taken on the endeavor!
Secrets and Sisterhood: The Sozahdahs is a reality show on Hulu that follows ten Muslim American sisters as they navigate the intersections of their lives when it comes to faith, love, career, and, most importantly, family. The Sozahdahs come from an Afghan background and identify as Muslim Americans. The reality show provides us a glimpse into their lives as the sisters are forced to face each other’s secrets and see how they test their sisterhood.
The reality show’s first episode allows us to meet the Sozahdahs as they prepare for an Eid gathering that includes all of the sisters and their mother together after over a decade. The sisters are categorized into two groups, The “Elders” and the “Wolf Pack.” The Elders are Shaista, Halimah, Khadija, and Rabya. These four sisters are the oldest of ten and were born in Afghanistan. They are known to be more traditional and religious than the rest of the family. The Wolf Pack consists of the youngest six, Shakur, Muzlefa, Jamila, Siddiqa, Nooreya, and Hamida.
These sisters identify as American first and foremost while also trying to respect the religion. Each of the sisters is introduced and shares glimpses about their careers, their personalities, and the secrets they’re hiding from the family. The sisters’ dynamics and feelings about certain aspects of their culture and faith are revealed. The fifth in the line-up of sisters, Shakur, stated, “Here we are, born and raised in America; we’re Americans first. Trying to respect the religious aspect but still trying to live our truths. It’s a fine balance.”
This reality show is being sold to the public as a form of representation of Muslim Americans, especially since the Sozahdah sisters self-identify as such. Though this is true, I can say that this show portrays a certain version of the Muslim experience – a very Westernized one. Many of the sisters do not state otherwise, as they are self-aware that they no longer abide by the conservative Muslim household they were raised in.
The younger sisters do not dress in modest attire, openly drink, and engage in other behaviors that are not necessarily encouraged in Islam. They even say that their motto is “Party and Pray”…emphasis on the party. However, they still practice many aspects of the Islamic faith, such as participating in Ramadan and celebrating Eid ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
Throughout the show, the sisters bring up their faith and how their actions may be contradictory or against Islam as well as their Afghan culture. For example, one of the youngest sisters is grappling with feeling guilty about exploring her sexuality. She mentions that this is something she feels is sinful and knows is not accepted in their culture. Some of the sisters’ secrets are connected to these kinds of conversations between the family and are discussed further in their individual confessionals.
Disagreements on certain topics cause a rift between the Elders and the Wolf Pack, but they still love each other and want to get along despite their differences. Along with this, there are learning moments in regard to teaching about Islamic terms and concepts sprinkled throughout the show, which could be helpful for the show’s non-Muslim watchers.
Overall, Secrets and Sisterhood: The Sozahdahs may not be the most accurate representation of the typical Muslim American experience, but yet another rebranded version of Keeping Up with the Kardashians with a label of including the Muslim American identity. I do think it’s helpful that the Sozahdah sisters don’t try to justify their actions that may not be encouraged in Islam. Rather, they attempt to shed light that their identity being complex. They still hold certain values of the faith close to their heart such as having respect for their parents, spending time with family, and being forgiving and understanding.
I would advise watching this show with the intent of being entertained rather than seeking true Muslim representation, though it can be a great way to spark some interesting conversations regarding Islam and Westernized idealizations of the faith. Regardless, this show is as entertaining and drama-filled as reality shows are designed to be!