Three Gems for any Muslim’s Bookshelf: Reflecting on the Names of Allah, A Temporary Gift, and Stars in the Prophet’s Orbit

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Published January 17, 2024

By Laura El Alam

Reflecting on the Names of Allah by Jinan Yousef

There are some books that deserve a permanent place on your nightstand, always at arm’s reach to provide comfort, insight, or valuable information. Reflecting on the Names of Allah is one of those books. I have turned to it countless times when I want to understand and love my Creator more, explain some of His remarkable attributes to my children, or customize my dua’s by invoking one of His beautiful names. If I am in a slump, this book always provides an eman boost. I can literally open the book to any page and immediately immerse myself in a short but beneficial Islamic lesson.

Many of us have learned most or all of Allah’s names, but few of us have delved into the nuanced meanings of them. We know He is the Most Forgiving, for instance, but have we ever considered just how all-encompassing His forgiveness is? Do we know the subtle but important differences between Ghafir al-Dhanb, Al-Ghaffar, Al-Ghafur, and Al-Afuw? Realizing how Allah is willing to cover, erase, forgive and wipe clean even the gravest of sins is incredibly comforting for those who seek repentance. Yousef explains these names and many more in depth, in clear and reader-friendly language. Readers learn what the words mean, their Arabic roots, and how to incorporate them in daily life. Additionally, Yousef offers concrete steps for spiritual reflection and growth.

As a convert whose native language is English, I find the information in Reflecting on the Names of Allah to be extremely beneficial, well-written, and fascinating. I believe it would be an excellent addition to any Muslim’s library.


A Temporary Gift by Asmaa Hussein

If you have ever suffered a soul-shattering loss or struggled to maintain your taqwa in times of distress, then you will likely benefit from reading A Temporary Gift by Asmaa Hussein. In her debut book filled with moving journal entries and poignant, deeply personal reflections, Hussein recounts how she coped with the death of her husband and beloved soul mate, Amr, after he was killed at a protest in Egypt in 2013. Shocked and devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of her husband, Hussein had to find a way to navigate life as a young widow and single mother.

“I have good days and bad days,” Hussein writes. “My mind comprehends that Allah (swt) has better plans for me than I could possibly have for myself. It’s my heart, though, that is having a hard time understanding how to hold and process all of this pain without bursting. . . I immediately feel lighter when I lift my hands to Allah (swt) and admit my pain and need to Him. It’s as though I am depositing all my sadness and fears into His care, knowing He will soon relieve my sorrows, knowing that He will never forget me. How merciful and loving He is to His slaves!” (p. 48).

Despite all of her grief, anger, and worry, Hussein’s faith in her Creator never wavered. A Temporary Gift is not just a young woman’s story of heartache and loss, but a guidebook for all Muslims about how to trust in Allah, even in the midst of the most painful, gut-wrenching trials.

Every time I pick up Hussein’s book, I find a new gem to reflect upon, a line or paragraph that really speaks to me. It is the kind of book you can read over and over, only to find certain parts resonating with you more depending on the season of your life.

This book is not only for those who are grieving. Anyone can find inspiration in Hussein’s deep faith and beautiful reminders of Allah’s perfect planning and wonderful attributes. It is a reminder for us all that everything in this life is a temporary gift, and that we need to use each day to prepare for the next life – the permanent one – in the Hereafter.

Stars in the Prophet’s Orbit by Asma Tabaa’ (translated by Sawsan Tarabishy)

English-speaking Muslims who wish to read the inspiring stories of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) have an excellent resource in Stars in the Prophet’s Orbit by Asma Tabaa’. Here, the stories of sixty companions, both male and female, are laid out in compelling and historically accurate detail.

Experienced Muslims who already know the basic stories of the most well-known companions will probably still learn a great deal of new information in Tabaa’s book. They will probably also discover some lesser-known companions they had not previously heard about.

New Muslims who wish to learn the basics and parents who want to teach their children about the companions will benefit greatly from this resource. The companions are listed in the table of contents so the reader can easily jump to the individual they wish to read about.

Even though these remarkable people lived over 1,400 years ago, Tabaa’ believes their stories will inspire the Muslims of today. She writes: “Throughout history and until today, scholars have focused upon the importance of the Prophet’s biography and the biographies of his unparalleled Companions in order to instill the love of Allah and His Messenger into the hearts of Muslims. Through their stories, we continue to be inspired by lessons of altruism, loyalty, honesty, modesty, purity, piety, generosity, and sacrifice” (p. XII).

For me, reading about the companions in Tabaa’s eloquent words does inspire me a great deal. I enjoy Stars in the Prophet’s Orbit and I think it is a blessing for our ummah.

Avatar photo Laura El AlamAuthor Laura El Alam is a freelance writer, editor, and author of the award-winning children’s picture book Made From the Same Dough as well as over 120 published articles. You can visit her online at

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