Fairy Tales in Different Cultures--Fawzia Gilani's Cinderella: An Islamic Tale

Since the Islamic holiday, Ramadan, began a few weeks ago, I thought it was the perfect time to look at the Islamic version of Cinderella. Now, I had planned to share this last week, but with all the exciting things happening last week (Virtual Book Club for Kids, Around the World in 12 Dishes and the Multicultural Kids Blog Pinterest Scavenger Hunt began), we did not get it done. First a little information about Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims worldwide fast for the month during daylight. They do not eat or drink anything once the sun is up until the sun is down. Fasting is mandatory for adult Muslims during Ramadan except for those who are sick, traveling or pregnant. Now they fast to become closer to Allah (their name for God). (Source) Not being Muslim, I feel I cannot do this justice trying to explain, however recently I read a wonderful post over at A Hotchpotch Hijabi in Italy that I felt really gave me some clarity on why they fast.

So Hazel could learn more about Ramadan, we of course turned to more books. The first is Food and Faith by Susan Reuben and Sophie Pelham. This was a wonderful library find. It has all the major religions with a child who is of that religion explaining how their family celebrates the major holidays and then in the back they have a recipe for each religion. I liked this one because we also read the Christian story so Hazel could compare the two religions. My goal is to read the rest of them with her as well. The next book we used is Ramadan by Sumaib Hamid Gmazi. This is a wonderful picture book that goes through the month of Ramadan in one Muslim family. The narrator is a boy. For our craft we did a moon craft since this book emphasized the importance of the moon phases during the month. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one so the ninth new moon begins Ramadan and the next new moon ends it.  Our craft came from Cannon and is a free printable.
Now onto our Cinderella book. We are focusing on Fawzia Gilani's Cinderella: An Islamic Tale. Throughout the book their are sentences in both Arabic and English when they are speaking religious sentences. There is a list of the Arabic terms and their meanings at the end of the book.

In this story a wealthy couple had a daughter, Zahra, who was sweet and beautiful. They lived very happily and read the Qur'an every day and never missed a prayer. Then the mother became ill and no doctor could find a cure. She eventually died and the father and daughter grieved their loss.

After some time, the father decided to remarry. He chose a woman who was a widow with two daughters. At first the stepmother was nice, but she soon realized that Zahra had beauty and grace that her daughters did not, and she became very jealous. When her father was away, Zahra would be mistreated, but she never complained or even told her father how she was being treated. 

A few years later, Zahra's father became ill and he died. On his deathbed, he reminded Zahra to be a strong and good Muslim by remembering her prayers, giving to the poor and being patient and humble. After his death, the stepmother took Zahra's beautiful clothes away and forced her to sleep in the attic instead of her beautiful bedroom. 

One day Zahra was tending the fireplace when some live cinders fell on her dress and burned holes in it. She became covered in soot and her stepsisters began to call her Cinderella. After that she was only called Cinderella. She however remained patient and read the Qur'an every day and always said her prayers. 

She always awoke before sunrise and said her morning prayers. She did all the work around the house and if she felt lonely she would feed the birds the crumbs she saved from the table. One night while she was sleeping in her attic room, Zahra had a dream about her grandmother. Her grandmother had disappeared many years ago after she left for a Haij. She was assumed dead.

One day an invitation arrived from the King's palace. It was for a huge party to be held the first day of Eid al-Adha (now this is not the Eid al-Fitr, the feast that ends the fast of Ramadan, but the bigger Eid in the Islamic culture). Zahra thought the party sounded wonderful and asked her stepsisters if she could wear one of their dresses. The stepsisters told her she could not and laughed at her. The stepmother informed her she would not be attending the party. Zahra always remembered Qur'an verses or words from the Prophet or her hadith book to help keep her calm when her stepfamily was mean to her. 

While reading her hadith book that evening she read about fasting on the Day of 'Arafah and it removing the sins of two years--the past and coming year. She decided to fast the next day since it was the Day of 'Arafah. The next day she wanted to go to the prayers for Eid al-Adha, but her stepmother told her she could not since she had to stay home to help her stepsisters get ready for the party. She spent the day helping the stepsisters and running their errands. She asked her stepmother once again if she could go with them and her stepmother said she could come to the party only after all of her chores were done. Zahra mentioned that she would miss the party if she had to do her chores first. The stepmother and stepsisters left. 

Soon Zahra heard a knock on the door. She did not recognize the elderly woman at the door and saw the beautiful coach behind her, so she assumed they had come for her stepfamily. The woman said she had come for her, Zahra. Then she realized Zahra did not recognize her. In that moment Zahra realized it was her long lost grandmother. Her grandmother had come to take her to the party. Zahra said she could not go since she had to get her chores done first. Her grandmother had her servants do her chores and then had her maids dress Zahra for the party. They finished her outfit with a pair of glass slippers. She warned Zahra that she had to come home before her stepfamily and not to tell anyone that she had returned. She said she would come for her the next day. 

Zahra turned heads when she entered the palace. She entered through the ladies' entrance and passed her stepsisters. She greeted and smiled at them. They just stared at her and wondered who she was. The queen asked her to come sit next to her. She had caught the eyes of the royal family and the queen wanted to get to know her better. Unlike many of the women in the room, she did not talk through the adhan and did not eat during the prayer. The queen was very impressed with her speech and behavior. Zahra was having such a wonderful time, she forgot her grandmother's warning until she saw her stepmother and stepsisters getting ready to leave. She made a quick excuse and ran out. The prince saw her lose her glass slipper on the steps and picked it up. She did not have time to get it since her stepmother and stepsisters were already getting into the carriage. She luckily made it home and was able to change and put the remaining glass slipper in a safe place in her attic room, before they got home. 

The prince took the slipper to his mother and told her he wanted to marry the woman who had worn it. The queen had not gotten a chance to ask Zahra what her name was, so they had to do the search. The queen sent one of her ladies-in-waiting to all the houses that received invitations. When she arrived at the house tat Zahra lived, Zahra answered the door and let her in and then ran upstairs to the attic. The stepsisters tried on the shoe, but it did not fit. Then the lady-in-waiting insisted that Zahra try on the slipper as she came downstairs. It fit of course and she pulled out the other glass slipper. The lady-in-waiting explained the that the prince wanted to marry her and her stepmother said she did not have her permission to marry, but at that moment her grandmother came in and said she had hers. The stepmother and stepsisters just stared in astonishment.

Zahra and the prince were married. They gave her grandmother a house on the palace grounds. They lived happily together as one happy family. Princess Zahra set a good example for many people increasing their faith and good deeds. Her stepmother and stepsisters saw how her good was rewarded and changed their ways.


  1. I found your post on the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop and I love it! I had no idea there was an Islamic Cinderella story, and I think that a grandmother instead of a fairy godmother is a wonderful variation. The moon craft and books about Ramadan make this such a rich learning experience. I can see Hazel wanting to do it all over again next year!

  2. Wow, it's interesting how Cinderella story travels from culture to culture even though I am somehow certain that this one is fairly recent and really borrows from European story line. Still I am curious to track the book down as illustrations seem gorgeous.

  3. Great post, and I love the craft tied to it. Thank you for linking up at Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #6!

  4. Thank you for your Islamic Cinderella book review and for linking up to Multicultural Children's Book Day!


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