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.