I’ll admit it, I’m a judge a book by its cover type. This book from Kube publishing drew me in straight away. The cover is bright, with soft watercolour style illustrations letting you know it will be a nice, smiley, warm read with nothing bad happening.
At first glance there looks nothing Islamic about this book , which to me is a bonus. All too often we see the same view of Islam and its time for something different to make our children really connect.
This book is from a different prospective. A man who could be of any race or religion who looks like a farmer. Coming from a city and not well-travelled in Muslim countries its is not what I would expect a Muslim to look like. And I would never associate any Muslims I know with the countryside.
It is very important to show children that Islam is for everyone not one race. And Islam is about a lifestyle not just about going to madrassah and forgetting about it at home.
Most kids books involve farm animals in one way or the other. So it is nice to see an Islamic book sharing this theme.
Look at the smiley faces and bright sunflowers.
When we look closely we can see the Kaaba giving us a clue about the storyline.
Then of course we have the title ‘Yans Hajj’ telling us what it’s about.
The Author could have chosen a more commonly used Muslim name but chose Yan. To me that name could be from anywhere but it sounds very Chinese. After thinking bout this my curious mind went into overdrive and I emailed a few questions to the Author. Her answers are beautiful and in a way unexpected.
I asked the Author Fawzia Gilani why she chose the name Yan?
One – it was a way to give visibility to converts to Islam. We rarely have children’s stories that show westerners coming to Islam and so by naming this particular character Yan it was a way to project inclusiveness.
Two – my father would tell us the stories of the prophets of God when we were young as bedtime stories. He told the stories in such a vivid and grand way that the prophets became my childhood heroes. I thought they were magnificent.and I loved them so much.One of my favourite messengers was John peace be upon him. For me Yan is just another way of saying John or Yahya.I named this character after John peace be upon him because like John, Yan is kind and tender hearted.
What country is the book set in?
Yan is a Bulgarian variant of John – in Arabic Yahya. So the story is set in Europe where this name is used.
As a revert I find this wonderful. The majority of reverts I know are from all over Europe.
At my daughters school the white Muslims are seen to be non muslim and have a hard time proving their religion . Showing European Muslims in books is something we all need to see more of for both children and adults.
The story is about Yan’s strive to complete Hajj.
Everyday Yan works hard on his farm to make money to survive and save for Hajj. When he sets off he always comes across a people who could use the money more than him. He comes across some children with no school and builds it up for them again.
The next time he has saved enough he comes across some people with no Masjid. So with his own sweat and tears he builds them a beautiful clean white Masjid.
Imagine the Barakah in this action reported in this Hadith.
Uthman ibn Affan reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever builds a mosque for Allah, then Allah will build for him a house like it in Paradise.”
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 439, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 533
Yan lived in a simple small house, by building this Masjid imagine what his house in Jannah will look like.
After saving up and attempting Hajj he always found a people more in need including a slave boy which he freed. He took care of him and brought him up in a good way.
Eventually with a little kindness from those he helped , his wish to do Hajj was met.
Lessons From the Book
Yan teaches us patience and perseverance by working hard and saving up for Hajj.
Yan lives a simple , honest ,happy life with his only wish to complete Hajj. How many of us think like this?
We go to work to keep a nice house, drive a nice car, have nice clothes and keep up appearances. Will we ever be able to save enough for Hajj? Or will we only go when we are old , retired and have spare time?
This book can teach children to have this aim in life. It is important we don’t just say Yan did this Yan did that. We need to make our kids relate it to themselves.
Therefore we did a little activity. I re-read the book again and Noori insisted on telling it me in her own words. I was impressed that she understood the little boy was a servant ( slave). I like the way the book addresses such a dark, serious subject in a child friendly way , letting you skim over it or turn it into a big conversation
We went through the book looking at the pictures. She decided that Yan was poor , he had a small house, simple clothes, no watch or mobile. The first time he walked to Hajj and the second he went by horse. I pointed out that Yan could have used his Hajj money to buy a big house or a nice car but then He would have no money for Hajj. I told her that Yan lives in Bulgaria and showed it her on the map. We looked how long it would take for him to walk to Hajj 35 days!
He may not have had all these material things but Allah had blessed him with so many opportunities to do good deeds. Even small things that aren’t mentioned in the the story but shown in the pictures. Can you guess which Hadith this picture relates to?
I am in awe of Yans persistence on going to Hajj and think we should learn a lesson from it and encourage our children to do the same. So Noori made a savings jar for her Brother and herself. We will put one pound every month for both of them in the jar and when they are old enough and before they start saving for a car or getting in debt to a mortgage they can do Hajj Inshallah.
We got a big jar and Noori decorated it with her colourful cellotapes.
My Thoughts on the Book
I would like to know why Yan has no wife or why she isn’t mentioned?
I usually don’t read Questions at the end of books but I think they are important in Islamic books. They are a great way of discussing the important issues shown in the books and answering any questions your child may have. So I would lile to see them in this book.
I Want This Book
If you would like to buy this wonderful book you can buy it from Kube Publishing
***This book was give to me for free in exchange for an honest review expressing all my own opinions***