Yan is a poor farmer who wants to go to hajj. But every time he saves up enough money and sets out, he meets someone in his path who needs his help.
He empties his money purse while on his journey three times, first to help repair a burned-down school, then to rescue a hurt and exploited boy, and finally, to build a mosque. Each time, he simply goes back home and gets back to work to save more money. Eventually, he is old enough that he knows he won’t be able to save enough money again. But the good deeds he filled his life with have caught up with him, and the boy he rescued comes to take Yan to hajj. On this final journey, he sees the fruits of his labor: the school, the boy’s happy parents, and the mosque.
This is a story about work ethic, responsibility, community, generosity, and living with intention. A breath of fresh air, this book doesn’t resort to a moralizing narrator or preachy characters: the story is the lesson. Yan lives his life in a beautiful way and the result is a beautiful journey to Allah.
Yan’s fervent desire to please Allah is at the heart of this story. He wants to go to hajj, yes, but he wants to do so as an expression of his love for Allah (which he shouts to the sky in the story!) When other, more urgent opportunities to serve Allah present themselves, he puts his own desires aside and prioritizes others’ needs.
The illustrations are really sweet. I loved seeing Yan with his animals, on the road, and helping people. He gets old over the course of the book, and we see his hair turn white and his body bend over.
I really cannot remember the last time I read an Islamic picture book that was this thoughtfully structured. The subtitle, “The Journey of a Lifetime,” refers to the hajj but it also refers to Yan’s lifetime as a journey. He spends his whole life trying to get to Makkah, and because his motivation is Allah’s pleasure, he spends his whole life in service to Allah.
This physical representation of Yan’s life as a journey to hajj (and ultimately, to Allah) really affected me as an adult, and got me thinking about my own life: If my life were represented as a journey, what would it look like? What good have I affected in the world? Who have I helped? How have I served my community?
This story is also a practical demonstration of the hadith that says that if you love Allah, then he’ll tell the angels, and the angels will tell the people, until the people love you, too. Yan begins the story shouting to the sky “I love you, Allah,” and when he finally makes his journey to hajj, the people he helped stop him on the way, expressing their love for him.
I’m so glad to have this book to share with all the little ones in my life in the upcoming hajj season and all year round. Yan’s Hajj is published by Kube (2018), and you can get your own copy here.
Thank you to Kube Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.