Prayers of the Pious

What a gem of a book!

Prayers of the Pious is a book based on the series done by Omar Suleiman in Ramadan 2018. I must be the only person who wasn’t aware of this series until the book was published, because even though I love Omar Suleiman’s work, I don’t like to listen to anything short-form. So this book was perfect for me. It has thirty duas from our pious predecessors for the thirty days of Ramadan. Some of the duas are familiar ones from the sunnah and others are truly unique.

The duas appear in Arabic along with their transliteration and translation and are followed by their backstory and some explanation of the deeper meanings inherent in the duas.

At the end of the book is a Prayer Journal with prompts that remind readers to use the names of Allah and to call on Him for all of their needs.

The book is beautifully produced, in a perfectly sized hardcover with silver foiling on the cover, full-color pages, and a ribbon bookmark. It would make a beautiful gift. 

I can see myself returning to this book every Ramadan to benefit from the beautiful duas and the heartfelt stories behind them.

Thank you to Kube Publishing for so kindly sending me a free copy. 

Find it here: Goodreads | Kube Publishing | Amazon.com | Book Depository

Love from A to Z

If a YA novel is about a female Muslim protagonist who falls for a guy, the chances are that he is a non-Muslim. This is annoying to me not because it doesn’t happen, but because the opposite happens, too, and is so infrequently written about. S. K. Ali’s newest contemporary YA novel, Love from A to Z, is about that sadly neglected story line—what happens when a Muslim guy and girl fall for each other. It’s well-written and complex: the characters, who are both relatable and endearing, each have their own issues to deal with, and it is so refreshing to see a YA novel that tells a romance story with practicing Muslim characters.

This is the story of Adam and Zayneb, who meet in Doha over spring break. But it’s not really spring break for Adam because he’s not going back to school. He’s just been diagnosed with MS, which his mother died of years ago. Zayneb’s spring break is also complicated: she’s taking it one week early after being suspended for a run-in with an Islamophobic teacher at her high school. After a serendipitous initial meeting in a London airport, Zayneb and Adam meet again in Doha:  Zayneb’s aunt, who she’s staying with, is an old friend of Adam’s mother.

The book has a (delightfully sage) narrator who begins and ends the book and also butts in in the middle for an interlude. But the majority of the book is told through the journal entries of Adam and Zayneb. In an (again) serendipitous turn of events, they both keep a journal called Marvels and Oddities, in which they record the marvels (wonderful things) and oddities (not-so-wonderful things) they experience. True to his character, Adam’s journals are full of marvels. If you were to ask Adam what he wants most in the world, he would say peace. Zayneb’s journals are full of oddities, and if you asked her the same question, she would say justice. Throughout the book, Zayneb’s struggle is how to harness her anger into beneficial action that will have long-lasting effects. Adam’s struggle is to go after what he wants. Their struggles are real and timely, and I found the ending really satisfying.

I highly recommend this heartwarming and powerful YA novel about falling in love, believing in yourself, and trusting in your community of friends and allies.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Find it here: Goodreads | Simon and Schuster | Amazon.com | Book Depository

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Adventures of Laila and Ahmed in Syria

My gift to you both is a love for this Earth,
and thankfulness for all that it’s worth.
Your travels have served to open your minds
to people in places of all different kinds.

The Adventures of Laila and Ahmed in Syria is an exciting and lyrical adventure story that showcases beautiful sights in Syria using full-color illustrations. Shaped like a picture book but divided into sixteen chapters, it has pages of illustrations and pages of text in columns. It is published by the Beauty Beneath the Rubble initiative, which aims to “change the narrative of countries associated with war and conflict.”

One morning while their parents are out, Laila and Ahmed find their grandfather’s special book about his travels all over the world. Their grandfather was Ibn Battuta (yes! that one), and his book was, of course, Rihla. When they open it to look at the drawings, stories, and maps, they find a note addressed to themselves. In it, their grandfather urges them to see the world and offers them a clue to get them started on their journey. Before they can decipher the first clue, a strange light envelopes the book and it grows and grows until it is the size of a door in the wall. The door opens onto a whole new world. They walk through it and find themselves in Syria.

Throughout the rest of the book, the two children journey from city to city, seeing famous landmarks, buildings, and curiosities, all while looking for their grandfather’s next clue. I loved the celebration of all of these places. They go to a castle, the Great Mosque of Aleppo, and Souq al-Madinah. They see the waterwheels at Hama, the oasis of Palmyra, and the Church of St. Sergius. Their journey ends in Damascus.

These days, when most people think of Syria, the picture that comes to mind is the most recent shot of rubble that they’ve seen on the news. This book challenges that perception and reminds readers of the beauty of this country, which has a rich culture and history.

I do wish that the castle that was their first stop had been named: I’m sure Syria has many castles, and I’m not sure which one I read about.

I really appreciate the fact that a map appears before the story. Being able to trace Laila and Ahmed’s journey on the map was invaluable. It helped me show my seven-year-old that all of the places Laila and Ahmed visited were in Syria. He read the book on his own as soon as it arrived, and he promptly declared that it was “the best book [he] ever read.” When I prompted him for more information, he gave me a detailed synopsis of how Laila and Ahmed’s journey began. He said that they went “all over,” and he somehow missed the fact that their journey took place exclusively in Syria and not all over the world. Being able to trace Laila and Ahmed’s journey on the map helped him center their journey in Syria. As for his comment that it was the best book he ever read, he really liked reading a chapter book in picture book format.

Something that I found odd about this story is that while Laila and Ahmed recognize some of the places they visit from their grandfather’s book and from his stories, they don’t recognize much, if any, of the context from their own heritage Arab and Muslim identity. For example, Laila has to explain what the adhan is to Ahmed. How has he never heard the adhan before? It also would have been nice to see them reconnecting with familiar foods in a new context in Syria instead of approaching everything as if they were tourists.

I highly recommend this book to all parents, librarians, and teachers. This book is not only a cute story but can also be a great resource for students of geography, social studies, and current events. It is a beautiful reminder of some of what is at stake in the conflict, and I highly recommend it.

Find it here: Goodreads | Beneaththerubble.org | Amazon.com | Book Depository

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Favorite Ramadan Children’s Books

Alhamdulillah, we are living in a time where we have quite a few options for children’s books about Ramadan. Unfortunately, not all children’s books are created equal. In this list, I’m sharing some of my absolute favorite books about Ramadan for children 4–8.

The Jinni on the Roof

Written by Natasha Rafi

Illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

It’s the story of Raza, who is too young to fast but wakes in the night to the smell of golden, flaky parathas being fried in the kitchen for the family’s pre-dawn meal. He just can’t wait, and he comes up with a clever and humorous way to get some parathas before the children’s breakfast. This really cute and heartwarming story is a favorite in my house, and it is the reason we stock parathas in my freezer every Ramadan. One of my favorite spreads shows how the sleeping house is filled with visiting relatives packed like sardines for Eid. It reminds me of my own childhood.

Find it here: Goodreads | Amazon.com


It’s Ramadan, Curious George

Written by Hena Khan

Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young

This board book is a simple but comprehensive introduction to Ramadan for young children and older ones, too. In it, our favorite curious monkey helps his friend Kareem prepare for and celebrate the month of Ramadan. I really love this one because it’s so powerful to see a familiar character that we know and love eating iftar, going to the mosque to do good deeds, and looking for the moon that marks Eid.

Find it here: Goodreads | Houghton MifflinAmazon.com | Book Depository


Ramadan Around the World

Written by Ndaa Hassan

Illustrated by Azra Momin

This picture book shows scenes of kids and families all over the world celebrating Ramadan. It not only showcases ethnic diversity but also shows children with autism, hearing impairments, and diabetes. The children fill sadaqah jars, play soccer, and gather at the mosque to pray and share food. There is kunafa, bubur lambak, and rooh afza. You’ll have to read if you don’t know what any of those are! I really love this book because it is a powerful demonstration of the ayah: “We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”

Find it here: Goodreads | Ramadan Around the World


A Party in Ramadan

Written by Asma Mobin-Uddin

Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen

This picture books is the story of Leena, who is excited to fast on the day her Auntie Sana is coming to iftar. When Leena’s friend invites her to a birthday party on the same day, Leena’s mom tells her that it would be alright for her to fast a different day instead. But Leena thinks she can do both. Will she be able to? I love that this picture book tackles the realities of growing up as a religious minority. Leena holds tight to her faith, and the ending shows Leena’s family and her neighbors coming together in a way that showcases the beauty of Ramadan.

Find it here: Goodreads | Penguin Random House | Amazon.com | Book Depository


Lailah’s Lunchbox

Written by Reem Faruqi

Illustrated by Lea Lyon

Lailah is excited to be fasting Ramadan for the first time, and she puts away her school lunchbox for an entire month! Lailah’s mother writes a note for her teacher, but Lailah feels too nervous to give it to her. Lailah’s family moved from Abu Dhabi to Peachtree City last year, and she is worried what her classmates and teacher will say when they discover she is fasting. As lunchtime rolls around, Lailah can’t figure out what to do. Will she tell everyone she’s fasting? And how?

I love that this book tackles the struggle of going to school as a religious minority. In this empowering story, Lailah discovers that her teacher, librarian, and classmates are allies, and she owns her Muslim identity proudly.

Find it here: Goodreads | Tilbury House Publishers | Amazon.com | Book Depository

The Tower

The Tower is Shereen Malherbe’s newest contemporary novel. It takes place in the UK and is loosely based on the Grenfell Tower fire, in which 72 people died when the social housing complex was destroyed. This quiet and contemplative novel is told from the alternating points of view of two women who move into the building from very different lives. View Post