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Book Looks to Bring Eid al-Adha to the Mainstream

By Tom Feran
2007 Religion News Service

CLEVELAND — The biggest holiday of the Muslim year, Eid al-Adha, begins on Dec. 19 (Wednesday) this year. Its proximity to Christmas happens only once every three decades because Muslims use a lunar calendar.
For Ohio author Asma Mobin-Uddin, it’s a sweet coincidence that might bring wider interest and readership to her new children’s book, “The Best Eid Ever.”
“We need some sweetness,” she said. “It’s a special and holy week for a lot of faiths. These are holidays people need to know about, and there’s not a lot of books to fill that need.”
But she first wrote the book, her second, for Muslim-American kids like her own, after she had trouble finding books that reflected their experience.
“The Best Eid Ever” is about Anessa, a young girl who’s sad because her parents are away on a hajj pilgrimage — the trip to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that their faith requires. Known as the Feast of Sacrifice, the holy day of Eid al-Adha marks the end of the traditional hajj period and honors the steadfastness,obedience and love of the God of Abraham, whose story is told in the Quran and the Bible.
Anessa is cheered by her new holiday outfit and the traditional foods made by her grandmother, but is later distressed at their prayer hall to see two girls in ill-fitting clothes. She befriends them, learns they are refugees from a war-torn country and cooks up a plan with her grandmother to make their holiday “the best ever.”
Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen, the sweet and heart-tugging tale has won praise both as a children’s story and for promoting understanding of a celebration observed by 10 million Americans — “the largest holiday in the second-largest faith in the world,” Mobin-Uddin noted.
“I wanted to share the spirit of generosity reflected in many different faith traditions. It’s a universal message. I wanted to empower kids to know you can do something to help somebody else to make a holiday special. And I wanted to share, on a child’s level, that awakening to people from different backgrounds.”
That is becoming increasingly important, she said, though she didn’t have contact with a refugee community during her own childhood in Marion, Ohio, where she was born. Her parents, both physicians, settled there after emigrating from Pakistan.
Now living with her family in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, Mobin-Uddin earned undergraduate and medical degrees at Ohio State University.
She took time off from her pediatric practice to be home with her three young children, but found time for community work, including two years as president of the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and for writing, especially with the aim of opening dialogue between faiths.
Mobin-Uddin’s previous book, “My Name Is Bilal,” won the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People in 2005. The Cleveland Public Library and other libraries and schools put it on their lists of the year’s best books for children.
She’s completing the manuscript for a third book, about a girl invited to a classmate’s party during the fasting month of Ramadan, and expects it will be published in 2009.
“There are pockets of hope and positiveness,” Mobin-Uddin said of efforts to promote understanding between Muslims and other faiths. “I’m not sure we have more understanding as a country, but I see people wanting to share and understand what the faith is about. With people who do reach out and make the effort, we build a lot of bridges.”
Tom Feran writes for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • pagansister

    We need understanding of all religions in this country and one of the best places to start is with the children. I’m glad that Mobin-Uddin has taken on the task of writing stories for children to explain the Muslim traditions and beliefs. Children are very accepting. They should learn about ALL religions, not just their own. In the UU church, my children were taught about other beliefs.

  • nnmns

    Pagansister, I agree completely.

  • jestrfyl

    This is a great and wonderful ides. Most adults will learn more from kiddie lit than from all the lofty tomes and scholarly reviews. Of course, that is because most adults would rather finish a kids book than begin the wander through these adult millstones.
    So blessings
    on the author,
    on all the adults (librarians – special kudos to you!)who buy the book,
    to all the parents who read it to the kids,
    and especially to the kids – that they may learn and grow more free of the weeds of prejudice and the parasites of bigotry.

  • pagansister

    Your blessings poem is beautiful. Your “job” is showing! That is a compliment.

  • Henrietta22

    Children sharing each others religious traditions in stories that are meant for children are great. Follow the children for honesty, and acceptance of each other; they are the most sincere teachers for adults if the adults pay attention, and not try to block them with prejudice and admonitions.

  • Ruairi

    I wish I had known about this book earlier. Yesterday I talked to my students about the different holidays that can be celebrated in the month of December. Our winter program actually in cooperated most of them. Of course as usual Yule was left out. I did the sets though and the picture that had Santa in it also have a yule log. It was about decorating a gray little town with bright holiday pictures. I had several people get irate though over the fact I choose a pet store…Exotic pets for the window with a nativity scene. Couldn’t believe that… after all if you have a pet store to paint windows in wouldn’t you put a manger scene with animals?
    Anyway Ramadan was what was referred to and it also only rarely happens in December. We compared that to the way Easter rotates on the lunar cycle. Another example would have been great.

  • jestrfyl

    I am using a Nativity set with our children in the sanctuary. Based on Isaiah, I have included everything from lions & leopards to bears and snakes, as well as the usual lambs, donkeys and cattle. However, as a nod to God as Creator of all creatures – and a nod to evolution as well – I have included a monkey (my son named him “Darwin” and he has been the subject of one sermon) and a dodo. As you can imagine it is getting crowded. But I talk about how Isaiah expected all creation to be renewed and get along on God’s Holy Mountain. So when baby Jesus is born he will be greated by a quiet, well bahaved menagerie.
    My reference to Ramadan was not as a December holiday – but as a season for penance and repentance, no matter when it occurs. I beleive that paying attention to both lunar as well as solar holidays may help us reconnect to the environment p- somethingthat has been lost in many places.
    Your play sounds interesting and i hpe the kids had fun putting it on. Let the adults fuss and fume – they are too slow to get these complicated ideas anyway.

  • joyous

    Hey Ruairi,
    Was your play, “Paint the Town December”? :) We did that show a couple years ago at the school I was working at at the time.
    At the same event, 4th and 5th graders made presentations about all December events, and Yule was included. I don’t think we talked much about Eid though, although recently two children at my current school have told me they celebrate it, but have not been able to tell me why. A book about this celebration would’ve been great to have a few days ago!

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