As Ramadan Begins, Philadelphia’s Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow Writes ‘Salat in Secret’ About Muslim Children and the Muslim Faith
PHILADELPHIA CREAM — Sunset on Wednesday marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
This is a time for Muslims around the world to reflect on their faith, a religion that is not always represented in literature.
But a Philadelphia author is trying to change that. Her latest book was inspired by her strong grounding in the Muslim faith.
“My dad was so deadpan he would pray anywhere,” Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow recalls growing up in West Philadelphia and Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.
A strong foundation of faith is something Thompkins-Bigelow has always had, but hasn’t always seen in the media.
“As a black Muslim kid, I really haven’t found a lot of books centered around black Muslim kids,” she said.
This is the reason why the former professor became an author.
His work places black Muslim characters at the center of stories in brightly colored children’s books.
“‘Salat in Secret’ is a book about a young boy who really wants to say the five daily prayers,” she said of the upcoming book. “His father gives him a Salat mat or a prayer mat. In fact, he sneaks around his school and tries to find places to pray in secret.”
But prayer, she says, shouldn’t be a secret. This is central to the Muslim faith, especially during Ramadan, which consists of 30 days of introspection, good deeds, fasting from sunrise to sunset, and prayer.
“I know a lot of kids who really want, especially during this holy month, to say their prayers during the school day, but it can be hard to be that kid,” she said.
She added that the main character of “Salat in Secret” must learn to defend themselves and ask for a place to pray.
She hopes showing this character’s secret struggle will encourage more Muslim children to proudly practice their faith and help others understand.
“Everyone is open to children’s books,” said the author, whose works have won acclaim from outlets including NPR and Time Magazine. “Adults love children’s books.”
With seven books to her name, including an upcoming college adventure novel she co-wrote with three other Muslim authors, Thompkins-Bigelow is bringing stories to life she’s never seen.
She hopes this will help Muslim children see each other not just during Ramadan, but every day.
“To make it a little easier for Muslim children to exist in the world and for people to understand and sympathize with them,” she said.
‘Salat in Secret’ will be released on June 6. It can be found online or in store.