Book Review: Under the Ramadan Moon

It took a while to find this book.

Last year, I checked out every children’s Ramadan book that my local library system had to offer to find *the* early childhood Ramadan book for Noora’s home library. There were more Ramadan books in the secular public library system than I thought! And they covered Ramadan traditions in different places, including Kuwait, Egypt, and America! I think I ended up with a stack of twenty books…I even checked out those non-fiction titles that would be perfect for a child’s research paper on Ramadan, but all I found were runner ups to *the* early childhood Ramadan book for us.

I found Hena Khan’s Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story (2008), but I found the words to be too much for an early childhood audience…and the illustrations of the mother outside of the house didn’t reflect my views on hijab. I found Na’ima B. Robert’s Ramadan Moon (2009), and while I loved the words…I wasn’t that big a fan of those illustrations either, though I loved seeing how the moon changed from page to page as Ramadan progressed :S.

I wanted something simple, something memorable, and something that rhymed, and while the meter is off to me in certain places…

This is *the* Ramadan book for my girls in their early childhood.

I don’t know how I found it. I guess you could say I was led to it…by the grace of Allah and the process of elimination. I mean, I wasn’t finding anything I was completely enamored with at the library. I think it was actually an Amazon search that brought up this title, and I must’ve liked what I saw because I added it to my wishlist as soon as I saw a few sample pages. I didn’t buy it then though. A couple of months ago, I added it to our baby registry for Safiyya’s aqiqa, and a sweet family member (who isn’t even Muslim!) gifted it to us. Right on time for Ramadan. And ever since the very first night of Ramadan this year, Noora and I read this book before bedtime. Even Safiyya pays attention. I started reading it for the first few nights, and it’s just now the middle of Ramadan and Noora has the words mostly memorized. She is “reading” it to me. This is important–Noora, who just turned 3, had been waiting for Ramadan and knew it was coming as soon as I started to decorate the house. But she didn’t really understand what it meant and why the whole flow of the house changed during this time. Why wasn’t daddy eating with her in the day? Why were so many guests coming at night? Why was mommy cooking as if her life depended on it ;)? Why were both mommy and daddy exhausted? Why weren’t we watching TV? Why did Qur’an and incense fill the house instead? Why weren’t we eating at restaurants (as we often treat Noora to)? Why weren’t we going on as many outdoor excursions (field trips) in the hot summer heat?

I think it’s hard for young children to grasp all that Ramadan means when they can’t fully participate in its activities such as fasting all day, but they can learn from our examples and by discussing simple stories such as Sylvia Whitman’s Under the Ramadan Moon (2011). In this beautiful story, Whitman outlines the basic practices of Ramadan with the repeating refrain “under the moon, under the moon, under the Ramadan moon.” It’s not a story about someone else’s Ramadan, nor is it about the why’s and how’s of Ramadan. It’s about what we do during Ramadan–and I believe that this word choice makes all the difference. By saying what we do during Ramadan, the young reader is instantly included into the narrative of the book and able to recognize the visible actions of Ramadan–most of which he/she has already participated in! <;–Our only exception in this book is that “We [do not] crack nuts and drink hot tea under the moon.” (I’m just not much of a nut-eater, though my DH and DD are 🙂 ).20120802-163838.jpg

So this is our new tradition besides the lights, dates, and decorations. A way to visualize and conceptualize Ramadan through a special Ramadan story. And it is now the 15th day of Ramadan–the very middle–a white day when the moon is full, shining in all her glory. A perfect time to show Noora how different the moon looks from the beginning and end of the month when it is crescent-shaped. (By the way, the moon changes with time throughout this book, too! Yippee!) Cuz lately, I’ve been trying to gently expand Noora’s sense of time…minutes, days, and now months, and while she doesn’t quite know what 15 minutes is and exactly what day it is everyday, she does know that it’s Ramadan and it entails certain actions. And though all of Noora’s questions of “why” aren’t specifically answered in this book, she recognizes that Ramadan is a special time of devotion and it is the main reason and answer to her questions. Ramadan is what we do as Muslims. “We wait for the moon./We watch for the moon./We watch for the Ramadan moon.” And when it’s gone, “We live our faith until next year/under the moon,/under the moon,/under the Ramadan moon.”

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P.S. In my search, I did find *the* Ramadan books for Noora and Safiyya when they’re upper elementary school age inshAllah–Mary Matthews’ Magid Fasts for Ramadan (1996), Asma Mobin-Uddin’s A Party in Ramadan (2009) and The Best Eid Ever (2007), and Ann P. El Moslimany’s Zaki’s Ramadhan Fast (1994). Great books, get them for your library too! More on them later as the girls grow up, inshAllah…under the moon, under the moon, under the Ramadan moon.

 

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Ramadan Decorating Phase 3

And then there was light…

…and now we are ready! Lights, Camera, Action! Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Lights from the U.S. (Ranoon.Com)

Ramadan Decorating Phase 2

What kind of Ramadan decorating would I be doing without lanterns? Lanterns are central to the Ramadan spirit and they were present in almost every room of our house this year…with the addition of a bonus celestial space in our kitchen (not pictured, couldn’t get a good enough picture of it!)…I also made a suncatcher-type 2-d lantern for Noora’s window, based on this post from The Muslim Learning Garden.

I used the book, Ramadan Crafts for Kids by Dana Jadallah and Dana Amer (Aardvark Global Publishing Company, LLC, 2007) for instructions on how to make the 3-d lanterns. There’s a lot of great ideas in there, and I ended up making 9 lanterns which took the whole week. Believe me, I wanted to make more. I have like 10 more templates left that I didn’t finish out of sheer and utter exhaustion! As for how I decorated the lanterns, well–scrapbook paper, transparency sheets, cellophane paper, and sheet metal of course!…with my favorite touch of invisible beading thread…They are made very much like The Muslim Learning Garden’s suncatcher-esque lantern except for the whole 3-d thing. As for the patterns, that’s me tracing the Arabic Patterns Stained Glass Coloring Book (Dover Publications, 2006) and The Art of the Muslim World Colouring Book 2 (Ta-Ha Publishers, 1983).

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Ramadan Banner Tutorial

So, a couple of you out there have asked me to blog this tutorial on my Ramadan decorations. I’m so flattered. This post is for you. But first, I must give due respect. I was inspired by the eye-candy-licious BarakahLife Ramadan Joy Creative Companion Blog and chamomiles&smiles 🙂 blog post on Ramadan decorations in making this banner. I just added my own touch on the concept that the sisters presented there.

Materials:

  • Scrapbook paper*
  • X-acto knife or Utility knife
  • Invisible Beading String/Thread
  • 4 in. letter stencils
  • Bookbinding awl or paperclip
  • Pencil

*I used Die Cuts With a View (DCWV)’s Royal Garden with Foil and Taj Mahal Scrapbook paper which has some very ornate and Islamic-looking, Silk Road-esque prints. I also used DCWV’s Glitter Cardstock Stack. But feel free to use whatever works for you and your space. Those were the colors and designs that spoke to me and our space! If you don’t want to have to worry about cutting big ‘ole scrapbook paper down, get the matstacks of the collection. They are postcard size and perfect for 4-5 inch stencils.

1. Trace the letters for “Ramadan Mubarak” or another greeting on your precut 4.5″ x 6.5″ cardstock paper with pencil.

2. Carefully cut out the letters using your X-Acto knife or Utility knife. (I found that using a utility knife required less force–and upper arm strength–on my part and went much quicker : :). Punch out the positive space (the actual letter)–the banner is made using the negative space (yes, I’m pulling out the art teacher terms!)

3. Use the bookbinding awl or an unwound paper clip to poke two holes on the top of your letter on either side.

4. If you haven’t already, arrange your letters in the proper order.

5. String the invisible beading thread through the holes of all the letters. I prefer to string from front to back through the left hole and from back to front through the right hole so that the string is not visible over the letters. I hope this makes sense. You want the thread running behind the letters, not in front of them. Also, make sure your string is long enough for where you want to hang your banner…if you want your banner to drop some in the middle (rather than hang straight across), like mine does, leave extra string on the sides and put the letters closer together towards the middle.

6. What are you waiting for, already? Hang it up!

Ramadan Decorating Phase 1

Me, scrapbook paper, and my handy dandy X-acto knife. See you on the other side of my extreme home makeover: Ramadan edition.

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Holiday Decorating Frenzy

Perfuming and airing out the prayer rugs…

I started working on a blanket for Noora’s Eid gift, but then I saw the most beautiful post on a centerpiece for Eid…and decided that the house must be decorated ASAP in time for Ramadan. It shouldn’t be too much of a challenge with only a week left, right? After all, I was charged with decorating an entire school only a little over 2 years ago…

You know, I was bound to decorate the house. After spending last Ramadan in Palestine accompanied by the most beautiful lanterns and lights, some of which I brought back, you know I had to try to recapture the feeling. I’ve also always itched to decorate for Ramadan. Coming from a Christian family tradition where we always decorated the house, it is important to me for holidays to be festive. Christmas time is still very nostalgic for me precisely because of those reasons. And being in the alleys of Jerusalem that were decorated like the Christian holidays I celebrated in years past brought me back home.

Of course, the focus of Ramadan should not be on decoration, but sometimes that’s how we get in the spirit. Lights, carols, good clean home-y movies…don’t you notice how everyone is pretty cheerful around Christmas time here? I mean, I’m singing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and can’t help but to partake in the gingerbread…But if I’m honest with myself, Ramadan in the past couple of years has been pretty boring. I’ve wished so much that the Muslims here in the U.S. would do something big for our holiday. Even putting one something that lights up on their doors just so that neighbors know that we celebrate something–something wonderful. But the streets are dark. And in exchange, I see Muslim children practically begging their parents to celebrate Halloween and Christmas sometimes because of the festive atmosphere that those days bring…when they should be begging their parents to just actually celebrate Ramadan.

The dining room…ready for iftars…with a handmade lantern-chandelier!

I know that we Muslims in America are in the process of creating our own unique Ramadan traditions. I just wish we’d hurry up, before we lose our children to other (less-noteworthy) traditions in our culture.They are visual, and they do like lights and festive atmospheres. Who doesn’t? Just look at children’s toys…they are bright and decorative for a reason…

And if anyone wants to take up the position that decorating for Ramadan is imitating other traditions, well there is a hadith you should read:
Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said, Indeed, Heaven is decorated for Ramadan-ul-Mubarak from the beginning of the year to the end. (Shu’abul Imaan, V::3 P::312 Hadith::3633)
If heaven is decorated, shouldn’t the earth be decorated, too? And more importantly, shouldn’t our hearts? Actions are by intentions…we will be the losers if we deny our children the right to celebrate Ramadan by not making the effort to make the occasion special for them. If we don’t do it, who will? Certainly, people of other faiths won’t be decorating for Ramadan. We must ask ourselves how we can make Ramadan special for those little ones who do not fast or pray like we do. And don’t think I have it easy just because I’m an art teacher. Anyone can grab scrapbook paper and scissors and make something out of it…which reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books, which happens to be Jewish folktale by the way…Phoebe Gilman’s Something from Nothing. But alas, I must not digress from the main point. In closing, I’ll share this very touching quote that I found on Yahoo!Answers–a response to someone who asked how one should decorate the home for Ramadan:
“If u want to decorate Ur house, you may decorate it with all good deeds in this holly month, un seen decoration which no body can see it except Allah. Decorate it with good quality of Salah (prayer) good quantity of Zeker (remembrance of Allah) decorate it with lots of recitation of holly Quraan and lots of Nawafils extra prayers like Tahajjud Tarawih Qeyam …”
Subhanallah. In efforts to brighten up this dunya with our joy over this blessed month, we must not forget to decorate our real homes…our hearts. For what good is beautifying the exterior if we do not beautify the interior?!?

The living room…decorated…

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