I remember Vidura from Mahabharata, I remember how Rama killed Vali in Ramayana, and I remember a few verses from the Bible because I studied in a Christian institution. But I do not know Prophet Muhammad’s mother’s name. And if I were a Muslim, and if I were in Nairobi in September 2013, and if I hadn’t known Prophet Muhammad’s mother’s name then, I would have been killed.
Anita Nair, who has authored Muezza and Baby Jaan — Stories From The Quran, underscored the fact in the book’s preface.
It seemed both astounding and horrific that a piece of information could have saved a life. But why was this information not out there for all to know?
So, the author decided to write a book on Islamic lore. She created Muezza — a cat who is snobbish, but not so snobbish — and Baby Jaan — an adorable djinn, a rookie shapeshifter, who mostly takes the shape of a white camel in the book.
Muezza is Shahir’s (Prophet Muhammad) cat, and Baby Jaan is a princess in the djinn kingdom. The feline is inadvertently left behind in the desert by Prophet’s party who are wayfaring. He meets Baby Jaan, and soon the duo realises that they have to entertain each other, and warm each other with their unexpected friendship until Shahir comes back for Muezza.
The cat is Shahir’s favourite. He enjoys lounging in Shahir’s lap, and observing everything that happens around his master. So, he is a treasure chest of stories. Baby Jaan, who is naive, and who is enjoying her whiff of freedom, is ravenously hungry for stories. Although Muezza begins his exercise in storytelling grudgingly, he soon understands Baby Jaan’s genuine, unquenchable thirst for stories, and offers several tales from the Quran.
Under the starry skies of the desert, and during the blindingly bright days, Muezza, and Baby Jaan thrive on stories. Through them, we learn about how the world was created, the definition of good and evil, the fallen angels, the numerous names of Prophet Muhammad, and myriad tales which are engaging, and important.
The book is more special to me because I am a sucker for illustrations. Harshad Marathe has done some colourful yet subtle illustrations, which certainly transported me to the desert. I sat beside Muezza, and listened to his stories with my chin on my palm. Every once in a while, I also petted Baby Jaan. She is one fine camel. 🙂 ❤
Just because she assumed the responsibility of narrating stories from Islamic lore, Anita Nair didn’t deliver it in a clinical fashion. Muezza has a friendly, familiar voice. Baby Jaan asks the questions which swim in our heads. And their friendship is so heartwarming that I wished that there could be more books with the pair as central characters.
If adults wouldn’t find me crazy, I would present this book to children for their birthdays. Muezza, and Baby Jaan have so much to tell us.