When Farah Kinani’s friend’s daughter, Leila, told her classmates that she wouldn’t be joining them at lunch time one day, they could not understand. They asked Leila to hide and eat, or to at least drink. Some even thought she was being punished or given a time out. Leila was simply practicing one of the pillars of Islam, which is fasting the month of Ramadan. Ms. Kinani was informed about the incident and she decided to go and visit Leila’s middle school to give a small speech about Ramadan to three classes. The experience was a wakeup call for Ms. Kinani. She became aware of the fact that Ramadan is not defined in the minds of many kids and teenagers in the United States and thus decided to write the informative and beautifully written children’s book entitled very simply, Ramadan. This book tries to answer basic questions about Ramadan and offers glimpses into the ways that different American Muslim communities celebrate this holy month.
Farah Kinani, a freelance journalist and Muslimah Writers Alliance member, currently blogs for Global Voices Online and has been writing for more than 15 years. Her book, published by Creative Education and Publishing, tries to answer basic questions about Ramadan; questions like what is Ramadan, why is it sacred, and who should fast?
Ramadan, the holy month of fasting observed by Muslims, lasts for 30 days. Believers fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from food, drink, marital relations and all negative behavior for the entire month as a way of attaining purification and forgiveness of sins. The Holy Quran, God’s revelation to mankind and the honored book of Islamic scriptures, states in Surah 2 Ayat 183-185:
O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may learn self-restraint, fasting for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number should be made up from days later. For those who can do it with hardship, is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.
Ms. Farah Kinani is originally from Morocco, a predominantly Muslim country, where Ramadan is considered to be among the happiest of festivities within Moroccan culture, especially among those who observe it. Hence, to her, Ramadan is synonymous with enhanced spirituality, family reunion, and gourmet food. One of her most precious memories of this blessed month is of her and her mom scurrying to their neighborhood mosque to pray the early morning Fajr Prayer. She fondly remembers them holding hands and feeling blessed to have their warm faces greeted by the early breeze of her still sleeping city.
During her presentation to the 4th graders at Leila’s middle school, Ms. Kinani answered basic questions about Islam, shared anecdotes about Ramadan’s first time fasters, and made a quick comparison between the fasting experiences in every religion. She received feedback that was both inspiring and encouraging when she asked the students what they had learned. Some said that fasting was actually fun, others said people who fast are brave, but the answer she enjoyed hearing the most was that Muslims are just normal people.
Ms. Kinani has said, “When our kids, Muslims and non-Muslims, understand that the main goal of any Muslim family is not that different from their own families’ aspirations and when they associate Muslims with different faces than the scary ones daily broadcasted in some of the media, a milestone will be crossed towards a respectful cohabitation between Americans of all different backgrounds.”
One excerpt from the book addresses the breaking of the fast at sunset where Ms. Kinani includes one of the prayers of supplication or dua that Muslims traditionally utter before eating. The dua is:
O Allah, I have fasted for You and I break my fast with Your sustenance and in You I believe and on You I rely. The thirst is gone. And the veins are wet and the reward has been written insha’Allah. [Insha’Allah is an Arabic, Islamic term generously translated as meaning God-willing]
She has received much feedback on her book from readers of different backgrounds. Many of the readers express having enjoyed learning more about Ramadan and most of them stress the importance of having books like hers available in libraries to promote a better understanding of Muslims’ lives. She was surprised to find one article about her book posted on a hate blog calling to stop the Islamization of the USA. The Stop Islamization of America organization is U.S. based and has been labeled as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and described as Anti-Muslim by CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Farah Kinani enjoys writing most about anything that has to do with women’s issues, children’s education and issues surrounding the economy and living conditions in her native country of Morocco. She especially focuses on subjects that concern those whose voices aren’t heard because of poor living conditions. As a busy mom of two precious children, she does not intend to write another book within the next two to three years but she will continue to write articles and columns. Her writing can be found on Muslimah Writers Alliance, Global Voices and the MWA Celebrating Ramadan Blog.
For more information on Ms. Kinani, she can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/farah.kinani and you can follower her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/anafoulla/.