Review—Communicating with Allah by Bassem Saeh

6130AMwKE1L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

Once upon a time, Bassem Saeh was asked to speak at an event about prayer (salah). When the time came, he rushed up to the podium and hurriedly read a few verses and a couple of hadeeth he had jotted down on a piece of paper, reading so quickly that his words ran together. He then turned and left. The audience was shocked and confused. After a moment, he returned to the podium and explained that his performance was no worse than the way that many of us pray. Rushing in, reciting without expression or understanding, and rushing off again.

Communicating with Allah: Rediscovering Prayer is Saeh’s answer to the problem of disconnecting from our distracting, modern lives and finding tranquility in our connection with Allah. Unique and powerful, this book breathes new life into an action that Muslims repeat constantly. If you are looking to worship smarter, a little bit of consistency in improving the quality of your five daily prayers will go a long way. Continue reading

Review—Mirage by Somaiya Daud

9781250126429

While this book does not have Muslim representation, Somaiya Daud is a Muslim author, and I’m all about supporting Muslim authors. 

Blurb from the publisher:

In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated home.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty―and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

A Moroccan-inspired sci-fi/fantasy YA that tackles colonialism, rebellion, and identity by a Muslim author? Yes, please. Continue reading

Review—The Rohingya Crisis: A People Facing Extinction by Muhammad Abdul Bari

rohingya

A concise and informative history of the Rohingya, an evidence-based denunciation of Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing campaign, and an impassioned plea for recognition and human rights for the Rohingya. 

Before reading this book, I knew little more about the Rohingya than that something awful was happening to them and that it had to do with Myanmar, wherever that is. I should be ashamed of myself; I know.

Instead of relieving my shame, this book has increased it. I am ashamed of what some of humanity is capable of doing, and what the rest of humanity is content to allow to happen.

This 69-page book offers a concise and informative introduction to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya by the state of  Myanmar. Since August of last year, more than 10,000 Rohingya have been killed, and more than half a million people have fled across the border to Bangladesh. Even more disturbing than the scale of the crisis is the lack of awareness about it. Continue reading

Two Interfaith Books about Muslim-Jewish Friendships

Today I’m sharing two fantastic picture books about Muslim-Jewish relationships.
moeandmo

A Moon for Moe and Mo is the story of two boys in New York City, one Jewish and one Muslim, who befriend each other at the grocery store as their mothers prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan. They discover just how much they have in common while sharing treats at the store. Later, each one thinks of the other as he gazes up at the moon and welcomes a holiday. A heart-warming story by Jane Breskin Zalben and gorgeous illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini (of Crescent Moons fame) make this a book that belongs on everyone’s shelf.

IMG_20180807_170908


yaffaandfatima_
Yaffa and Fatima Shalom, Salaam is the story of a Jewish and a Muslim woman who live and work side by side in the holy land. The story explores how their different faiths are similar, and how their commonalities—kindness and generosity—bring them together. It’s written by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, who is such a thoughtful and talented writer, and illustrated by Chiara Fedele.

IMG_20180807_171250

I highly recommend both of these beautiful books.

Let me know other interfaith children’s books you’ve found with Muslim characters.

A Moon for Moe and Mo Charlesbridge | Amazon

Yaffa and Fatima Shalom, Salaam Kar-Ben Publishing | Amazon

Book Review—A Treasury of Ghazali by Mustafa Abu Sway

9781847740816_FC

A Treasury of Ghazali is a beautiful collection of quotations by Imam al-Ghazali with commentary by Mustafa Abu Sway. The tiny, digestible chapters are each based on one quote of the Imam: the original Arabic, an English translation, and a commentary by the author. Meant to be read in small doses, the quotes cover spiritual topics like sincerity in intention, happiness, patience against sin, and detachment from the dunya (worldly life). Continue reading

Review—Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Hatem Aly

cover

I’m thrilled to review Meet Yasmin!, which as far as I know, is the first early reader series to feature a Muslim character! For anyone who doesn’t know, early readers are those thin half-page-sized books that children graduate to after picture books and typically read on their own. I’d like to shout a welcome to Yasmin from the rooftops, and then go spread copies of these wonderful books everywhere. Continue reading

Saints and Misfits Discussion Questions

IMG_20180727_090756.jpg

I reread Saints and Misfits this month for my real-life book club, and I thought it would be helpful to share the discussion questions we used.

Instead of going through the questions one by one, we used it to spark conversations by taking turns choosing the questions we found interesting. There are generic questions and more specific questions so that everyone had a chance to speak to whatever interested them about the novel.

Here’s the printable PDF:
Saints and Misfits Discussion Qs

Let me know if you use it or if it’s helpful for you! I’d love to have feedback!

Review—Living Creatures in the Holy Qur’an by Shahada Sharelle Haqq

61BFVr-GnCL._SX344_BO1,204,203,200_

When Tughra Books approached me about a new children’s book about animals in the Quran, I was excited by the concept. They were kind enough to send me a copy of Living Creatures in the Holy Qur’an, which is both written and illustrated by Shahada Abdul Haqq. It is essentially a book of stories of the prophets and other stories, but organized by creature. I was pleased to open the table of contents and see how many creatures are mentioned in the Quran: a lot more than I thought. Continue reading

Review—The Crowning Venture: Inspiration from Women Who Have Memorized the Quran by Saadia Mian

IMG_20180715_180153

Have you ever considered memorizing the Quran, even if you only entertained the thought for a fraction of a second way in the back of your mind? If so, The Crowning Venture by Saadia Mian is a must-read. Rather than try to convince anyone that they need to undertake a Quran memorization journey, this book shows how other women have done it and how empowering it can be. This book combines relatable stories with tips, and discredits negative ideas about women memorizing the Quran.

Mian begins with her own story of how she became a hafiza. Like many of the other women in her book, it is not something that she ever thought she would do. She also shares the stories of twelve women from different walks of life: how they made the decision to pursue memorization and how they went about the work of actually memorizing. The tips, pointers, and advice in this section were as varied as the women themselves. The methods include things like recording yourself, keeping track of your progress, and annotating the mushaf.

As someone who has been there herself and spoken with many women about their journeys, Mian has a keen understanding of the ideas and thought processes that keep women from memorizing the Quran. She tears down the idea that women needn’t memorize the Quran because they won’t lead taraweeh or that they shouldn’t memorize it because they’ll fall behind in review while on their periods. In addition to these external negative thoughts, she also tackles the internal negative thoughts that women who consider memorizing the Quran contend with. For example, she talks about how women frequently seek out perfection and are more likely than men to avoid trying something if they doubt their ability to achieve perfection. She also talks about how many women have difficulty owning their successes, and instead feel sheepish or embarrassed about an accomplishment that they should feel proud of. Another issue she tackles is the fear that many women have that if they memorize the Quran, they will be perceived as more religious than they are.

Also included are some stories of women who didn’t memorize the Quran, a chapter that includes thirty-two etiquettes of proper recitation of the Quran, and a chapter called “Roadmap.” The roadmap includes all of the ingredients that you need to memorize the Quran, including things like patience and taqwa, as well as pro advice like “tie up knowledge with writing” and “choose one mushaf style.”

My favorite takeaway from this book is that memorizing the Quran is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. It’s about building and maintaining a relationship with the word of Allah.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this yet or if you want to. If you have read it, what was your favorite takeaway?