“So, has Abbie already told you about my conversion to Islam?” he asked and drank from his cup.
You Are Beautiful is one of the first Islamic story books published here at Mindworks. Written by Author Robyn Abdusamad, the book introduces the characters Zaynab and Zakiyyah, two sisters who experience their first encounter with racial prejudice and who are saddened by what they hear. Throughout the course of the story they realize the beauty of ethnic diversity, community and true friendship. This book highlights the importance of countering ignorance with knowledge and kindness. In honor of Black History Month, we share this book with you and hope that you will share it with the ones you care about!
An excerpt from You Are Beautiful:
The next day, Zaynab and Zakiyyah were sitting on their porch when their friends, Adam, Yasu and Kelly joined them.
They exchanged greetings and Adam said, “I’m sorry for what I said yesterday about African-American people. I told my parents what I said and they told me that it wasn’t nice for me to say that to my friends.”
“It is okay,” Zaynab replied. “There’s nothing wrong with talking about our differences.”
“Yeah,” Yasu agreed, “We can all learn and grow from our differences.”
“That’s true, Yasu,” Zakiyyah responded. “God created a rainbow of people and He loves all of us equally.”
As the children continued their talk on the porch, Grandma Ernestine, an elderly lady from the neighborhood who was often peeping out of her window to keep an eye on the children, decided to join them.
“My beautiful children, I have enjoyed listening to your conversation. You are so wise at such young ages,” she said.
“There is a history of African-American people having been treated unfairly in this society, and this continues today, but African American people are beautiful just like people of any other race.”
Grandma Ernestine continued, “African- American people have a very rich heritage. Some of our ancestors were kings and queens.”
Yasu eagerly stated, “Yes, like King Mansa Musa and Queen Amina.”
“Yes,” Grandma Ernestine replied and nodded. “African Americans have also made major contributions to this society.”
Kelly politely interrupted to insert, “Like the creation of refrigeration systems, traffic lights, clocks and many other household appliances.”
“Yes,” Grandma Ernestine chuckled in agreement.
“I think the important thing is to embrace who you are and to get to know and understand others too,” Yasu declared.
“That is it,” Grandma Ernestine replied as she left the children to go for a walk.
“You know what would be cool?” Adam suggested as the others listened with anticipation. “We should have a family dinner with all of our families together.”
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A Quranic Odyssey is the first book in the Quranic Odyssey series by Author Umm Muhemmed and our very first publication in the Islamic chapter books genre at Mindworks Publishing. The story centers around Ibrahim and Amna, age five and two, as they embark on a journey of hifdh (Quranic memorization) with their parents, Khadija and Abdurrahman. Emphasis on love for the Quran is a central theme and it is presented in a thoughtful manner that brings the learning and understanding of the meanings of the Quran to life in the most unexpected ways. We learn about courage and patience as we get to know this young family while experiencing the “living” aspects of the Quran in their day to day challenges and joys.
The second book in the series, Ya Seen: a hifdh journey in America, continues their story but now the children are a little older. Both books are a perfect companion for any family’s hifdh journey, especially during the month of Ramadan. The books are also a great resource for anyone seeking to get a glimpse of life for a contemporary Islamic family living in the West.
From Chapter Eleven
“Daddy said to pray for Lindsey to be safe and to ask Allah to bring her home quickly,” Leotie whispered with her eyes lowered.
Corinne blinked away tears and stroked Leotie’s hair.
“That is a very nice prayer,” Corinne replied and allowed Abbie to light her candle. “I’m going to pray that prayer too, if that’s ok.”
Leotie nodded and held onto Corinne’s raincoat. Once the small tea candles were lit, people began releasing them to float upon the surface of the pond. Corinne walked over to the pond’s edge and crouched down to release her candle to float across the pool’s dark surface. A full moon hung high. Partially obscured by streaks of gray clouds against the blue-black sky, and Corinne was reminded of the majesty of the Creator – the Great Spirit – Allah, as Leotie had referred to Him, and she offered the supplication that Leotie had shared with her.
The pond gradually filled with lit candles, illuminating the surrounding bushes and trees and creating an atmosphere of calm serenity. The essence of sincere prayers was almost palpable as Corinne sat down upon the pond’s bank and reflected on the fleeting nature of existence. Minute by minute, day by day, with each passing season and every passing year, she – everyone here – inched closer and closer to the end. Life was too short to take for granted. Leotie climbed into Corinne’s lap and laid her head back against Corinne’s shoulder as she gazed out at the brightly lit pond. They sat like that for several minutes, with everyone quietly watching the candles ripple over the surface of the water and Corinne was so absorbed by her thoughts that she didn’t hear Delsin’s approach. He stepped into view at the corner of her eye and crouched over the edge of the pond to release a candle before sitting beside Corinne and Leotie on the damp grass.
“Daddy,” Leotie murmured sleepily when she saw him and climbed over into her father’s lap.
She held onto him tightly, resting her head in the crook of his neck, and didn’t let go. He and Corinne exchanged a sad smile before he looked away to stare into the trees beyond the water.
Full Circle is the first installment of The Yellow Butterfly book series, a work of contemporary fiction written about three Native American sisters. Full Circle, Book One, centers around the youngest sister, Corinne Shelton, and the challenges she faces upon returning to the reservation in Havenwood, WA after being away for college and graduate school. Like many young women today, she has to learn how to navigate life after being sheltered by the world of academia, and its not as easy as she expected it to be.
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Spring is here! This time of year always reminds me of trips to the public library and enjoying a new book!
A lot of people utilize the spring weather for getting back on track with their exercise regimens, but did you know that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body? Science has proven that reading can improve concentration, improve your memory and reduce stress?
And most significantly, one of the first commands to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was to read!
Pick up a book today, or give the gift of reading to someone! We hope you’ll consider and recommend our books in your efforts!
Peace and blessings to you!
Author Umm Muhemmed is the writer of the A Quranic Odyssey Islamic chapter book series about brother and sister Ibrahim and Amna and their learning adventures with their mother Khadija.
Book One, A Quranic Odyssey, Towards Juz ‘Amma, introduces us to the adorable duo, Ibrahim and Amna, as they embark upon their journey of Quranic memorization (hifdh) while book two, Ya Seen: a hifdh journey in America, continues a year later during the month of Ramadan as they work at memorizing Surah Ya Seen.
Umm Muhemmed is an American born development economist. Her entry into hifdh al Quran dates to 2010 under the tutelage of Hafidha Rayhaanah. It is an ongoing pursuit, together with her two children, and one which she seeks to share via the Quranic Odyssey Series with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Her hope and prayer is that the story will be a vehicle of learning and peace for parents, children, and teachers as well.
Chapter 1: The Opening
Setting: Early October 2010, new school, Houston, early morning
Characters: Ms. Suzy, Ibrahim, Khadija, Amna
“What’s your name?” I hear the teacher ask.
It’s a new day, in a new place, and a very new teacher for all of us. The question, however, is a familiar one.
My son, who keeps reminding me that he will be five and a half in a matter of weeks, responds, “My name is . . . Ibrahim . . . well, actually, it’s longer, Muhemmed Ibrahim Shaban, but call me Ibrahim for short. I jumped off Signal Hill right before we left Cape Town. I wore a helmet and had sort of . . . umm . . . a net and a pair of wings. Do you want to see my picture? You can also see the World Cup Stadium if you look carefully, but, you know, Spain won, not South Africa.”
I can see that the teacher is taken aback, and imagine her asking herself the following questions: He jumped off a hill with wings? Near the World Cup Stadium?[i] She adjusts her glasses as if to focus her thoughts. I wonder whether she has ever met a boy named Ibrahim before. I also wonder how many mothers in hijab have passed through the school doors. There don’t seem to be any this morning that I can see.
I had chosen a small Montessori program because it was close to our home, just a half day of kindergarten, and they had an opening for us well after the start of the school year, but talking to the director over the phone and handing my son over to Ms. Suzy were two very different things.
“Well,” she finally says, “welcome Ib-ra-him.”
Slowly, the name comes out from her mouth and, although tentative, its pronunciation is followed by a smile. Ibrahim meanwhile is beaming at her, waiting, it would seem, as if to tell her more.
“Thank you Ms. Suzy,” I interject, then explain. “Ibrahim went tandem paragliding right before we moved, and just one month after the World Cup. It left quite an impact. And his name is Arabic for Abraham, like Abraham Lincoln. This is my daughter.”
I point down to Amna then continue, “Her name is Amna, Am-na, almost like ‘Amy’.”
Amna waves at Ms. Suzy as if on cue, and also beams. She’s wearing bright yellow overalls, a parting gift from my neighbor, which she chose to wear to accompany her brother to school. She wanted to make sure she wouldn’t get lost, or at least that is how she tried to explain it in our scramble to get dressed this morning. I’m hoping, that despite our eccentricities, we give a good first impression though I do feel a bit nervous myself, and adjust the edge of my hijab near the pin below my chin.
I pause for a second more before I proceed, “I am Khadija. My name is more of a mouthful, but once you’ve said it once or twice and maybe even seen it in writing, it will all seem more familiar.”
I start to take out a piece of paper from my brown, leather purse. Ibrahim, however, beats me to it, writing out his name on a small school notebook he is carrying. He hands it over to Ms. Suzy, together with his photograph, taken in flight.
“It all sounds and looks quite exciting. Yes, very exciting,” Ms. Suzy repeats. “I’m sure we’ll have fun getting to know each other, and I’m certainly looking forward to learning about all those soccer teams.[ii] Welcome, again. And yes, maybe you can write out your name? That would help.”
Once again, before I can respond, Ibrahim in his ever-forthright manner adds, “Do you know my father has three names? I call him ‘Papa’ and my mother calls him ‘Abdurrahman’ and my Nonna calls him ‘Nico’. I’m sure some of his coll-eag-ues at the office call him ‘Sir’, too. Isn’t that interesting?”
“Yes, very interesting,” Ms. Suzy nods. She seems to be less taken aback than at first, and maintains a smile. Perhaps she is getting used to us all, or perhaps we are actually not that different.
She reaches out for Ibrahim’s hand, and adds, “Why don’t I show you where you will be sitting and you can meet your classmates.”
I feel a lump forming in my throat as I wave good-bye. Ibrahim follows Ms. Suzy into the classroom and I watch him disappear. I know in my heart that he will be alright, but every goodbye always hurts, and I suspect always will, even as the children age.
It’s been a busy first month in Houston, as we sort out endless logistics, but the hot spell is breaking, and this morning we finally started at a new school. So here we are, at least some of us, for now. Papa, also known as Abdurrahman, Nico and Sir, will be coming home from work in the evening and will probably want to go out to watch the sunset. And Nonna, my mother-in-law, has just come to stay, together with a pledge to start learning Spanish, which she claims is not so different from Italian, her mother tongue.
Meanwhile, if all goes according to plan, I start my hifdh lessons with Hafidha Rabia tomorrow morning after dropping off Ibrahim. Then, Nani, my mother, will be with us again, next week insha’Allah. She’s been trying to teach me how to cook and start the children on Urdu. We also began reading the first surah of the Quran, Al Fatihah,  which seems auspicious and fitting.
This afternoon, we’ll re-read it in Arabic and English, and, if the children are up to it, we may even try to draw it. An immense book opens in front of us, and beckons.
For more about Ibrahim and Amna’s adventures get your copy today!
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