Saturday, 22 November 2014

Book review: The story of Elephant

The story of Elephant is a unique pop-up and play book based on the well-known and much-loved surah Al-Fil, the story of the elephant from chapter 105 of the Noble Qur’an. It is a beautiful book with hand-drawn illustrations, interactive flaps, a children’s colouring map, press-out activity and quiz.
Book review: The story of Elephant: Surah Al-Fil
Written by Hajera Memon 
Illustarted by Anisa Nachett
The story of Elephant is a unique pop-up and play book based on the well-known and much-loved surah Al-Fil, the story of the elephant from chapter 105 of the Noble Qur’an. In 570 A.D. Yemen , the tyrant ruler Abraha leads his army of elephants to destroy Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala’s House, the Ka’ba, which is built by our beloved Prophet Ibrahim Alaihes Salam and his son Ismael alaihes salam in the holy city of Makkah. Armed with only supplications (dua), the leader of the Arabs relies on his faith and trust in Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala to save the Ka’ba and discovers some amazing miracles along the way.
It is a beautiful book with hand-drawn illustrations, interactive flaps, a children’s colouring map, press-out activity and quiz. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book with my three children (all under 7). Surah Al-Fil is my favourite childhood surah. I still remember when my dad told us the amazing story for the first time. I believe through this beautiful book I can help my children to cherish the story of the elephant forever insha Allah. The first page has a prologue which consists of an Ayah from Surah Ibrahim (14:35) teaching us the beautiful dua Prophet Ibraham Alaihis Salam made after he finished building the Kaba with his son Prophet Ismael Alaihis Salam.

The story starts with a small introduction on how Abraha became the ruler of Yemen and built a church to compete with the Kaba. It continues with how Abraha sent the army of elephants to Mecca and captured 200 camels belonging to Abdul Mutalib - leader of the Quraysh (who is also the grandfather of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihe Wa Sallam), and the response (in English and Arabic) of Abdul Mutalib when he was called to see Abraha. The story also includes the dua Abdul Mutalib made to Allah, how Mahmud the elephant would keep sitting down when he was ordered to attack the kaba, and the flock of birds defeating the army of the elephant.

The story concludes with a page about how Allah protects the Ka’ba to this day, and how that year is known as the year of the Elephant and that Prophet Muhammed Sallallahu Alaihe Wa Sallam was born in this year. At the end the author summarizes three points we learn from this Surah, about answering of duas, Allah's protection, and the importance of controlling our anger.
Shade7 publishing is doing a fantastic job. We need more interactive books like this for our precious children. The book is a perfect gift for any occasion. To learn more about the book, do watch these two videos.


Book review: Normal Calm

Normal Calm written by Hend Hegazi is the story of how rape impacted Amina and her family’s lives. The subject of the book is an issue that transcends many cultures such as West African, Asian, and so forth besides Arab ones. Though Muslims are not immune to the statistical average of one in three or one in four women being sexually assaulted in her lifetime, this is a topic seldom touched upon in the greater Muslim community.

Amina is an Arab American woman attending one of the best universities in the US. During the spring of her junior year, Amina is raped by one of her friends, making her essentially unmarriageable in the eyes of her parents and, possibly, the entire Arab community. Eventually she falls in love with Sherif, but his reaction to her rape proves him to be unworthy. Deciding to forgo love, Amina focuses on her career. When her best friend introduces her to Mazin, however, she sees in him only good qualities. He is successful, kind, generous...but she feels no love for him. When Mazin asks for her hand in marriage, Amina struggles with the idea of settling for a man she does not love. Knowing that he, too, may abandon her when he learns of her rape is another burden she continues to bear.
Normal Calm is the story of how rape impacted Amina and her family’s lives. The subject of the book is an issue that transcends many cultures such as West African, Asian, and so forth besides Arab ones. Though Muslims are not immune to the statistical average of one in three or one in four women being sexually assaulted in her lifetime, this is a topic seldom touched upon in the greater Muslim community. It is inspiring to see Hend Hegazi as a Muslim author writing about this sensitive issue.
The struggles in this book are unfortunately very realistic. She expressed openly what is often considered taboo in Arab and Muslim cultures in general. Situations like these need to be highlighted so they can be tackled head on. The book was very engaging because it's very realistic as it addresses a hidden problem that some Muslim women struggle with but not often discussed. These sorts of novels are needed as it can provide a source of therapy for those who have underwent similar situations and can bring hidden situations like this to light which is the first step in resolving these traumatic issues. I hope more Muslim authors follow her example. 

The rape itself is not graphically depicted. Amina deals with it in a fairly pragmatic way, deciding to go straight into a group therapy programme so that she can get the support to finish her university studies. Amina reveals her ordeal to her close friends, her family but she finds it very hard to talk about her experience with potential spouses. 
Amina did not consent to losing her virginity, yet unfortunately in her community she is simply seen as no longer a virgin and therefore no longer marriage material. This creates a slippery slope for Amina: should she compromise her own integrity for people who essentially already have questionable values? Difficult situations necessitate strong support from family and friends. However, Amina’s mother’s reaction was very difficult to read. We hope that our family will support us through hardships, especially those inflicted on us by someone else. Interestingly, one of Amina’s strongest supporters is her non-Muslim best friend. The character, Kayla, is a great inclusion in the story. I liked the way the author, Hend depicted Amina’s da’wah towards her best friend. There is so much to learn from this beautiful novel.


Normal calm is a great read. I would highly recommend reading this beautiful book. If you would like to find our more about the author, you can visit her blog:  http://hendhegazi.wordpress.com/