Muslims throughout the world begin Ramadan this week. The formal definition of Ramadan is that it is the 9th and holiest month of the Islamic calendar and is marked by daytime fasting, Quranic recitation, and increased prayer and charity. I had the pleasure of asking Muslim children’s book and YA authors to weigh in about Ramadan and am excited to share their responses with you all.
Ramadan is eating together.
"Ramadan is sleepy-eyes suhoor and iftar smiles.” –Susannah Aziz
"Ramadan is faces full of peace, hearts full of smiles, and bellies full of rice… I swear we eat our weight in biryani.” –Ashley Franklin
"Ramadan is long nights and sleepy days. Ramadan is tangy chutneys and crispy samosas.” –Marzieh Abbas
"Ramadan is my mother’s ginger rice pudding.” –Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
"Ramadan is when we all gather together and eat dinner at the same time...for once!” –Reem Faruqi
"Ramadan is spending the night at the masjid. Communal suhoors of halal bacon, cheese grits, and pancakes... or at least it used to be...you know before Covid.” –Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins
Ramadan is a new beginning.
"Ramadan is starting over, family traditions and excitement.” –Aya Khalil
"Ramadan is a blissful renewal, a chance to self-observe, reflect, and ground. The perfect excuse to intentionally initiate the best in you, and to appreciate what is occasionally taken for granted.” –Hatem Aly
"Ramadan is a chance to feel whole again.” –Ashley Franklin
"Ramadan is also a lot about new beginnings and resolutions. I find so much barakah in time and effort- it's amazing how projects started in Ramadan have this blessing. Alhamdulilah...” –Marzieh Abbas
Ramadan is giving and having and being thankful.
"Ramadan is giving; giving thanks, giving prayers, giving food, giving charity, giving time. Ramadan is having; having strength, having endurance, having remembrance, having blessings, having faith.” –Razeena Omar Gutta
"Ramadan is days spent in gratitude for things we have and things we don’t.” –Sana Rafi
Ramadan is heart and soul, joy and tears, journeying and stillness.
"Ramadan is love in action.” –Ashley Franklin
"Ramadan is heartfelt sacrifice, a journey towards righteousness and joy.” –Saadia Faruqi
"It’s also a time for learning- soaring, journeying to Divinity. I cant quite explain it in words. But it is truly so much more than the decor and the iftaar. Ramadan, and especially the last few nights... are an aura, a magic, 'peace, until the rising of the dawn.'" –Marzieh Abbas
"Ramadan is closeness - to others, to the Lord, and to your soul.” – Omar Abed
"Ramadan is an opportunity to dig deeper, make big bold duas and connect with essence of Islam.” –Rahma Rodaah
"Ramadan is the tears cried in night prayer.” –Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
"Ramadan for me is my “Ghar-e-Hira” time. I find myself gravitating toward isolation and introspection (although the pandemic has been one long period of isolation) I choose to focus on the internal and try to cleanse myself spiritually. Throughout the year, we are so caught up in the world and all it’s preoccupations. This is my month to focus on my relationship with my Creator. It’s quiet, peaceful and replenishing for my soul.” –Shirin Shamsi
“Ramadan is the stillness of our souls, weeping in the night, asking for guidance and forgiveness.” –Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins
"Ramadan is the stillness before fajr after a simple meal fills us with gratitude.” –S. K. Ali
Rhonda Roumani, a journalist, MG writer, and 2019 Pitch Wars winner, captures so much in this poetic response:
Ramadan is friends and family; large, happy iftars and sleepy suhoors
Ramadan is empty tummies and full hearts
Ramadan is dates and nectars and yummy foods
Ramadan is no sleep
Ramadan is happy kids and tired parents
Ramadan is a time to realign, reset and renew
Ramadan is about turning inward and remembering we are all one in our hunger,
in our needs, in our rights
Ramadan is about community and the individual soul
Ramadan is hard; and every year, we do it again and are in awe that we did it again.
I am thankful that we’ve been asked to do it only once a year…
For the reminder of both our weaknesses and our strengths as humans
For the reminder that Allah (swt) has bestowed so much upon us
And that we must continue to do more for those who have less.
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, M.S.Ed, is a Philadelphia-based educator and an award winning children’s book author. Her works, which feature young Black Muslim protagonists, have been recognized and critically-praised by many trusted voices in literature, including American Library Association, School Library Journal, and NPR. She writes picture books and middle grade fiction. Her books include Mommy’s Khimar, Once Upon an Eid (contributor), Your Name is a Song, and Abdul’s Story. She’s taught youth in traditional and alternative learning settings for 15 years.