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?

Review—Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad with Lori L. Tharps

proud-hc

Ibtihaj Muhammad’s new memoir begins on the first day of fourth grade. The teacher, who is finding the seven letters in “Ibtihaj” too difficult to pronounce, nonetheless locates Ibtihajj by connecting her last name (Muhammad) with the scarf she’s wearing. The teacher tells her that she’ll call her “Ibti” instead. Ibtihaj goes along with this, but she notices that her teacher doesn’t have any trouble with other longer names: Elizabeth (nine letters) and Jennifer (eight).

This story sets the tone for the rest of the book. Muhammad’s home environment was loving and supportive, but she was challenged in nearly every other space for the right to be present and to be herself: black, Muslim, and hijabi. Continue reading

Review—My First Quran with Pictures Juz Amma Part 1 by Shereen Sharief and illustrated by Nicola Anderson

61bw51KOXQL._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_

I was intrigued by this book from the first moment I saw it on social media. It’s the kind of project that we don’t realize how badly we need it until we actually have it. I’m so excited for Shereen Sharief, and I pray that Allah makes this project heavy in her scale of good deeds. The Quran plays such an important role in the life of a Muslim, and there is no doubt that teaching children the meaning of the Quran is a priority. My First Quran with Pictures is a fantastic resource to facilitate understanding of the verses children memorize and use first: Juz Amma.

What makes this book unique is the format and the fantastic illustrations by Nicola Anderson. The name of each surah appears clearly at the top of the page in Arabic and English. Some surahs have a paragraph of background information at the top (including the cause of revelation if applicable). Each Arabic ayah appears near its illustration. The English meanings of the ayahs appear at the bottom of the page. All ayahs are clearly numbered so it’s very easy to find the English that corresponds to the Arabic, and the opposite.

At first I was confused about how to read this with my children. After we worked out a rhythm, they didn’t want to stop. The method we worked out was that one of them would read the surah on the page, pausing after each ayah. When they paused, I would read the English translation out loud. And then they would read the next ayah. All the while, I used a finger to follow along with the Arabic ayah in the book, which is conveniently placed next to the illustration depicting the meaning. Continue reading

Review—Muslims in America: Examining the Facts by Craig Considine

818sp-JgL1L

Engaging enough to be read cover-to-cover, but organized as a work of reference, this book of questions and answers combines the evidence-based rigor of a monograph with accessible prose to make this the perfect reference volume for academics, activists, and religious leaders.

Published as a part of ABC-CLIO’s Contemporary Debates series, Muslims in America is comprised of thirty-one questions grouped into five chapters: the history of Muslims on American soil, demographics and diversity, politics, Islamophobia, and American national identity. Each question is answered in three parts. “The answer” is the short answer to the question. “The facts” contains the detailed answer, including names, dates, and fascinating mini–history lessons. “Further reading” is a list of references related to the answer. Continue reading