A Race to Prayer by Aliya Vaughan

Our prayers literally saved us!

A Race to Prayer: Sulaiman’s Rewarding Day, by Aliya Vaughan, is an early chapter book for readers 7+. It has seven short chapters, and follows Sulaiman, who feels like every time he wants to do something fun, it’s either time to pray or it’s raining. When the rain keeps Sulaiman from going to play football, his dad offers to take him to the quad bike races. But things keep happening to get in the way. By the end of the book, Sulaiman is finally able to enjoy the races with his dad and grandpa, and he has learned a valuable lesson about the blessings of putting prayer first.  View Post

Thank you to Kube Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Finding Peace in the Holy Land: A British Muslim Memoir by Lauren Booth

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Practising faith is like opening a door and realizing your life so far has been lived in a broom cupboard in the mansion of existence. Reality actually lies beyond and underneath the nuts and bolts, the brooms and cloths of the material world.

Finding Peace in the Holy Land is a memoir by Lauren Booth, who is probably best well-known as Tony Blair’s sister-in-law. Beginning with her hilarious upbringing, and moving through her life as an actress, a political activist, and then a journalist and humanitarian, it is ultimately the story of how she came to Islam.

Booth has a lovely sense of humor, and her writing is as spontaneous and vivacious as she herself is. Her sharp descriptions of the landscape in Palestine (“a building decorated in the local flavor; bullet holes”) and her narrative flair (“It was excellent advice. Advice I would completely ignore”) were a pleasure to read. View Post

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

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It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons breakdancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down. [Taken from the publisher’s blurb.]

I really enjoyed this YA contemporary about a Muslim high school student who is the victim of constant microaggressions. 

The main character, Shirin, is the best part of this book for me. She is such a complex and fantastic character. So used to being disappointed, she has given up on her fellow human beings, and even stops looking at the people around her, out of fear. But she’s so smart, beautiful, and badass that she intimidates everyone. So the irony of the shell she’s built up around herself is that she’s put it up for her own protection, but everyone else thinks they need protection from her. View Post

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

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No words to describe this stunning new book from Khaled Hosseini. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, this book is a prayer from a father for his son as they wait to board a boat. The writing is as heartbreakingly beautiful as the illustrations are evocative.

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It begins with the father’s memories of the Syria before: “the creek where your uncles and I built a thousand boyhood dams.”

. . . moves into the reality of this generation’s Syria: “You know a bomb crater can be made into a swimming hole.”

. . . and ends with the sea: “how vast, how indifferent. How powerless I am to protect you from it.”

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It’s a book that’s not easy to classify. Perhaps “an illustrated poem inspired by true events and intended for adults” is the closest I can get. In any case, it’s one of my favorite books of the year.

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Part of the proceeds go to UNHCR, so go get your copy now.

Review—Communicating with Allah by Bassem Saeh

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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. View Post