This month three million Muslims, including more than 11,000 from the U.S., will make the Hajj, insha’Allah (God willing). All Muslims who are physically and economically able are expected to make the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sometime during their life. The Hajj takes place at a set time of year and requires pilgrims to follow a series of prescribed rituals and procedures. The pilgrim’s actions commemorate events in the life of the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), as described in the Qur’an.
Author Na’ima B. Robert has written Going to Mecca, a lyrical children’s book that makes a beautiful introduction to the Hajj. Her text provides enough facts to properly inform and to create splendid scenes in the reader’s imagination; yet her language is spare enough to not overwhelm younger readers, or those unfamiliar with Islam. On page 6, a pilgrim arrives in the Sacred Mosque and recites talbiya, the pilgrim’s prayer:
Call with a pilgrim
As she utters a prayer,
And says the words
That will make her draw near:
“Labbayk Allahumma labbayk.”
“Here I am, O my Lord, here I am.”
The narrative carries the reader on a journey of accompaniment through the rites of pilgrimage to the welcoming home. At the end of the book the reader will find a small glossary, providing further detail about important places in the story.
The pages of Going to Mecca are richly illustrated by Valentina Cavallini with scenes of mixed media collage. The colors are varied and cheerful, and the people in the story realistically reflect the varied skin tones of humanity. When I shared the book with my artistic 8-year-old daughter, we took turns exclaiming over the detail and patterns within each page. I would not be surprised to see my daughter create some artwork inspired by Cavallini’s style. The textures and patterns in the artwork are absolutely lovely.
This book would be an ideal choice to share with children who have family members and friends making the pilgrimage, or for teachers to share with their classes. Parents will find that the text provides many openings for sharing more detail with children as their level of interest deepens. For this reason, the book is suitable for a range of ages. Older children even might use the poetic phrasings as models for their own writing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and enthusiastically recommend it. May all of those who are making the Hajj have safe journeys.
Note: The number of estimated pilgrims cited above is based upon US State Department figures from September 2012.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received for this review.