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

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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

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

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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—My First Book About the Qur’an by Sara Khan and illustrated by Ali Lodge

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My First Book About the Qur’an, written by Sara Khan and illustrated by Ali Lodge, is a colorful and whimsical board book that is a perfect introduction to Islam for every tiny Muslim. The simple, friendly words together with the bright, happy illustrations make this book a joy to read and share. Continue reading

Review—A Quranic Odyssey: Towards Juz ‘Amma (Volume 1) by Umm Muhammed

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Towards Juz ‘Amma is a cute, sweet story about a family undergoing a hifdh journey. It is made up of 40 short chapters, with each one revolving around a specific teachable moment in the family’s life, usually between the mother and the children, but sometimes including other family members. The main characters are Pakistani mother Khadija, Italian father Abdurrahman, precocious five-year-old Ibrahim, and repetitive two-year-old Amna. Continue reading

Review/Discussion—Women in the Qur’an by Asma Lamrabet and translated by Myriam Francois-Cerrah

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In her effort to deconstruct a patriarchal reading of the Qur’an, Asma Lamrabet offers up a new reading, but one that is neither evidence-based nor convincing.  

This book was frustrating for me. I really wanted to like it; I was hoping it would be able to offer newer, more progressive views on gender to replace older, problematic ones. While Lamrabet does offer many new interpretations, they are unsubstantiated, and for a Muslim, an interpretation is only as valuable as its evidence. 

Women in the Qur’an is made up of two parts:

  1. ”When the Qur’an Speaks of Women,” which retells the stories of specific women in the Qur’an (like Balkis, Umm Musa, and Maryam) and
  2. “When the Qur’an Speaks to Women,” which examines Allah’s interactions with women in the time of the Prophet (s) through the text of the Qur’an.

Continue reading

Review—No Ordinary Day by George Green

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No Ordinary Day is the story of a group of five nine-year-old friends who are expecting a special guest at school. The kids are thrilled when they find out that the guest is a Muslim soccer star who is giving away tickets to a local game. To choose who gets the tickets, he asks the students to recite some Quran and explain why studying the Quran is important to each of them. And the story goes from there.

What this book has got going for it: a diverse cast a characters, fun illustrations, and a story that shows kids excited to learn Quran. Continue reading

Review—The Miraculous Language of the Qur’an by Bassam Saeh

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Bassam Saeh’s The Miraculous Language of the Qur’an addresses a frequent problem that Muslims encounter when reading the Quran. For those who don’t understand Arabic, there are few resources that do more than merely translate the Quran and mention relevant hadiths. But even readers who understand Arabic experience a difficulty. The text of the Quran becomes familiar to them—they get used to the words and phrases. Instead of contemplating the fascinating linguistic patterns of the Quran, these readers remain stuck in a loop of superficial meanings they are familiar with. This book addresses both of these problems.

This slim volume (only 90 pages long) is a translation by Nancy Roberts of Bassam Saeh’s Arabic book al-Mu’jizah, Volume I. The discussion is carefully organized and the language is intelligent without being the kind of reading you expect to be assigned in a college class. The first part of the book is a general discussion of the linguistic miraculousness of the Quran and a concept that Saeh calls “newness.” The second part applies these ideas to Surah al-Muddaththir.  The text is broken up into small sections that keep the detailed conversation about Arabic grammar from becoming overwhelming. The organization, language, and size of this book make it accessible for a wide audience, and I highly recommend it.   Continue reading