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

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

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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. View Post

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

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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. View Post

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Hatem Aly

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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. View Post

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

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?