As a Muslim kid growing up in New York City in the 1980’s, I have to admit that I had it a LOT easier than most kids growing up in United States. I was lucky enough to live in a city where the vast majority of its residents were people of color and immigrants. However, I grew up in Queens in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood. It was a place where Christmas and Hannukah were celebrated, but no one would ever mention holidays like Kwanzaa or Eid. And forget about being able to eat gummy candies. Everything seemed to be made with pork or lard. My parents didn’t understand how or why it was important to create special holiday moments around Ramadan or Eid. They were just immigrants trying to instill a sense of devotion and faith in us. As a parent, I appreciate just how hard it must have been for my parents to do that.
Now, as a Muslim mom, I can’t help but be dazzled by the assortment of resources available to us for our own kids. If your kids want to eat marshmallows or gummy candies, they can easily be purchased from the halal meat store. If you want to buy Ramadan or Eid decorations for your home, there is Etsy and an extensive list of online retailers you can turn to. Even Party City offers Eid decorations now! It is easier than ever to share Islam with your kids, but why is it that I am as scared as ever raising my kids?
With digital device use on the rise, it is easy for kids to tune you out and listen to a constant barrage of negative or useless information. From Minecraft to Fortnite, there are games that kids can turn to as they turn away from their parents. This is not a post to criticize parents about allowing their kids to use these games. However, it is a lot harder than ever to communicate with our kids as they get more and more distracted by alluring calls for their attention.
One way I have been able to engage with my kids is to put my own phone down (which by way, is HARD). But I have found that when I do and I read books with my kids, we are interacting in a very real way that helps shape their core values. We read the classics like Good Night Moon, but we also read a lot of books that are centered around Islam and Muslims. Here are my top 10 Muslim books for kids of all ages to be inspired by.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
This book will enchant your children. With soothing rhymes by Hena Khan and dazzling illustrations by Merdokht Amini, your children will learn all about the colors of the world woven into the daily routine of a Muslim family. From the color of a prayer rug to the color of a grandfather’s cap, this book will entertain your kids with familiar everyday objects. This book is in steady rotation in my household, and I am sure it will be a favorite for your own kids. Please note that Hena Khan has book signings all over the country, so be sure to follow her and see when she is in your town. Ages 3+
This book is based on writer Reem Faruqi’s actual life of being homesick as a young schoolgirl. Lailah moves from a Muslim majority country to Georgia and struggles to explain why her lunchbox will be empty during the month of Ramadan to her teacher and friends. She is able to confide in a school librarian and figure out a way to share what Ramadan is with her class. This book is really wonderful for kids to understand that being shy is a normal part of life and that there is a whole range of emotions that happen with a big move. One scene my kids could relate to was when Lailah is offered her favorite treat while she is fasting and has to say no thank you. It is a great book for kids who are starting to fast a full day and need some encouragement. Ages 6+
Ilyas and Duck Search for Allah
This book is one that takes a simple picture book to explain the complex concept of searching for the divine. Your kids will love the adventures that Ilyas and Duck go on in their search of Allah, but parents will love that it is a great way to explain the concept of where God is. Omar S. Khawaja has an entire series of Ilyas and Duck books that are sure to be crowd pleasers with your own children. He also conducts readings and book signings at local masjids, so be sure to follow him and see when he is coming to your area. Ages 2+
Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story
Writer Hena Khan appears on our list again for a reason: she is able to capture the unique Muslim American experience in a way like no other writer can in a way that resonates with kids. Her authentic storytelling is apparent in this book that follows a seven-year-old Pakistani American girl named Yasmeen as she celebrates the entire month of Ramadan with her family. From the moon sighting onwards, this book explains the concepts of moon sightings, phases, iftar time, chand raat (night of the moon) and more. Ages 5+
Noor Kids Stand Up To Bullying
Amin G. Aaser writes about the dangers of peer pressure and even being passive in the face of bullying in a very interactive book that will appeal to your kids. Noor Kids is a unique business model that allows parents to subscribe monthly to receive books that are not only informative but presents ideas in a way that kids are sure to remember and implement in their own lives. Utilizing what they call the SIRAT method, Noor Kids relies on storytelling, identity curriculum, role models, active parenting, and thinking critically. It gives Muslim parents the tools they need to raise confident Muslims. I highly recommend checking out their blog for excellent parenting resources. Ages 3+
Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs
A comprehensive and beautiful anthology of traditional stories from around the world, this collection of short stories not only entertain but illuminate the importance of Islamic values and morals in a very powerful yet simple way. Ages 2+
Cinderella: An Islamic Tale
If you are wary of sharing fairy tales with your children because you are sick of the Disney version OR you are horrified by the amount of violence in the original version, this book is for you. It retells the classic story of Cinderella as a Muslim woman of color. With important concepts such as the reliance of Allah and the idea that even the pious are tested with hardship, this fairy tale version really illuminates virtues that are integral to Muslims. I will say that you will have to console children who are sensitive because the idea of losing a parent is never easy. However, it is done in a way that doesn’t gloss over the death of a parent (like Disney) and allows readers a glimpse into what personal loss does look like. (Please note: I don’t recommend the Snow White version of this author’s series for young children as it delves into black magic, murder, and the concept of evil eye which I feel are concepts best left to older children) Ages 8+
Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes
A continuation of Hena Khan’s book on colors, this book uses rhyming words and Merdokht Amini’s stunning illustrations to reinforce the concept of shapes using items familiar to Muslims all over the world. If your kids love the book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, this is a must-have for their collection of books. Ages 2+
Yo Soy Muslim
A beautiful lyrical book by Mark Gonzales, this picture book discusses important concepts of racism and belonging while celebrating the Latino Muslim experience. A combination of surreal poetry with fantastical illustration by Merdokht Amini, this book is certain to make your kids proud of the diversity of the Muslim ummah and of their own heritage. Ages 6+
It’s Ramadan, Curious George!
How can I not mention the book that made Ramadan mainstream? Writer Hena Khan takes your kids on a journey with Curious George that takes him to a masjid where he learns you take off shoes, iftar, and even an Eid celebration. This book is perfect for kids of all ages to get excited about Ramadan and Eid. Ages 2+
I truly hope this curated list gets you excited to start your own children’s library of Muslim books by Muslim authors. Let me know what books I should buy next for my own kids in the comments below!