The latest installment in the Hassan and Aneesa series caught my attention because there just aren’t a lot of books about an Islamic marriage process (it is Desi tinged). Cultural weddings you often see, but despite the misleading title of them just attending a Nikaah, they actually walk the reader through the steps from wanting to get married, to getting to know someone, praying Salatul-Istikhara, agreeing on a mahr, signing contracts, and a walima. The idea and premise is brilliant and greatly needed, the finished product, not so much. Somehow I had forgotten how tiny in size the books in the series are (6.5×7.5), making it all visually cluttered and the text often hard to see over the illustrations. And while I love how the concepts and terms are defined, the point of view of having it witnessed and detailed by the brother sister duo is often awkward and wordy. I wish the author would have ditched the familiar characters, and just written a book about the marriage process for kids. The vacillating between a fictionalized story, factual requirements, kids witnessing their parents helping their cousin get married, makes for a tangled book that fails to connect to readers seven and up, let alone two and up like the book claims. If you’re kids are asking about how Muslims marry or seem curious about a halal way it can be done, I suppose this book would provide a way to understand some of the key facets in broad strokes, but it needs editing, and more space to show joy and excitement in a book about families and a couple coming together.
The very first page set the tone for me, the overly dressed girl at a barbecue and the way her name seems to be so formally introduced. Perhaps it is a difference of culture, but the book never bounced back from the heavy handed tone. Aisha wants to get married and asks her parents to help her find someone. They ask her what she is looking for and she tells them. I like what she includes kindness, love of Allah, funny, etc. I wish it would have suggested that she had given it a lot of thought before answering though.
Aneesa and Hassan’s mom and their aunt are discussing Aisha’s want to marry at their painting class and a friend over hears and suggests her son Uthman. The families agree to have the two meet in a cafe with Aneesa and Hassan’s dad and uncle so that her mahram is nearby. Uthman and Aisha both enjoy sports and Uthman interacts with a baby at another table impressing Aisha. They both pray istikhara and decide that the families should all meet.
It is then time to pick out a dress and hand out invitations, which at least involves Hassan and Aneesa, but the pages are so cringe and awkward from the phrasing, to the structure of the concepts. The spread is disjointed and you’ll catch yourself shaking your head and making a face every time you read it.
Mehndi is next and I’m not sure why it focuses on Aneesa not sitting still and looking sad when her design is ruined. It seems like an odd inclusion in what should be a joyous book. Hassan is entrusted with gift to hold on to by Uthman for Aisha, and the Imam gives a khutbah about marriage.
Contracts are then signed with Aisha her wali, uthman and the imam and each party is asked if they agree. They have already decided on the mahr and then Hassan hands over the gift. The walima feast is delicious and the reader is encouraged to go back and find the cat in the illustrations.
As for illustrations I do like that the main females are shown out of hijab at home, and in hijab while out. At the wedding there are different shades of brown, different loves of covering and not covering, there is a guest in a wheel chair and the couple and their families seem happy. I found it odd that it says they are in love, since there isn’t a lot of emotion mentioned before the last page and I wish the text on numerous pages wasn’t mixed in with the pictures.
The book concludes with a glossary of terms.