Perjalanan Haji dan Umroh November 2015 di Jakarta Pusat Hubungi 021-9929-2337 atau 0821-2406-5740 Alhijaz Indowisata adalah perusahaan swasta nasional yang bergerak di bidang tour dan travel. Nama Alhijaz terinspirasi dari istilah dua kota suci bagi umat islam pada zaman nabi Muhammad saw. yaitu Makkah dan Madinah. Dua kota yang penuh berkah sehingga diharapkan menular dalam kinerja perusahaan. Sedangkan Indowisata merupakan akronim dari kata indo yang berarti negara Indonesia dan wisata yang menjadi fokus usaha bisnis kami.

Perjalanan Haji dan Umroh November 2015 di Jakarta Pusat Alhijaz Indowisata didirikan oleh Bapak H. Abdullah Djakfar Muksen pada tahun 2010. Merangkak dari kecil namun pasti, alhijaz berkembang pesat dari mulai penjualan tiket maskapai penerbangan domestik dan luar negeri, tour domestik hingga mengembangkan ke layanan jasa umrah dan haji khusus. Tak hanya itu, pada tahun 2011 Alhijaz kembali membuka divisi baru yaitu provider visa umrah yang bekerja sama dengan muassasah arab saudi. Sebagai komitmen legalitas perusahaan dalam melayani pelanggan dan jamaah secara aman dan profesional, saat ini perusahaan telah mengantongi izin resmi dari pemerintah melalui kementrian pariwisata, lalu izin haji khusus dan umrah dari kementrian agama. Selain itu perusahaan juga tergabung dalam komunitas organisasi travel nasional seperti Asita, komunitas penyelenggara umrah dan haji khusus yaitu HIMPUH dan organisasi internasional yaitu IATA. Perjalanan Haji dan Umroh November 2015 di Jakarta Pusat

Tanda Haji Mabrur

Zuhud Terhadap Dunia

Para ulama kita menyebutkan tanda-tanda haji yang mabrur, diantaranya Imam Hasan Al Bashri rahimahullah berkata: (Haji yang mabrur adalah agar ia pulang dari ibadah haji menjadi orang yang zuhud dalam kehidupan dunia dan cinta akhirat). Allah berfirman yang artinya: “Dan carilah (pahala) negeri akhirat dengan apa yang telah dianugerahkan Allah kepadamu, tetapi janganlah kamu lupa bagianmu di dunia”. (Surat Al-Qashash: 77)

Orang yang zuhud bukan berarti orang yang hanya beribadah di masjid dan tidak mau bekerja mencari harta untuk nafkah anak dan isteri tapi orang yang zuhud orang yang tidak diperbudak oleh hartanya, dunia boleh berada di tangannya tidak di hatinya, aktifitasnya dalam kehidupan dunia tidak melalaikannya dari ingat kepada Allah, melaksanakan shalat yang lima waktu tepat pada waktunya, tidak memutuskan silaturahmi, tetap rajin menuntut ilmu islam lalu mengamalkan dan menda’wahkannya, tidak melupakan tanggung jawab mendidik isteri dan anak-anak. Orang yang zuhud adalah orang yang penghasilannya dari yang halal, bukan dari hasil renten, riba, suap, korupsi, mencuri, judi, pungli, memeras, menipu, memakan hak orang lain. Semoga Allah mengaruniakan kita semua rezeki yang halal, baik dan berkah serta dijauhkan dari segala pendapatan yang haram, amin!

Lebih Baik Dari Sebelumnya Dalam Segala Hal

Ada lagi yang mengatakan diantara tanda haji yang mabrur adalah setelah pulang dari menunaikan ibadah haji, ia menjadi lebih baik dari sebelumnya .

1. Dalam Hal Tauhid

Menjadi lebih baik dalam hal tauhid. Jika ada diantara jamaah haji yang sebelum hajinya masih suka pergi ke dukun untuk minta kekayaan, anak, jodoh, cepat naik pangkat dan lain-lain maka setelah kita haji hendaklah kita tinggalkan hal tersebut dan bertaubat kepada Allah karena Rasulullah bersabda  yang artinya, “Barangsiapa mendatangi tukang ramal atau dukun lalu membenarkan apa yang dikatakannya, maka ia telah kafir dengan apa yang telah diturunkan kepada Muhammad”. (HR. Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidzi, Ibnu Majah, dishahihkan oleh Al-Albani dalam Al-Irwa` no. 2006)

Barangsiapa yang sebelum ia haji, suka menyembelih sapi atau lainnya untuk dijadikan sebagai tumbal atau sesajen maka sekarang harus meninggalkannya dan menyembelih kurban hanya untuk Allah karena Allah berfirman yang artinya: “Maka dirikanlah shalat karena Rabbmu dan berkorbanlah” (Surat Al- Kautsar 2).

“Katakanlah sesungguhnya shalatku, sesembelihanku, hidup dan matiku hanya untuk Allah Rabbul Alamin tidak ada sekutu baginya” (Surat Al-An’aam: 162)

Barangsiapa yang sebelum ia haji, masih mempercayai ramalan bintang maka tinggalkanlah dan bertawakallah kepada Allah semata.

Barangsiapa yang sebelum hajinya masih mengkeramatkan keris dan jimat-jimat, maka sekarang musnahkanlah segala jimat yang kita miliki.

Barangsiapa yang sebelum hajinya masih suka meruwat bumi untuk menghindarkan bencana, maka sekarang bertaubatlah dan tinggalkan upacara syirik itu, bergantunglah kepada Allah karena yang dapat menghindarkan bencana hanya Allah semata.

Barangsiapa yang sebelum hajinya masih mengkeramatkan sapi yang dikeluarkan setiap tanggal sepuluh Muharram bahkan berebut untuk memperoleh kotorannya yang dianggap dapat memberikan berkah, maka ketahuilah itu adalah perbuatan syirik.

Barangsiapa yang sebelum hajinya masih meyakini bahwa nasib sial akan menimpanya jika bepergian hari Selasa atau Sabtu juga untuk menentukan waktu pernikahan harus dihitung secara cermat karena kalau tidak pas harinya akan menimbulkan kesialan, maka itu semua adalah syirik. Allah tidak mengampuni dosa syirik kecuali jika pelakunya bertaubat, sesungguhnya Allah Maha Penerima taubat. Allah mengharamkan surga bagi orang yang berbuat syirik. Adapun orang-orang yang beriman dan tidak mencampur adukkan keimanan mereka dengan kesyirikan maka mereka mendapatkan keamanan dan hidayah dari Allah Taala.

2. Dalam Hal Ibadah

Hendaklah jamaah haji memperbaiki ibadahnya kepada Allah, shalat yang lima waktu jangan sampai ditinggalkan, zakat maal harus dikeluarkan dan shaum di bulan Ramadhan harus dijalankan. Segala ibadah kita laksanakan dengan penuh rasa cinta kepada Allah yang telah memberikan kepada kita nikmat yang tidak terhingga. Kita siap korbankan harta, tenaga dan waktu kita demi menggapai ridha Allah.

3. Dalam Hal Muamalah

Hendaklah kita perbaiki muamalah kita dengan orang tua yang telah melahirkan dan mendidik kita sejak kecil. Jangan sampai kita menyakiti hati mereka dan hendaklah selalu berbakti dan memperlakukan mereka dengan sebaik-baiknya. Jika orang tua kita telah meninggal dunia hendaklah kita selalu mendoakan untuk mereka.

Muamalah Suami Isteri

Bagi para suami hendaklah perbaiki muamalah dengan isterinya jangan mudah marah dan membentak isterinya jika berbuat kesalahan. Lakukanlah hal-hal yang menyenangkan isteri selama tidak bertentangan dengan syariat. Didiklah isteri dengan nasehat, membawanya ke majelis ta’lim, membelikannya buku dan kaset ceramah yang bermanfaat. Juga didiklah isteri dengan memberi keteladanan. Rasulullah bersabda: “Sebaik-baik kalian adalah yang terbaik terhadap keluarganya dan saya adalah orang yang paling baik diantara kalian terhadap keluargaku”.

Bagi para isteri perbaikilah muamalah dengan suami jadilah isteri yang taat. Rasulullah bersabda: “Apabila wanita shalat yang lima waktu, berpuasa di bulan Ramadhan, taat kepada suaminya dan memelihara kemaluannya, maka ia masuk surga dari pintu-pintu mana saja yang ia mau”.

Ketaatan kepada suami dalam hal yang makruf saja adapun dalam hal maksiat tidak ada ketaatan kepada makhluk dalam hal maksiat kepada Allah Al-Khaliq. Ketika suami baru datang dari pekerjaan janganlah disambut dengan berbagai macam problem dan hal-hal yang tidak menyenangkan tetapi sambutlah dengan senyum, sediakanlah makan dan minum serta biarkanlah suami untuk istirahat dulu setelah itu barulah sampaikan segala problem yang ada niscaya suami sudah lebih siap untuk mendengarkannya.

Muamalah Orang Tua dan Anak

Bagi para orang tua perbaikilah dalam pendidikan terhadap anak-anak, mereka merupakan amanat yang kelak kita akan diminta pertanggungjawabannya di hari akhir. Didiklah mereka dengan memberikan contoh yang baik, sekolahkanlah mereka di tempat yang baik, awasilah pergaulan mereka. Selalulah berdoa kepada Allah agar melindungi dan menjaga mereka dari segala kejahatan dan keburukan karena doa orang tua untuk anaknya insya Allah mustajab.

Muamalah Kaum Muslimah

Bagi kaum muslimah perbaikilah dalam hal berbusana, tutuplah aurat anda dan jangan diperlihatkan kepada laki-laki yang bukan mahramnya. Allah berfirman: “Hai Nabi katakanlah kepada isteri-isterimu, anak-anak perempuanmu, dan isteri-isteri orang mukmin, (Hendaklah mereka mengulurkan jilbabnya ke seluruh tubuh mereka). Yang demikian itu supaya mereka lebih mudah untuk dikenal, karena itu mereka tidak diganggu. Dan Allah adalah Maha Pengampun lagi Maha Penyayang”. (Surat Al-Ahzab: 59)

“Katakanlah kepada wanita yang beriman, hendaklah mereka menahan pandangannya, dan memelihara kemaluannya, dan janganlah mereka menampakkan perhiasannya, kecuali yang (biasa) nampak dari padanya. Dan hendaklah mereka menutupkan kain kudung ke dadanya, dan janganlah menampakkan perhiasannya, kecuali kepada suami mereka, atau ayah mereka, atau ayah suami mereka, atau putera-putera mereka, atau putera-putera suami mereka, atau saudara-saudara laki-laki mereka, atau putera-putera saudara laki-laki mereka, atau putera-putera saudara perempuan mereka, atau wanita-wanita Islam atau budak-budak yang mereka miliki, atau pelayan-pelayan laki-laki yang tidak mempunyai keinginan (terhadap wanita) atau anak-anak yang belum mengerti tentang aurat wanita. Dan janganlah mereka memukulkan kakinya agar diketahui perhiasan yang mereka sembunyikan. Dan bertaubatlah kamu sekalian kepada Allah, hai orang-orang yang beriman supaya kamu beruntung”. (Surat An-Nuur: 31)

Rasulullah bersabda: “Ada dua golongan dari penduduk neraka yang belum pernah saya lihat keduanya (sebelum ini), (pertama) suatu kaum yang memiliki cambuk bagaikan ekor sapi yang digunakannya untuk memukul manusia dan (kedua) wanita yang berpakaian tapi telanjang berjalan berlenggak lenggok, kepala mereka seperti punuk unta, mereka tidak masuk surga dan tidak mencium bau surga padahal bau surga itu tercium dari jarak yang sekian dan sekian jauhnya”. (Hadits Shahih, Riwayat Muslim)

Masih banyak diantara jamaah haji wanita yang berpakaian tapi telanjang, belum sempurna menutup auratnya, masih ada yang terlihat lehernya, terlihat lengannya, menutup aurat dengan pakaian yang ketat sehingga membentuk lekak lekuk tubuhnya, berpakaian dengan bahan yang tipis dan transparan sehingga terlihat kulitnya, pada hakekatnya mereka masih telanjang dan diancam tidak masuk surga. Hendaklah jamaah haji wanita menjadi sadar setelah menangis dan memohon ampun kepada Allah pada saat wuquf di Arafah, apakah kita ulangi kembali dosa-dosa kita?

Hendaklah jamaah haji wanita menjadi teladan bagi kaum muslimah di tanah air yang sedang dilanda dekadensi akhlak dan moral, didiklah puteri-puteri kita agar berbusana muslimah, nasehatilah mereka agar tidak keluar rumah dengan menggunakan celana pendek, celana panjang lebih-lebih celana yang sangat ketat dan perutnya terlihat, innaalillahi wa innaa ilaihi rajiuun.

Hendaklah jamaah haji wanita berdandan dan bersolek mempercantik diri, tetapi untuk siapa? Bukan untuk orang-orang diluar rumah tapi untuk suami di rumah, kenyataan yang ada banyak dari kaum muslimah berdandan ketika keluar rumah padahal dilarang oleh Allah yang kita cintai, Allah berfirman: “Dan hendaklah kamu (isteri-isteri nabi) tetap di rumahmu dan janganlah kamu berhias dan bertingkah laku seperti orang-orang jahiliyah yang dahulu”. (Surat Al-Ahzab: 33)

Ayat ini berlaku juga untuk segenap kaum muslimah dan mukminah.

Rasulullah bersabda bahwa seorang wanita yang pergi keluar rumah dengan menggunakan parfum sehingga tercium oleh laki-laki lain, maka sesungguhnya ia itu pelacur. Setiap hari kita berdoa memohon hidayah kepada Allah, maka sudah menjadi kewajiban bagi kita untuk mempelajari jalan-jalan hidayah berupa ilmu yang bermanfaat karena masih banyak diantara jalan-jalan hidayah yang belum kita ketahui dibandingkan yang sudah kita ketahui. Jangan kita menganggap ini adalah hal yang baru kita dengar, kami sudah terbiasa dengan adat kami dan dalih-dalih lainnya yang tidak bisa diterima oleh syariat. Allah berfirman: “Dan apabila dikatakan kepada mereka: lkutilah apa yang telah diturunkan Allah mereka menjawab: Tidak, tetapi kami hanya mengikuti apa yang telah kami dapati dari (perbuatan) nenek moyang kami. (Apakah mereka akan mengikuti juga), walaupun nenek moyang mereka itu tidak mengetahui suatu apapun, dan tidak mendapat petunjuk?” (Surat Al-Baqarah: 170)

Dan firmanNya: “Dan tidaklah boleh bagi laki-laki yang mukmin dan tidak (pula) bagi perempuan yang mukmin, apabila Allah dan RasulNya telah menetapkan suatu ketetapan, akan ada bagi mereka pilihan (yang lain) tentang urusan mereka. Dan barangsiapa mendurhakai Allah dan RasulNya maka sungguhlah dia telah sesat, sesat yang nyata”. (Surat Al-Ahzab: 36)

Muamalah Secara Umum

Hendaklah kita semua memperbaiki diri dalam hal tanggung jawab kita memperbaiki masyarakat. Bentengi aqidah umat dengan menyebarkan ilmu yang bermanfaat, dengan saling nasehat menasehati untuk menepati kebenaran dan nasehat menasehati untuk menetapi kesabaran, dengan saling bekerjasama dalam hal kebaikan dan taqwa. Tidak sedikit umat Islam di Indonesia murtad dari agamanya disebabkan kelengahan dan kelalaian kita. Benar sebab mereka murtad adalah karena lemah iman ditambah lagi dengan lemah ekonomi, tapi apakah boleh kita diam dan berpangku tangan? Tidak, kita harus berbuat sesuai dengan kemampuan kita. Apabila kita tidak bisa mendidik mereka karena keterbatasan ilmu kita, ajaklah mereka untuk menghadiri majelis-majelis ilmu, bagikan buletin dan buku-buku Islam, pinjamkan kaset-kaset ceramah yang bermanfaat. Jika mereka malas bekerja berilah motivasi, jika mereka nganggur carikanlah pekerjaan untuk mereka, jika puteri-puteri kita sudah dewasa carikanlah untuk mereka suami yang baik keislamannya jangan kita biarkan mereka menikah dengan laki-laki kafir.

Apabila anda sebagai pejabat janganlah anda menghalangi dan mempersulit orang-orang yang ikhlas mengajak manusia untuk mentauhidkan Allah dan tidak berbuat syirik, untuk mengikuti sunnah Nabi dan tidak berbuat bid’ah.

Bagi orang tua yang mempunyai anak puteri memakai jilbab atau cadar dukunglah mereka dan banggalah terhadap anak anda yang taat kepada Allah, semoga Allah menghiasi puteri anda dengan akhlak yang baik pula.

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TANDA-TANDA HAJI MABRUR

THE WRITERS ASHLEY AND JAQUAVIS COLEMAN know the value of a good curtain-raiser. The couple have co-authored dozens of novels, and they like to start them with a bang: a headlong action sequence, a blast of violence or sex that rocks readers back on their heels. But the Colemans concede they would be hard-pressed to dream up anything more gripping than their own real-life opening scene.

In the summer of 2001, JaQuavis Coleman was a 16-year-old foster child in Flint, Mich., the former auto-manufacturing mecca that had devolved, in the wake of General Motors’ plant closures, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities, with a decimated economy and a violent crime rate more than three times the national average. When JaQuavis was 8, social services had removed him from his mother’s home. He spent years bouncing between foster families. At 16, JaQuavis was also a businessman: a crack dealer with a network of street-corner peddlers in his employ.

One day that summer, JaQuavis met a fellow dealer in a parking lot on Flint’s west side. He was there to make a bulk sale of a quarter-brick, or “nine-piece” — a nine-ounce parcel of cocaine, with a street value of about $11,000. In the middle of the transaction, JaQuavis heard the telltale chirp of a walkie-talkie. His customer, he now realized, was an undercover policeman. JaQuavis jumped into his car and spun out onto the road, with two unmarked police cars in pursuit. He didn’t want to get into a high-speed chase, so he whipped his car into a church parking lot and made a run for it, darting into an alleyway behind a row of small houses, where he tossed the quarter-brick into some bushes. When JaQuavis reached the small residential street on the other side of the houses, he was greeted by the police, who handcuffed him and went to search behind the houses where, they told him, they were certain he had ditched the drugs. JaQuavis had been dealing since he was 12, had amassed more than $100,000 and had never been arrested. Now, he thought: It’s over.

But when the police looked in the bushes, they couldn’t find any cocaine. They interrogated JaQuavis, who denied having ever possessed or sold drugs. They combed the backyard alley some more. After an hour of fruitless efforts, the police were forced to unlock the handcuffs and release their suspect.

JaQuavis was baffled by the turn of events until the next day, when he received a phone call. The previous afternoon, a 15-year-old girl had been sitting in her home on the west side of Flint when she heard sirens. She looked out of the window of her bedroom, and watched a young man throw a package in the bushes behind her house. She recognized him. He was a high school classmate — a handsome, charismatic boy whom she had admired from afar. The girl crept outside and grabbed the bundle, which she hid in her basement. “I have something that belongs to you,” Ashley Snell told JaQuavis Coleman when she reached him by phone. “You wanna come over here and pick it up?”

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Three of the nearly 50 works of urban fiction published by the Colemans over the last decade, often featuring drug deals, violence, sex and a brash kind of feminism.Credit Marko Metzinger

In the Colemans’ first novel, “Dirty Money” (2005), they told a version of this story. The outline was the same: the drug deal gone bad, the dope chucked in the bushes, the fateful phone call. To the extent that the authors took poetic license, it was to tone down the meet-cute improbability of the true-life events. In “Dirty Money,” the girl, Anari, and the crack dealer, Maurice, circle each other warily for a year or so before coupling up. But the facts of Ashley and JaQuavis’s romance outstripped pulp fiction. They fell in love more or less at first sight, moved into their own apartment while still in high school and were married in 2008. “We were together from the day we met,” Ashley says. “I don’t think we’ve spent more than a week apart in total over the past 14 years.”

That partnership turned out to be creative and entrepreneurial as well as romantic. Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.

But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.

“When you read our books, you’re gonna realize: ‘Ashley & JaQuavis are storytellers,’ ” says Ashley. “Our tales will get your heart pounding.”

THE COLEMANS’ HOME BASE — the cottage from which they operate their cottage industry — is a spacious four-bedroom house in a genteel suburb about 35 miles north of downtown Detroit. The house is plush, but when I visited this past winter, it was sparsely appointed. The couple had just recently moved in, and had only had time to fully furnish the bedroom of their 4-year-old son, Quaye.

In conversation, Ashley and JaQuavis exude both modesty and bravado: gratitude for their good fortune and bootstrappers’ pride in having made their own luck. They talk a lot about their time in the trenches, the years they spent as a drug dealer and “ride-or-die girl” tandem. In Flint they learned to “grind hard.” Writing, they say, is merely a more elevated kind of grind.

“Instead of hitting the block like we used to, we hit the laptops,” says Ashley. “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.’ ”

They maintain a rigorous regimen. They each try to write 5,000 words per day, five days a week. The writers stagger their shifts: JaQuavis goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up early, around 3 or 4 in the morning, to work while his wife and child sleep. Ashley writes during the day, often in libraries or at Starbucks.

They divide the labor in other ways. Chapters are divvied up more or less equally, with tasks assigned according to individual strengths. (JaQuavis typically handles character development. Ashley loves writing murder scenes.) The results are stitched together, with no editorial interference from one author in the other’s text. The real work, they contend, is the brainstorming. The Colemans spend weeks mapping out their plot-driven books — long conversations that turn into elaborate diagrams on dry-erase boards. “JaQuavis and I are so close, it makes the process real easy,” says Ashley. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of something, a plot point, he’ll say it out loud, and I’m like: ‘Wait — did I say that?’ ”

Their collaboration developed by accident, and on the fly. Both were bookish teenagers. Ashley read lots of Judy Blume and John Grisham; JaQuavis liked Shakespeare, Richard Wright and “Atlas Shrugged.” (Their first official date was at a Borders bookstore, where Ashley bought “The Coldest Winter Ever,” the Sister Souljah novel often credited with kick-starting the contemporary street-lit movement.) In 2003, Ashley, then 17, was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. She was bedridden for three weeks, and to provide distraction and boost her spirits, JaQuavis challenged his girlfriend to a writing contest. “She just wasn’t talking. She was laying in bed. I said, ‘You know what? I bet you I could write a better book than you.’ My wife is real competitive. So I said, ‘Yo, all right, $500 bet.’ And I saw her eyes spark, like, ‘What?! You can’t write no better book than me!’ So I wrote about three chapters. She wrote about three chapters. Two days later, we switched.”

The result, hammered out in a few days, would become “Dirty Money.” Two years later, when Ashley and JaQuavis were students at Ferris State University in Western Michigan, they sold the manuscript to Urban Books, a street-lit imprint founded by the best-selling author Carl Weber. At the time, JaQuavis was still making his living selling drugs. When Ashley got the phone call informing her that their book had been bought, she assumed they’d hit it big, and flushed more than $10,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet. Their advance was a mere $4,000.

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The roots of street lit, found in the midcentury detective novels of Chester Himes and the ‘60s and ‘70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines.Credit Marko Metzinger

Those advances would soon increase, eventually reaching five and six figures. The Colemans built their career, JaQuavis says, in a manner that made sense to him as a veteran dope peddler: by flooding the street with product. From the start, they were prolific, churning out books at a rate of four or five a year. Their novels made their way into stores; the now-defunct chain Waldenbooks, which had stores in urban areas typically bypassed by booksellers, was a major engine of the street-lit market. But Ashley and JaQuavis took advantage of distribution channels established by pioneering urban fiction authors such as Teri Woods and Vickie Stringer, and a network of street-corner tables, magazine stands, corner shops and bodegas. Like rappers who establish their bona fides with gray-market mixtapes, street-lit authors use this system to circumnavigate industry gatekeepers, bringing their work straight to the genre’s core readership. But urban fiction has other aficionados, in less likely places. “Our books are so popular in the prison system,” JaQuavis says. “We’re banned in certain penitentiaries. Inmates fight over the books — there are incidents, you know? I have loved ones in jail, and they’re like: ‘Yo, your books can’t come in here. It’s against the rules.’ ”

The appeal of the Colemans’ work is not hard to fathom. The books are formulaic and taut; they deliver the expected goods efficiently and exuberantly. The titles telegraph the contents: “Diary of a Street Diva,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Murderville.” The novels serve up a stream of explicit sex and violence in a slangy, tangy, profane voice. In Ashley & JaQuavis’s books people don’t get killed: they get “popped,” “laid out,” get their “cap twisted back.” The smut is constant, with emphasis on the earthy, sticky, olfactory particulars. Romance novel clichés — shuddering orgasms, heroic carnal feats, superlative sexual skill sets — are rendered in the Colemans’ punchy patois.

Subtlety, in other words, isn’t Ashley & JaQuavis’s forte. But their books do have a grainy specificity. In “The Cartel” (2008), the first novel in the Colemans’ best-selling saga of a Miami drug syndicate, they catch the sights and smells of a crack workshop in a housing project: the nostril-stinging scent of cocaine and baking soda bubbling on stovetops; the teams of women, stripped naked except for hospital masks so they can’t pilfer the merchandise, “cutting up the cooked coke on the round wood table.” The subject matter is dark, but the Colemans’ tone is not quite noir. Even in the grimmest scenes, the mood is high-spirited, with the writers palpably relishing the lewd and gory details: the bodies writhing in boudoirs and crumpling under volleys of bullets, the geysers of blood and other bodily fluids.

The luridness of street lit has made it a flashpoint, inciting controversy reminiscent of the hip-hop culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s. But the street-lit debate touches deeper historical roots, reviving decades-old arguments in black literary circles about the mandate to uplift the race and present wholesome images of African-Americans. In 1928, W. E. B. Du Bois slammed the “licentiousness” of “Home to Harlem,” Claude McKay’s rollicking novel of Harlem nightlife. McKay’s book, Du Bois wrote, “for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath.” Similar sentiments have greeted 21st-century street lit. In a 2006 New York Times Op-Ed essay, the journalist and author Nick Chiles decried “the sexualization and degradation of black fiction.” African-American bookstores, Chiles complained, are “overrun with novels that . . . appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures — as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.”

Copulating paperbacks aside, it’s clear that the street-lit debate is about more than literature, touching on questions of paternalism versus populism, and on middle-class anxieties about the black underclass. “It’s part and parcel of black elites’ efforts to define not only a literary tradition, but a racial politics,” said Kinohi Nishikawa, an assistant professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University. “There has always been a sense that because African-Americans’ opportunities to represent themselves are so limited in the first place, any hint of criminality or salaciousness would necessarily be a knock on the entire racial politics. One of the pressing debates about African-American literature today is: If we can’t include writers like Ashley & JaQuavis, to what extent is the foundation of our thinking about black literature faulty? Is it just a literature for elites? Or can it be inclusive, bringing urban fiction under the purview of our umbrella term ‘African-American literature’?”

Defenders of street lit note that the genre has a pedigree: a tradition of black pulp fiction that stretches from Chester Himes, the midcentury author of hardboiled Harlem detective stories, to the 1960s and ’70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, to the current wave of urban fiction authors. Others argue for street lit as a social good, noting that it attracts a large audience that might otherwise never read at all. Scholars like Nishikawa link street lit to recent studies showing increased reading among African-Americans. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that a greater percentage of black Americans are book readers than whites or Latinos.

For their part, the Colemans place their work in the broader black literary tradition. “You have Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin — all of these traditional black writers, who wrote about the struggles of racism, injustice, inequality,” says Ashley. “We’re writing about the struggle as it happens now. It’s just a different struggle. I’m telling my story. I’m telling the struggle of a black girl from Flint, Michigan, who grew up on welfare.”

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The Colemans in their new four-bedroom house in the northern suburbs of Detroit.Credit Courtesy of Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman

Perhaps there is a high-minded case to be made for street lit. But the virtues of Ashley & JaQuavis’s work are more basic. Their novels do lack literary polish. The writing is not graceful; there are passages of clunky exposition and sex scenes that induce guffaws and eye rolls. But the pleasure quotient is high. The books flaunt a garish brand of feminism, with women characters cast not just as vixens, but also as gangsters — cold-blooded killers, “murder mamas.” The stories are exceptionally well-plotted. “The Cartel” opens by introducing its hero, the crime boss Carter Diamond; on page 9, a gunshot spatters Diamond’s brain across the interior of a police cruiser. The book then flashes back seven years and begins to hurtle forward again — a bullet train, whizzing readers through shifting alliances, romantic entanglements and betrayals, kidnappings, shootouts with Haitian and Dominican gangsters, and a cliffhanger closing scene that leaves the novel’s heroine tied to a chair in a basement, gruesomely tortured to the edge of death. Ashley & JaQuavis’s books are not Ralph Ellison, certainly, but they build up quite a head of steam. They move.

The Colemans are moving themselves these days. They recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press, which will bring out the next installment in the “Cartel” series as well as new solo series by both writers. The St. Martin’s deal is both lucrative and legitimizing — a validation of Ashley and JaQuavis’s work by one of publishing’s most venerable houses. The Colemans’ ambitions have grown, as well. A recent trilogy, “Murderville,” tackles human trafficking and the blood-diamond industry in West Africa, with storylines that sweep from Sierra Leone to Mexico to Los Angeles. Increasingly, Ashley & JaQuavis are leaning on research — traveling to far-flung settings and hitting the books in the libraries — and spending less time mining their own rough-and-tumble past.

But Flint remains a source of inspiration. One evening not long ago, JaQuavis led me on a tour of his hometown: a popular roadside bar; the parking lot where he met the undercover cop for the ill-fated drug deal; Ashley’s old house, the site of his almost-arrest. He took me to a ramshackle vehicle repair shop on Flint’s west side, where he worked as a kid, washing cars. He showed me a bathroom at the rear of the garage, where, at age 12, he sneaked away to inspect the first “boulder” of crack that he ever sold. A spray-painted sign on the garage wall, which JaQuavis remembered from his time at the car wash, offered words of warning:

WHAT EVERY YOUNG MAN SHOULD KNOW
ABOUT USING A GUN:
MURDER . . . 30 Years
ARMED ROBBERY . . . 15 Years
ASSAULT . . . 15 Years
RAPE . . . 20 Years
POSSESSION . . . 5 Years
JACKING . . . 20 YEARS

“We still love Flint, Michigan,” JaQuavis says. “It’s so seedy, so treacherous. But there’s some heart in this city. This is where it all started, selling books out the box. In the days when we would get those little $40,000 advances, they’d send us a couple boxes of books for free. We would hit the streets to sell our books, right out of the car trunk. It was a hustle. It still is.”

One old neighborhood asset that the Colemans have not shaken off is swagger. “My wife is the best female writer in the game,” JaQuavis told me. “I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple

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