The colours of sunset 

Book: Time to Pray, Maha Addasi, Ned Gannon

So we are back in the swing of usual things, after a really long summer/monsoon of not doing much. First up was buying lots of books when we returned home, for it was hard to read while visiting relatives, and at other times trying to inconspicuously hide when the rest of the ladies were cooking elaborate meals for all.

When we were kids, we experienced two kinds of worlds. One, our day to day life, where we went to school, met friends of all sorts and beliefs, and ended the day by reciting a couple of small prayers led by my mom at night. We encountered religious custom only on the day of Eid when father went to the mosque and mother would read the Quran in her prayer clothes at home. Afterwards it would be a whirlwind of semiya, biryani, and guests.

Our other world was during the summer holidays. Our grandparents would pray on grass mats, the nearby mosque would sound the call to prayer, and I would don my headscarf, thus descending (or perhaps ascending) to a parallel lifestyle. It was a long time later, grown up, that I taught myself to pray formally.

Time to Pray is a story of a girl who lives with her nuclear family, and goes to visit her grandma somewhere in the Middle East. She then encounters the call to prayer by the muezzin early in the morning, gets prayer clothes stitched by grandma, and enjoys special foods like upside down rice and cinnamon buns.

We got this book to serve as a jumping point for learning to pray, and reading it provides opportunities to think about the ritual of Muslim prayers, as well as the cultural aspects of living in Muslim communities. The last pages provide a small explanation of the five prayer times.

One question my child had was on how the little girl had travelled all by herself to the grandmother’s country.

The story is written in both English and Arabic, so it is useful if you are looking to read a bilingual book. The illustrations are by Ned Gannon, and at first glance the colors might look dull for a children’s book. But the artwork is softly done, and reminded me alternatively of the Arabic primer books I used in childhood, and then of the sky at Maghrib, the time of prayer just after sunset.

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