Tag Archives: Fawzia Gilani

Yan’s Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime by Fawzia Gilani illustrated by Sophie Burrows

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Yan’s Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime by Fawzia Gilani illustrated by Sophie Burrows

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With less than a month until Hajj, this book should definitely start making an appearance in your children’s story selection rotation.  The focus is not on the parts of hajj, but rather the desire and intense yearning to go for the sake of Allah (swt).  Granted, it doesn’t take much to get me to cry these days, but this 27 page book for ages 5 and up, got me emotional.  Going for hajj is always something to plan for and hope for, and the sweetness of the reminder that we plan, and Allah plans and Allah is the best of planners is so beautifully brought to life, that I benefitted from the reminder and my kids from the lesson.

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Yan is a farmer, a poor farmer, who loves Allah and wants to go for hajj more than anything else.  So he decides to work hard and fill up his money bag so that he may go.  After years of hard work his bag is full and he begins his first steps in his journey proclaiming his love for Allah.  After a few days of walking however, he comes upon some sad children who have recently lost their school to a fire.  Yan, uses his money and time to fix the school and returns back to his farm to start saving up again to go for hajj.IMG_5486.jpg

When his bag is full again and he sets out again, he is met by an injured boy who is being yelled at by his owner.  Yan, once again reaches into his money bag to generously do the right thing, in this case to pay off the boy’s debts and takes the boy home with him to be nursed back to health.

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After some time he again has a full money bag and sets off for Hajj.  Along the way he finds a village trying to build a mosque and after two months of helping with the funds and offering his own labor, the mosque is complete and Yan returns home.

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Now Yan is old, and after many years he looks in his money bag and it is not full and he sadly admits he cannot do hajj.  But then the boy he saved, Habeeb, returns with a horse cart to take him for hajj and they pass through the village where he repaired the school and is greeted with rose petals and gifts of ihram, they then pass by the mosque he helped build and the villagers gift him with food and water, they then arrive at Habeeb’s house and he is given a bag filled with money and at long last Yan’s dream comes true as he sees the Kaaba.

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The book shows how steadfast Yan’s love of Allah is and how generous and patient he is in pursuing that love. The illustrations of him aging are truly touching and gentle.  In some ways it reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, but with a happier ending, in bringing a large grown up concept down to size and presenting it in a genuine way.

 

 

Snow White: An Islamic tale by Fawzia Gilani illustrated by Shireen Adams

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Snow White: An Islamic tale by Fawzia Gilani illustrated by Shireen Adams

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A lot of the twists that I was surprised by and endeared to in Fawzia Gilani’s Cinderella, seemed lacking in her re-telling of Snow White.  Perhaps it is the mere fact that Cinderella has a legacy of being re-told from different cultural perspectives and in different time periods, where Snow White doesn’t, that made this book stumble where her other sailed much more smoothly.

The basic premise of this Snow White version is naturally the classic tale.  Snow White is the envy of her stepmother, in this case however, it isn’t a magic mirror, but a jinn who answers her questions. Once the huntsman is convinced not to kill her, and a boar’s heart and liver are taken instead,  Snow White finds the companionship and shelter of the dwarves.  In this re-telling, it is a female crew with countless skills that they are happy to pass on to their newest friend.  When the evil stepmother finds out Snow White still lives she concocts poisonous dates to present in disguise to Snow White who is awaiting the appointed iftaar time.  The dwarves arrive home too late to save Snow, but see who has done the evil deed.  The Prince makes his brief appearance as he arrives at the cottage, makes dua’a for Snow and then sends his mother to nurse her back to health.  In fairy tale tradition a wedding soon follows, but the evil step mother has one more trick up her sleeve, she poisons a comb that Snow is surely to use as she prepares for the big day.  The dwarves cannot thwart the stepmother and Snow is only saved when the stepmother in all her vanity accidentally picks up the comb to fix her own hair.  Over time she recovers and Snow forgives her and they all presumably live happily ever after.

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Perhaps it isn’t fair to compare the two books, but I would imagine they are often purchased together and I feel like there are some notable differences that are worth mentioning.  In Cinderella, the setting is Andalusia and they are all about the same skin tone.  Snow White seems to resort back to old stereotypes and the stepmother seems to be the only one with a darker complexion with all the others being more fair.  Granted her name is Snow White, but it is established on the first page that her mother prays for a child with a “heart as pure as snow,” so really that doesn’t hold up.  Also, where I felt that Cinderella could work for Muslims and non Muslims alike, I think this one would be a hard sell for non Muslims.  There are a lot of references to dua’as of Noah and Job, there is Ramadan, the role of the jinn, she even does tayammum at one point and readers may be confused why sometimes she is in hijab, and when home with the women she is not.

Like Gilani’s Cinderella, the book is very thorough in being Islamically appropriate.  The sisterhood is a nice twist and the Prince has a really small part.

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The illustrator is the same, yet for some reason the pictures seem a bit dull in this book.  The bottle of poison is shimmery, but the other illustrations seem muted and almost rushed.  The book is 41 pages with a glossary and Reference for Quran in the back, and is very text heavy.  Probably 3rd or 4th grade level with some assistance on the Islamic concepts.

Cinderella: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani illustrated by Shireen Adams

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I’ve seen this book countless times online and honestly have never given it a second glance.  I mean Cinderella is a classic fairytale and I have a few different versions from around the world, but an Islamic one? It seemed like it would be awkward or overly preachy and forced.  I should have given Fawzia Gilani’s version a chance though, she has surprised me with her other re-tellings of Eid Kareem Ameer Saab and Nabeel’s New Pants. And, mashaAllah, to her credit she manages to weave a decent story full of Islamic tenants, void of magic, and more feminist than the Disney or Grimm versions.

I’m not going to summarize such a familiar tale, but I will point out major twists.  Zahra is a practicing Muslim who is very devout in her prayers, fasting, and reading of the Quran. Her step-sisters nickname her Cinderella after some cinders from the fire burn holes in her clothes.  A bit of a stretch, from Zahra, but I think even the youngest readers will know the original Cinderella story and be ok with it.

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Cinderella is constantly remembering to be patient despite the treatment of her step family through various duaas, ayats in the quran, and fasting on the day of Arafah.  When an invitation to an Eid Party at the palace comes, she naturally is forbidden from going unless she completes all her chores.  Luckily her Grandmother returns from Hajj with servants to help clean the house and a new abaya to wear to the party.  At the palace the women and men are in different rooms, but Cinderella catches the King, the Queen, and Prince Bilal’s attention when passing in the hallway for being in full hijab.  She continues to impress the Queen, when she remains quiet during the athan, prays in jammat, and shows grace in her manners and speech. After winning over the mom, the slipper and happily ever after follow the traditional script, however, like the story of Yusuf (as) and how he forgives his brothers, Zahra forgives her step-family as well.

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The 41 page story is heavy on the text and is not AR.  I would imagine that it would be on a third grade level for Muslim children familiar with the vocabulary, and fourth grade for those that are not.  There is a glossary at the back, but not all of the Arabic words are included, and I’m not sure that the context would allow for them in some cases to be understood.  This book would be hard to do in a story time setting because of the length, at bedtime, however, the pictures are detailed and rich enough that one-on-one could hold a five or six year olds’ attention.

Overall the story doesn’t feel forced, and you’ll find your self smiling at some of the “islamicifaction” of the plot.  Most of it flows really well.  I love that it isn’t focused on her appearance alone.  I also like that she isn’t helplessly waiting to be saved or alleviated from her burdens.  By and large it doesn’t feel like a love story, Prince Bilal is pretty much a minor story point.  The book works for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  It isn’t preachy, but it definitely is strong in it’s moral messages. I think non Muslims will find the Islamic version just as fun as the hundreds of other “twists” on Cinderella and Muslim children will love to see someone like them living happily ever after as well, inshaAllah.