CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 19. . . .January 19, 2018
Ramadan: The Holy Month of Feasting. (Orca Origins).
Ausma Zehanat Khan.
Victoria, BC: Orca, March, 2018.
87 pp., hardcover, pdf & epub, $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1181-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1182-9 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1183-6 (epub).
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Waqas Awan and Tamara Opar.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I remember my first Ramadan as clearly as if it were yesterday. And by this I mean the first time I kept a fast during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. I was nine years old and I lived in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a beautiful city on the prairies with long, hot, very dry summers. The summer of the first Ramadan I fasted, the sun was setting at around 9:30 p.m.
The colourful cover of this book introduces the theme of Ramadan with photos of smiling children celebrating the holiday. Author Ausma Zehanat Khan’s introduction is a must-read as she sets the context of this nonfiction title with a personal account of celebrating Ramadan as a young girl. At nine-years-old, Ausma is excited about beginning her first fast. She describes her busy day which includes a little fumble in her fasting. She contemplates this time in her life with the knowledge that there would not have been any disappointment from her family, only encouragement to try again, as Ramadan is seen as a blessing to Muslims.
The first chapter “What is Ramadan”, thoroughly describes the holiday in clear language and is well-organized. The chapter reviews the history of Islam and defines who a Muslim is. The prophet Muhammad is discussed briefly, and my co-writer Waqas would have liked to see more information about his life including his role as a messenger and especially about his love for children. The chapter also talks about the challenges and benefits of fasting, the Islamic Lunar calendar, the Qur’an and Iftar or breaking fast.
The stages of Ramadan are discussed in the second chapter. This is a time for Muslims to start fresh by asking God for mercy, by showing mercy to other people and by working toward a peaceful reward in the afterlife. Muslims believe that the month of Ramadan is divided into three ashras or three ten day periods; phase one is for reflecting on conduct, phase two for forgiveness, and phase three encourages prayer and self-reflection. The chapter concludes with an account of Eid-al-Fir, or the great celebration.
The third chapter illustrates the spirit of Ramadan wherein Muslims contribute to the community. The chapter discusses some of the fundraising organizations that have been established for this purpose, such as GIVE 30 which was developed in Canada to help conquer hunger in Canadian cities.
Ramadan is celebrated in many countries around the world. The author takes the reader on a tour to review different traditions from Bosnia to Turkey. Waqas especially enjoyed reading this chapter.
Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting includes many elements that break up the text and add interesting facts and personal experiences. Included are quotes from Muslim children about their thoughts on fasting for a whole month, Ramadan facts are laced into the margins, and recipes for some of the food that is eaten during this time and some personal accounts are also included. Ijtihad’s story is especially interesting as she is an Olympic fencer. As she has to train for hours to qualify for the sport, she has learned to adapt her schedule and diet to allow her to have the strength to train and compete. The author’s own experiences which are laced into the pages of the book add context and humour, as well as respect for her mother’s teachings. All of these additions to the general text add interest for children reading the book and make it more accessible.
The book is sprinkled with many colourful photos of people praying and celebrating around the world, mosques, food and more which illustrate the joy that this holiday brings to Muslims. The book also includes a helpful glossary.
Waqas and I would recommend Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting to children learning about Ramadan and the Muslim faith as well as to children who do celebrate this holiday as they will see a reflection of their lives in its pages.
Waqas Awan is a Customer Service Assistant at the Millennium Branch of Winnipeg Public Library. Tamara Opar is Section Head of Children’s and Teen Services at the Millennium Branch of Winnipeg Public Library.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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