Happy Ramadan! The holiest month of the Islamic calendar is here and that means fasting, prayers, and reflection for millions of Muslims around the world, including ME. The first 3-5 days are the hardest for me because... CAFFEINEً WITHDRAWAL! T_T. Once my body adjusts, I love the sprititual rejuvenution that this month provides. I become the better version of myself (like in January when you set goals for the year).
What is Ramadan?
It's the 9th month of the lunar, Islamic calendar.
What is the significance of Ramadan?
Muslim believe according to our historical stories that it was during the month of Ramadan that the first ayat or line of the holy Quran, "Iqra" or "Read" was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad from angel, Gabriel.
What do practicing Muslims do during this time?
To start, we fast from sunrise to sunset, meaning we refrain from eating, drinking (yes, even water), sexual intercourse, and avoiding bad deeds (such as cursing, gossiping, fighting, etc). We instead fill out time with spiritual acts such as zhikr (remembrance of Allah), reading the Quran, making Duas (prayers), giving charity and helping the poor. After breaking our fasts, there are night time special prayers called Taraweeh that can go long into the night.
How can you support Muslim friends, family, co-workers/employees?
Accepting and understanding goes a long way! Frequently questioning choice to fast can be frustrating and dramatic. If people died from fasting, Muslims would have long gone extinct. Being accomodating about the physical affects of fasting is greatly appreciated. We will be the most productive in the morning and early afternoon. By late afternoon, we will have low energy and might have developed a headache. Women in traditional households will have added responsibility of preparing the Iftar meal (to break fast) while caring for children.
Does everyone have to fast?
No, only the physically and mentally strong/healthy are expected to fast. Small children, the elderly, the sick, pregnant people, travelers, and more are not expected to fast if it will hurt them.
What else is Ramadan about?
Well, we also believe that during this month, Shaytan (Satan) is chained up and so we are free from his evil influence to commit sins. It forces us to take a close look at ourselves and our own negative habits. We also believe that those who fast all of Ramadan (or make up days by fasting later or feeding a poor person) are forgiven all of their sins committed since the previous Ramadan. Not a bad deal from the ONE upstairs! Lastly, Ramadan culmulates with one of our two major holidays, Eid-ul-Fitr. It's a three-day festival that we spend with family, eating a feast, giving gifts, and donating to charity.
What are some recommendations for books with Muslim Rep and/or by Muslim writers?
Well, I'm so glad that you asked! Check out the following titles to explore the diversity of Muslims from different cultural backgrounds.
- If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar is a beautiful collection of poetry about what it means to be Muslim woman and finding yourself in a society that often tries to dictate who you should be.
- How Does it Feel to Be A Problem? Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi is an eye-opening look at how young Arab- and Muslim-Americans are forging lives for themselves in a country that often mistakes them for the enemy.
- The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood is a irreverent, poignant, and often hysterical debut novel that examines questions of identity, faith (or lack thereof), and belonging through the lens of Muslim Americans.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is a classic, along with his first well-known novel The Kite Runner. This is such a powerful story of the plight of some Muslim Women, but also the extent of their amazing strength.
For Young Adults/Teens:
- As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh is an amazing debut novel that explores love, war, refugee, choices, PTSD, and purpose. Highly recommend.
- Love from A to Z and Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali are for anyone who loves sweet but not overly fluffy YA romance. You will find yourself rooting for the characters as they struggle to find themselves.
For Middle School:
- Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble by Zanib Mian is the first book is a fun series about a Muslim boy with a HUGE imagination.
- The Kaya Girl by Mamle Wolo is a stunning rags-to-riches story about an unlikely, but powerful, friendship between Faiza, a Muslim migrant girl from northern Ghana, and Abena, a wealthy doctor’s daughter from the south.
- Once Upon An Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices, edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saaed is everything the titles says. Each story makes you smile at all of the different ways that Muslims around the world and from all different cultures celebrate our major holidays.
- Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga is a beautifully written novel-in-verse following Jude, a young Syrian girl who is forced to leave her home with her mom to avoid the increasing tensions/danger in Syria. I recently finished this one and am so frustrated with myself for putting it off for so long! Highly recommended.
- Yusuf Azeem is not Hero by Saadia Faruqi about a Muslim boy in his small Texan town during the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
For Children/Young Readers:
- Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi follows Pakistani 2nd grader, Yasmin on her many adventures.
- The Proudest Blue and The Kindest Red by Ibtitaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali is a picture book series with gorgeous illustrations by Hatem Aly to inspire young Muslim girls to be proud and feel beautiful in hijab.
- My Monster and Me by well-known contestant of the British Baking Show, Nadiya Hussain, is an picture book exploring anxiety in kid-friendly language.
Ramadan Kareem! Have a very blessed Ramadan for all those who celebrate. Hope you found new titles to help you diversify your reading and shelves! Visit Tuma's Books for even more diverse books.