Maissa Hamed is an Egyptian American and a former staff member of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), with 13 years experience in program and policy development focusing on child labor and education for developing countries. In the preface to this children's book she and illustrator Mohamed El Wakil state:
"This work was born out of the desire to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, peace, tolerance, and understanding within the global community. The Last Night of Ramadan is produced for children and their families who wish to understand and learn about Islam and Muslim culture through an examination of the significance of Islamic celebrations observed by Muslims throughout the year."
Muhammad lives with his parents and older brother in a small house surrounded by sand dunes and palm trees. One night he has a vivid dream of a great celebration where everyone is beaming with joy. He tells his mother about it and learns from her that it is the last day of the Holy Month of Ramadan during which Muslims all over the world fast from dawn to sundown. During this time, his mother tells him, believers read the Qur'an, increase their prayers and good deeds, and strive to constantly remember Allah in their hearts.
Muhammad helps his mother make cookies to share with everyone in the village. Later in the day, the family goes to watch for new crescent moon marking the end of Ramadan. The next day is one of prayers, visits to relatives, and the exchange of gifts. Muhammad's mother explains what she has gained from observing Ramadan:
"We are joyful because we obeyed Allah by fasting the Holy month of Ramadan. We are grateful, because Allah gave us strength to fast for one month. We are content, for we are now more appreciative of the food we get from Allah every day. By fasting, we felt the hunger of the poor, who often have no money to buy food. So we remember that we must always be generous to the poor."
The Last Night of Ramadan is a fine resource, very accessible for children, that can serve as a sturdy introduction to Islamic rituals and practices during this annual celebration. The book's illustrations are wonderful pictures of village life, full of little details that are fun to talk about.