It is quite remarkable in the course of 40 pages that so many themes, layers, emotions, windows, mirrors, and relevance can radiate with ease and entertainment for children four and up. The authenticity of the text and illustrations create tangible feels in this book, that months after reading it for the first time, I am still moved to tears, both inspired by joy and as a cathartic release of being seen. The true mastery is that even if you are not Muslim and cannot relate to the nervousness of praying publicly, you understand Muhammad’s hesitancy and feel for him as he battles not just finding a place, but watching onlookers reactions to his father, police proximity, and being brave enough to push yourself even when you are scared. Usually when asked what my favorite book is, I stumble to narrow it down to just one, but truly this book has raised the bar of not just traditional publishing representation, but Islamic/Muslim literature across the board. It is a gift to read, to share, to enjoy, and a blessing that such an unapologetic book is available so widely for our children to connect with, and our non Muslim friends to see us through. Please spend time with this book and make it available to your children, your students, your community, it really is that good, alhumdulillah.
It is Muhammad’s birthday and he is seven, “Old enough to pray five times a day,” his father gifts him a prayer rug, and Muhammad is ecstatic. He makes wudu that night and offers salat with full attention. He says the Sunday school words and shares his most wished for wishes to Allah swt, not even letting little sister, Maryama distract him.
After Fajr the next morning, he is determined to find a secret place at school to pray Dhuhr. Daddy doesn’t need secret places, if prayer time comes he pulls his ice cream truck over and prays on the sidewalk, “never delay salat.” At school, Muhammad heads to Mrs. Baker to ask for a place to pray, but his confidence waivers and he returns to his seat.
Anxiety about where to pray has him looking for spots throughout the morning, but when recess comes he finds he can’t take the prayer rug out from under his jacket. He lingers when everyone returns to class and rushes through the words and motions in the coat closet.
That evening he is with his daddy in the ice cream truck and the sunshine and smiles pour out of the two. When the sun sets it is Maghrib time and Daddy heads to the sidewalk to pray, reassuring Muhammad that he can pray at home. Muhammad watches his dad and various events spur him to make his decision.
I love love love the way salat is approached with love and excitement and that the dad embodies safety and joy and does not pressure or force Muhammad. The relationship is beautiful and allows for worship to be seen as both personal, as well as obligatory and merciful. The duo also show a great parent child dynamic that warms the heart.
I like that there really isn’t any “hate” given to anyone praying, it is hinted at, people do not understood, but the focus is not on the outside bystanders- it is what Muhammad thinks and feels. I’m fairly certain every Muslim who has prayed in public has encountered a wide variety of responses, and this book keeps the gray to reflect and spark conversation. It is often met with ignorance, with hate, with aggression, but it is also met with respect, apathy, and curiosity which the text and illustrations allow for.
There is so much love and joy in the book as well as identity, that I don’t mind one bit that my littles ask me to read it over and over. It is perfect for groups, one-on-one, and I cannot wait to share it in a story time, there is also an incredibly informative and heartfelt Author’s Note at the end. If you haven’t preordered it yet, the book releases on June 6, 2023, please pre order it and signal the support for this book and future books that center authentic Muslim joy, Black Muslim representation, and OWN voice author and illustrator accuracy. Request it at your library, put it on hold at your library, check it out, read it. If you cannot preorder it, still purchase it when you can, inshaAllah it will be a beloved book in your home as well.