10 Books That Will Excite Your Kids About Their Muslim Identity

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.

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Even though I was a young thing, I still understood how cool leggings were. I am sure my mom will hate that I shared this.

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

Golden Domes Silver Lanterns

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

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+

Lailah’s Lunchbox

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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

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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

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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

Noor Kids

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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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!

Parenting Tips for Ramadan

Ramadan Countdown Poster

Ramadan Countdown Poster from Moderneid.com

Salaams my lovelies! I hope you are all doing well inshallah. It is almost time for my most favorite time of year: Ramadan! For those of my readers who may not know what Ramadan is, it is one of the holy months in the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast from eating food, drinking even water, and sexual relations during daylight hours. Nights are spent in hours of prayer and spiritual contemplation. Muslims believe this is the month that Shaytan (the Devil) and his minions are chained as well. It may seem bizarre to some that a month where worldly pleasures are denied can be my favorite time of year. However, if you ask a lot of Muslims, they will agree. There is a sense of closeness with Allah swt (God) in this month because there is an ongoing dialogue all month be it through fasting, prayer or charity.

Trust me when I say it took a long time to appreciate this month. As a youngster to be told to shut off Buffy the Vampire Slayer to pray was just agony. Now that I have my own little girl, I have been trying to think of ways to welcome this holy month in my own household and let her know how very important this month is to me and to a lot of Muslims.

Make it Special

I think growing up we noticed how other faiths like Christianity and Judaism were able to make their own holidays special. For Ramadan, I think it is important to associate good feelings with your own children. For me, I plan to decorate my home to welcome Ramadan and ask my daughter to help me. I do this for Eid too. On Eid, my toddler woke up to a gorgeously decorated home and was so excited because she knew it was a special day. I already started telling her about how Ramadan is coming and how we will pray to Allah for anything we need (even if it means Hello Kitty stickers). If you don’t want to make your own Ramadan decorations, make sure to check out Modern Eid. They have an amazing selection of Ramadan and Eid decorations that are just the right amount of stylish and are fit for Pinterest. I will be ordering their Ramadan Countdown poster so that Safiya can countdown the days to Eid with good deeds that she can do daily.

Make a Plan

I also plan to map out what I will be cooking (only easy dishes) so that I can make time to pray and read our holy book The Quran. If your child sees you pray, she will start to do it herself. Parents really do lead by example. I also helped my own daughter map out good deeds she can do all month. These good deeds are as simple as helping by picking up toys, giving someone a smile or hug and even donating old toys to a charity.

Involve Other Mommies

Another way to get your kids excited about Ramadan is to get together during Ramadan with other couples and their kids who practice too. If your child sees that other children are fasting and are excited about Ramadan, it becomes contagious. The moms and kids can do something simple, like read a Ramadan story and have iftar or even do a simple dua with the kids. It is also nice since the mommies can get a break from cooking that day too!

Make Some Memories

I am also thinking of ways to make some memories with my little one too. I want her to remember that Ramadan is a special time where we did special things together. One of those ways is to work with her and bake some cookies. When we bake our “Ramadan” cookies, she will remember good times with her mama and also remember a special Ramadan recipe. If you want, I can share my special “Ramadan” cookie recipe with you too!

What are your plans to make Ramadan special for your family? Let me know in the comments below!

Tips on How Soothe a Sick Toddler

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If you have children, then you know that when baby is sick, no one is happy or can be at peace. Sick toddlers especially demand a lot of attention. What is a Muslim parent to do with a sick toddler? Here are my tips and tricks for how to soothe that poor sick toddler:

1. Baby Vicks VapoRub: this product is a miracle worker. Rub this on your little sick toddler’s chest and the bottoms of her feet and she will instantly feel better.

2.Steam Bath (or shower): this helps open up your sick toddler’s little stuffed nose and will let your sick baby breathe a little better.

3. Fluids: I am a strict mom. I only allow my little toddler milk or water. However, when she is feeling sick, I do let her have juice because she thinks she is getting a treat and it helps her stay hydrated. I also feed her soups when I can tempt her.

4. Special Me Time : I let my toddler get her way when she is sick. This means reading her extra books and watch her favorite TV show (not too much though!).

5. Extra Love: I sit next to her while she sleeps so if my sick baby needs me, I am right there. I am blogging right now while she is resting. I give her extra cuddles, kisses and love in the hopes it helps her get better faster iA.

I hope these tips help you if your little one is sick. Do you have any other helpful tips to share? Make sure to comment below.

Raising Muslim Kids In A Hyper Sexualized World

Muslim Children in Hyderabad

Muslim Children in Hyderabad

With more children suffering at the hands of this sexually driven world, I am starting to feel scared as a Muslim parent. Recently, The Telegraph did a whole article about the prevalence of pornography in all facets of our lives and how they are starting to affect children. Reading the article struck fear in my heart. As a parent of a toddler who is barely 2, I am starting to realize that she is absorbing everything around her; good and bad.

I am lucky because at this age, I can be her media gatekeeper. I refuse to watch anything remotely adult around her. It has been a blessing for me too. I recently shared an article on my Facebook about how desensitized that our society has become that Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance did not cause anyone to bat an eyelash. I was blessed because I didn’t subject my eyes and my soul to what was described as a purely objectifying performance that did a disservice to the singer and women in general. However, I can’t shield my child from glancing over magazine covers while in line to buy groceries and other inevitable instances of sexualized exposure.

That being said, I am not going to despair. In the time of the Prophet, there were all sorts of ignorance (jahiliyya) around. People used to go around the Kaaba naked! So in order to combat these influences that may take away my child’s innocence, I plan to do the following:

  • Spend as much time as I can: I plan to spend every moment I can ENGAGED with my child. I lock my phone in an unknown place unless we are FaceTiming grandparents and I spend as much time as I can talking to my child face to face. we play games, we play pretend, we do yoga, we watch child appropriate TV. We even pray together. I want my time with her to dominate her memories.
  • Teach boundaries: I want my daughter to know what is right and wrong. When she does something wrong, I simply say stop and walk away so she knows that there are consequences to her wrong actions. I hope this instills a sense of responsibility in her inshallah. I am still a new parent, so if anyone has any pointers, please let me know! She knows that she can’t touch any electronic device without a grown up supervising.
  • Show your love: I show my daughter I love her all the time to the point she rubs my kisses away. But I want her to know that she is loved for who she is, not for what she looks like or what she can give anyone. I want her to grow up feeling valued as a human being so that when the time comes, she will know that she is not an object and that she has more to contribute to society. It is so sad, but even The Onion did a parody piece about the awkward moment that a girl transitions into a sexual being. So when that moment comes, I hope that my daughter knows she is more than that to me and can hold tight to the values I raise her with inshallah.