Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time to Pray

Prayer, for the faithful of all religions, has a profound effect on well-being and health. In most hospitals in the United States, there is access to Catholic priests, Protestant pastors and Jewish rabbis who offer comfort and hope in the form of prayer. Although it has been less visible in the west where I have worked, islamic clergy are also called on in times of illness, just as in other religions. In fact during the Crimean War, which took place in the area around the Black Sea and Constantinople in the 1850's, Florence Nightingale, the quirky nonconformist gentlewoman from England who elevated nursing to a respectable profession in the eyes of Victorian society, had to insist that Mullahs have access to the hospitals. She knew it was important for her patients. After all, some were injured Muslim Turkish soldiers.

Though differences in world religions get a lion's share of attention, actually it seems there are more similarities between religions than differences. The use of prayer to comfort and heal is one. According to Maha Addasi, author of the informative picture book entitled, Time to Pray, "almost 98% of the reasons behind why people choose to pray is shared by humanity."

In Addasi's book, illustrated by Ned Gannon, a loving Islamic grandmother teaches the main character, Yasmin, how to pray.

The reader goes with Yasmin on errands with her Grandmother, Teta:
        "Our first stop was at the fabric store. 'What color fabric would you like, Yasmin?' Teta asked. "I will make you some special prayer clothes.
         It took me a while to decide. There were so many pretty designs."

In the pages of the book, we are also at home with Teta, we go to the rug store and eventually to a mosque.

I learned a great deal about Islam from this book and so would most Americans. But that isn't the only reason to read it. The book is about a child's relationship with her grandmother. The emotions shared between Grandmother and Yasmin feel universal and the text and pictures, including Arabic translation are beautiful. For a thorough review, check out the blog Book Dragon.

I look forward to more from Maha Addasi, who was born in the middle east and contributes authentically to the body of multicultural children's literature published in America.

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