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The Islamic Year Review


The Islamic Year


Well, it took me a little over a week to finish this book, only because I’m currently reading two others (Nurture Shock and Skybreaker), running Camp Mommy (tm. Manic Mommies) and participating in the rest of my life.  LOL.  Here’s the review!    

The Islamic Year: Surahs, Stories and Celebrations was written by Noorah Al-Gailani and Chris Smith.  Noorah is an Iraqi Muslim who has been a religion teacher and at publication, was a curator of a religious museum in London.  Upon doing a search on her name, this title is the only thing that surfaces.     

Chris is a  Musician and Storyteller from England who spent many years living in the Middle East and teaches about Arabic and Islamic culture in the UK.  His name is so vague that a search brought up virtually no more information.    

This book is written for the non-Muslim.  It does not assume any previous knowledge about the religion or its customs and is written with the English-speaking reader as its audience.  The story of the life of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is told in brief, and while doing this, they explain the festivals that correspond with a particular event in the Prophet’s life.  The festivals addressed are:    

  • The Prophet’s Birthday (Milad-an-Nabi)
  • The Night of Destiny (Laylat-ul-Qadr)
  • The Night Journey and Ascension (Al-Isra wa Al-Miraj)
  • New Year (Hijrah)
  • The Feast at the End of Ramadan (Eid-ul-Fitr)
  • The Feast of Sacrifice (Eid-ul-Adha)

In each Chapter, the story of the Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) life is told as relates to the festival.  They then cover why this particular event is significant and how it is celebrated in various countries.  Not all countries are covered, but Iraqi customs are present in most chapters because of the author’s knowledge base.  Egyptian, Syrian, Turkish and Palestinian customs are also mentioned in various chapters.     

After the celebrations have been described, there are coordinating craft ideas described (like making a model Kabbah, a lantern, a mobile of all the prophets) in detail with material lists and illustrated instructions.  There are many artistic renditions of the Angel Gabriel and Islamic Designs and flowers as well as the names of prophets like Moses, Jesus and Adam written in calligraphy.  All of the 99 names of Allah are written in this book in English and in Arabic, so that you can make decorative bookmarks.  recipes are included for Konafa with Cheese, Halva with Carrots and Honeyed Pancakes that sound similar to Ataif but without the frying.    

The Crafts are followed up by several folktales that illustrate the coordinating theme of each holiday or festival.  In the Appendices, the Festival of Ashura is explained as well as how the split between the Sunni and Shia’ sects came about, there is a glossary of terms, references for further reading, sources for crafting items (most in England), and a teacher’s guide for further instruction.    

Basically it’s a really useful book for me.  When I met my husband, Khaled, I asked him about the holidays and how to go about celebrating them.  He told me that there were two holidays and the first holiday (Eid-ul-Fitr) we celebrate by getting new clothes and going to pray at the Masjid, the second (Eid-ul-Adha) we celebrate by sacrificing a lamb (or calf) in Egypt, and we go to the Eid Prayer at the Masjid.     

As you can imagine, this proved very frustrating to me, who grew up with a truckload of commercialized holidays;  Valentine’s Day(Cards and Chocolate), Easter(Colored Egg Hunt, Huge Baskets of Candy, New Clothes, Visits to Relatives), Memorial Day (Cookout), July 4th (Cookout and Fireworks), Labor Day (Telethon watching and Food), Halloween(Costumes and Candy), Thanksgiving (Large Amounts of Food and Family), Christmas(Cookies, Candy, Decorations, Tree, Dress Up Clothes, Presents, Visiting Family), and New Years Eve.  This doesn’t even cover all the birthday parties, confirmation ceremonies, baptisms and other stuff I’ve left out.    

What I’m saying here, is that I don’t know how to do low-key holidays.  I don’t know how to not celebrate.  So, once we had children, I kept trying to piece together some sort of celebration that incorporated his method of observing the holiday and my idea of what a holiday should be.  I grew up here, in America, where we do it big or we don’t do it at all!  LOL.  So after many failed attempts, we’ve got a little bit of a routine down with the Eids, but I would like to take things up a notch.  This book has introduced a way to add new traditions into our unique celebrations that won’t confuse the children when the holidays line up with Easter or Thanksgiving.  I’m looking forward to making a Fasting Countdown and a Prophet Mobile this year.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    07/15/2010 2:35 PM

    Hi Honey, This is very interesting and quit en-lighting for me. I know how important this is to you and your family. You are a totally awesome wife and mother, your family is very lucky that you could make the adjustments to make all holidays in your home to work. I am happy you and Khal could make the decisions to make all traditions come together. I appreciate that it is so much more work for you and your family, but being the person I am, I’m glad you can make it work for all of us. Thank you,

    Love you,

    • 07/16/2010 9:44 AM

      Mom, Thank you so much for your comment and support. Did I ever tell you how much we appreciate how you humored us when we were going through all the different versions of Eid celebrations? Well, THANK YOU. It’s all a work in progress, but each year we add something new and tweak something we didn’t like and just make sure each holiday is a special day. Love you!

  2. Khaled permalink
    07/16/2010 6:07 AM

    That is interesting.It brings back memories. I feel like reading the book after reading your review. Need to brush up on how we used to celebrate. Calling MOM.

  3. 08/05/2010 2:38 PM

    I found your blog through Ask Moxie. I am Muslim and have a toddler girl. My husband is Muslim too, but he is less observant than I am. I don’t wear Hijab and wouldn’t define myself as a conservative (or orthodox? I don’t know how to define the level) Muslim. Anyway, you are right that the holidays are much more low key compared to the holidays here. On the other hand, it’s not that bad:) I was at my home country until I was 25. I can tell your first hand, that there are a bunch of things we do to make the holidays special. We visit the elders (grandparents, etc.), it’s an unwritten rule, like it’s here on Thanksgiving. I spent many holidays visiting my parent’s families. Also, you expect your (close) friends to come and visit you (short visits, most times like 30 minutes), and you visit them back. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with friends and distant family. Back when there was no internet, we used to send cards to everyone we knew and couldn’t visit personally. Now it’s group e-mails:(
    This may be different in my home country, but on Eid-ulFitr, everyone is supposed to have dessert (usually baklava etc) and candies at home. The desserts can be homemade (mmm… delicious!) or store bought. We serve the dessert to guests and give candy to children that would knock your door and say happy holidays/eid mubarak. You don’t have to know the child personally, but usually they are neighborhood kids. Most children will have stomach aches because of enourmous amount of candy they consume in just a few days:) That’s why I love Halloween more than Christmas; it remind me of the days I would eat dozens of candy:)
    Holidays are always about children. They always get new clothes, get cash or small -really small- presents from grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.
    Decoration is not a part of the Muslim holidays but food definitely is. Cakes, desserts, pastry… All holidays feel like Thanksgiving.
    Of course, it changes from one Muslim country (culture) to the other. I think it is wonderful that you are finding your own way.

  4. 08/06/2010 7:23 AM

    T, Thank you for your descriptive and informative post! I understand that the focus is on visiting relatives, and sharing the holiday with them. But what if your Muslim Family lives on the other side of the world? I keep trying to make those friendships with people that could be our Muslim family here, but so far it hasn’t worked that well. Hopefully we will figure it all out soon.

    Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to comment. Jummah Mubarak.

  5. 06/29/2015 1:39 PM

    I love this post and am definitely going to read this book now! 🙂 Thank you!

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