Time to Pray by Maha Addasi, Arabic translation by Nuha Albitar, illustrated by Ned Gannon
After reading (and being bothered, aggravated, and ultimately haunted by the unlikely-to-ever-be-forgotten Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali), I seem to be in search of sweeter literary anecdotes about the Muslim experience.
As she did in her debut, The White Nights of Ramadan, Kuwaiti-born author Maha Addasi lovingly celebrates her Muslim heritage in her upcoming (publication date scheduled for September) picture book, Time to Pray. Laid out with a simultaneous bilingual translation (in English and Arab), Addasi’s latest story captures a young girl’s visit to her grandmother, somewhere in an unnamed Middle Eastern city.
Although Yasmin is sometimes too tired – and still too young – to heed the first of five calls to prayer expected of practicing Muslims, she lovingly watches her grandmother make her prayerful preparations even as she drifts back to sleep. “‘With practice,'” her grandmother patiently assures Yasmin, “‘you’ll be able to rise early.”
As the two go through their day together, Yasmin helps her grandmother pick out materials for “special prayer clothes.” Yasmin quietly observes her grandmother, learning to practice their faith. With her new handmade prayer clothes and prayer mat, she happily joins her grandmother at the mosque. Each day brings more practice: “I especially like the fourth prayer at sunset,” Yasmin says. “The sky always had swirls of red, even when there were no clouds.”
When Yasmin returns home to her waiting family, she is surprised to discover a miniature mosque her grandmother has secretly packed for her. It proves to be a special prayer clock, reminding Yasmin of both her faith and her loving grandmother. “I don’t always pray all five prayers. I’m still practicing,” she confesses. “Sometimes when the prayer clock rings before dawn, I turn over and go back to sleep. But don’t tell Teta [Grandmother]!”
Yasmin is a modern all-American girl, wears jeans and t-shirts in addition to the more traditional salwar kameez, is reminded of her grandmother passing the cinnamon bun store at the mall, travels the world, and is able to laugh at herself when she misses a prayer or two or more … and clearly, as the book depicts, she is also a devout Muslim, being raised by Muslim parents, taking part in her grandmother’s faraway Muslim life. Yasmin’s story certainly is a welcome anecdote to the injustice, horrors, pain, and destruction faced by the Muslim women of Hirsi Ali’s world … hopefully Yasmin’s well-balanced American/Middle Eastern, modern/traditional, happy beginnings will be neverending.