Ramadan reading: 10 novels about family, faith and reflection

Whether it is during fasting hours, after iftar or just before suhoor, here are the books to check out

From complicated family reunions to spiritual journeys, these novels will make for excellent Ramadan reads.
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There are many opportunities throughout Ramadan to spend time diving into a good book.

Whether it is during fasting hours, after iftar or just before suhoor, reading a novel that deals with themes of family and faith is just another opportunity to reflect on our place in the world.

From historical fiction to love stories and complicated family reunions to spiritual journeys, here are 10 novels that make for an excellent Ramadan read.

The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

The Moor's Account is a beautifully told historical fiction novel that reimagines the memoirs of Mustafa Al Zamori, also known as Estevanico, the first African explorer of America.

The Moroccan slave was part of the ill-fated Narvaez expedition in 1527 and chronicles his – and four other survivors' – dangerous expedition across America.

Laila Lalami, who is Moroccan-American, wonderfully captures Al Zamori's voice while also transporting the reader into a pivotal time in the history of America and the story of black explorers.

The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain

Sairish Hussain’s moving novel is a portrait of the many facets of a British-South Asian Muslim family across 24 years.

The story first follows the journey of widowed Amjad, who is dedicated to his children Saahil and Zahra, as he deals with the grief of losing his wife

As the children grow into their own, they also learn to navigate life’s challenges. Saahil has to come to terms with a devastating incident that has marked his youth. Meanwhile, Zahra tries to balance her own passions and dreams as well as supporting her father as his only source of comfort.

This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik

Bilal Hasham has an idyllic life with his wife Mariam in their small, picturesque village. But everything changes when his mother’s dying wish is that he reconnects with his Muslim roots and builds a mosque in their English village.

As Bilal attempts to turn the promise into a reality, his wife is shocked by the decision and the villagers in the quaint town are unimpressed. However, Bilal must find a way to work through his grief, honour his mother’s last wish and also preserve the village he calls home.

A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib

Rose and Gameela are sisters who are not very much alike. Gameela is a devout Muslim who lives in Egypt, while Rose is an Egyptologist married to an American journalist who lives in New York City.

The story unfolds as Rose returns to Egypt to investigate all the things Gameela left behind after her death. Through this exploration, Rose uncovers secrets about her sister's life, including mysterious relationships, her patriotism and her faith.

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s novel is one of the few fictional accounts of the famed 13th-century poet Rumi.

The novel has two parallel stories across different times, places and cultures. One narrative follows Ella Rubenstein, 40, a homemaker whose first assignment as a literary agent’s reader is a novel titled Sweet Blasphemy about Rumi and his Sufi teacher, Shams of Tabriz.

The second narrative is the novel she is reading, which explores the relationship between Rumi and Shams along with the politics and cultural conventions surrounding Rumi’s family and community.

As Ella delves into the novel, she questions her conventional life and embarks on a journey of transformation that also involves the relatively mysterious author of the novel.

The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

Set in war-torn Baghdad in 1991 during the Gulf War, Iraqi writer Shahad Al Rawi’s novel centres around two young girls who meet and become best friends in a bomb shelter.

But something strange happens as they share their hopes and fantasies; a stranger from the future arrives, bearing prophecies of a deserted city.

The friends decide to write the secret history of their neighbourhood to preserve it from a future oblivion that the time-travelling stranger predicts, all while they grow up against a backdrop of political unrest and war.

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

In 1914, a young Palestinian man arrives in France to study medicine, where his life changes.

Isabella Hammad’s novel follows the story of Midhat Kamal, a young man from Nablus who is dealing with the complexities and impact of First World War within French society.

As the Ottoman Empire comes to an end and with the rise of Palestinian nationalism, Midhat navigates his own identity as a Palestinian man in France. Upon his return home, political upheavals and social transformations are changing people’s mind sets.

Minaret by Leila Aboulela

Najwa is a Sudanese woman who flees to London with her mother and brother after her father's execution during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Sudanese-British writer Leila Aboulela’s story spans more than 20 years, covering Najwa's life as she navigates through the challenges of exile, the loss of her family's affluence and her own spiritual journey. The tale is poignant and powerful, detailing both the life of Najwa and a particular part of Sudan’s history.

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

How does one find the balance between tradition and modernity? This is the central theme explored in Fatima Farheen Mirza’s novel about an Indian-American Muslim family.

As the family gathers in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter Hadia's untraditional wedding, it’s the return of the youngest sibling Amar that creates the most tension.

Amar has been estranged for three years, and his parents Rafiq and Layla must now face the choices that lead to their broken relationship. Meanwhile, their children balance who they want to be and who their parents expect them to be.

The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem

Leila Abid has three months to find a husband – or her traditional Indian parents will match her with one.

As she approaches her 26th birthday, Leila is on a mission to find love on her own terms and starts speed dating, online dating and going on blind dates.

However, as the idealistic and Bollywood-obsessed Leila carries out her search, her parents' expectations of an arranged marriage and her own dreams of romance constantly clash.

Updated: March 08, 2024, 10:36 AM