Literature surrounding and referring to Ramadhan has taken on many characteristics across the centuries, and of course the most enduring is the Holy Quran.
Children and families play significant roles in the observance of Ramadhan, and a story of family, a father’s love for his son, and the community, is ‘The Lantern,’ a wonderful, timeless little fable, about a young Prince who thinks his father, the Caliph, doesn’t love him.
So, taking his pet pigeon with him, he runs away and is captured by a monster and imprisoned in a golden cage. The Prince begs to be allowed to go home, but the monster decides that he will let the pigeon fly back to the Palace, telling the Prince, “If your father loves you enough and comes back and find you, I will release you. If not, you will stay here all your life.”
The pigeon flew back and the Caliph saw him and was overjoyed, but it was very dark outside and everyone was scared of monsters. At his daughter’s suggestion, he asked for help from the townsfolk, and they all came bearing candles. Their way lit, the Caliph, the Princess, and the townsfolk followed the pigeon to the monster’s lair. The monster, true to his word, released the Prince who went happily back home as dawn broke on the first day of Ramadhan.
The Caliph rewarded all of the townsfolk with beautiful golden lanterns, which were then lit every evening, and the Caliph also had hundreds of coloured lanterns hung around the town. That’s why the kids light lanterns today during Ramadhan.
More recently, ‘Lailah’s Lunchbox,’ written by Pakistani born, former Abu Dhabi based, now resident in the USA, Reem Faruqi, has proven popular as it deals with the author’s own experiences as a young Muslim girl. Most revealing is her excitement at fasting during Ramadhan for the first time, and her literary growth under an understanding teacher, stimulated by spending lunchtimes in the library, while other students were eating their lunches.
Kuwait born, Maha Addasi has set tongues wagging with her phenomenally successful “The White Nights of Ramadhan.” It is the story of Noor, who with her brothers makes candy and treats, who looks forward excitedly to dressing up in her ‘best’ clothes. For her this is what Ramadhan is all about, however the true meaning is revealed to her when she delivers baskets of food to her local mosque. This story is impeccably layered to offer a window to every child’s discovery of Ramadhan.
Hena Khan is another Pakistan/American who says, “I still think of the characters, stories and ‘stuff’ from when I was a kid. That’s why I write for kids.” She writes about Yasmeen, who is entranced by the changes in the moon throughout Ramadhan, and who, on the Eid receives a telescope with which to observe the heavens. It is a story of today that asks and answers many children’s questions about the relationship between the heavens and the faith.
The Internet too, is fertile ground for Ramadhan themed literature with this recipe by Xenia Yasmin taking the eye for its lightness and simplicity:
“A glass of care, a plate of love, a spoon of peace, a fork of truth and
A bowl of Duaas, mix with spices of Quran, and enjoy this meal. Ramadhan Mubarak.”
Then this very evocative piece by Rasheena Alfaro is from the opposite end of the literary spectrum:
“Should this be our last Ramadhan ya Rabb, make it the most beautiful for our soul’s richness may we recite and memorise the Quran better than our last.
Should this be the last month of our sawm, may it be the best we have ever experienced. May our hunger and thirst please YOU, and humble us more.
May this month of fasting, and remembering your favour upon us, bring us closer to piety and your mercy, may we cleanse our heart’s wicked ways with such awareness.
Should death claim us today, or tomorrow, or the next day, make us whisper the Shahadah in such a beautiful way. Let our life’s purpose be uttered with our lips and sincere hearts.
May every second that goes by not go to waste, may every charity we give be in secret, may we forgive those who did, and do, us wrong.
For the unknown is only known by you our lord. For the unseen is only seen by YOU, the King of the mighty throne. So should this be our last Ramadhan ya Allah, then make it the most beautiful, most unforgettable.
So that when the appointed day shall come for you to judge us, this month shall be a way for us not to enter Jahannam, and we’ll be those who YOU are pleased, entering Janna through the gate of Raiyan.
Then, at that moment of seeing your magnificent face, all because YOU made us give of our very best, and helped us surpass our weaknesses.”
So, as you can see, literary diversity on the topic of Ramadhan is very much evident, and is very much ‘alive and well,’ for all ages, between the pages.