The Last Night of Ramadan by Maissa Hamed, illustrated by Mohamed El Wakil
In spite of all the good intentions expected of this holy month, world events haven’t exactly played out quite that way, which only makes the first line of the preface here that much more resonating: “This work was born out of the desire to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, peace, tolerance, and understanding within the global community … It is vitally important, especially in the age we live in, for both Muslims and non-Muslims to develop a factual understanding of Islam, devoid of any misconceptions.” Indeed!
Last Night begins “in a peaceful desert valley,” where a little boy lives with his parents and older brother. Too young to fast, he tells his mother over breakfast about an especially beautiful dream he had: “‘I dreamed today was a special day, and everyone was joyful, grateful, and content. But just as I was about to find out why, I woke up from my dream.'” His mother confirms that this day is special, “‘as it might be the last day of the Holy month of Ramadan.'”
That evening after prayers, the family joins their fellow villagers to joyously witness the rising of a new crescent moon. The little boy learns all the many ways that make the last night of Ramadan, and the Eid that follows, so spectacularly special – his dream indeed comes true.
Maissa Hamed, a former UNICEF staffer, and husband Mohamed El Wakil, an architect and artist, were initially inspired to write Last Night for the children, including their own, of the Rudolph Steiner School of New York City: “There is a need to educate our children in a way that inspires them to seek knowledge of the truths and core social values that connect them with their fellow human beings.” Rather than highlight differences, Hamed and El Wakil emphasize overlaps: “Children of all faiths will notice or sense traditions and moral values that Islam shares with other religions.” Perhaps the greatest significance of Ramadan is actually a timeless reminder for us all, to “not only fast from food and drink but from every bad thought, word, or deed.”
Ramadan may be ending for another year, but being genuinely mindful of our actions – regardless of religion, ethnicity, country of origin, and any other defining affiliations – is surely something we can/should/try/will practice every single day.