Ramadan Stories of Gratitude, a Labor of Love that Resonates All Year

A Bangladeshi artisan hand-stitching the pages of a new book by Salma Hasan Ali, “30 Days – Stories of Gratitude, Traditions and Wisdom." Courtesy photo.

When Salma Hasan Ali’s children were small, she liked to start new family traditions for the month of Ramadan. One year, they did a good deed each day – “30 days, 30 deeds.” They did small things, like spending time with a grandparent or helping a neighbor.

Author Salma Hasan Ali 

Ali wanted her kids to know that “you don’t need to change the world for it to be meaningful or have an impact. Start with your own family, with your own neighborhood, with your community, and find small ways to make someone’s life a little bit better.”

The tradition evolved, and the following year, she came up with a new practice: “30 days, 30 gratitudes,” a list of what they were grateful for each day. The lists turned into a blog. Before long, it went viral. “Neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, the posts were shared,” she said. “People all over the world were reading it, from Australia to Zambia. The emails I would get is, ‘We don’t celebrate Ramadan, but we look forward to it because we get to share in this.’”

 “It’s not a blog about Ramadan, it’s not a religious blog as such, it really is about the things we have in common, the things unite us, the things that make us human,” Ali said. “Sharing stories is such a powerful way for us to get to know one another.”

The blog is now a beautiful, handmade book: “30 Days – Stories of Gratitude, Traditions and Wisdom.” The project emerged while Ali and her family were isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it became an international effort. Ali, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan when she was 7 years old, enlisted Afghan artist Sughra Hussainy for the book’s delicate calligraphy,  connected with a group of artisans in Bangladesh to hand-stitch the pages together, and invited contributors including renown Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam.

One of Ali’s favorite stories in the book involves a Catholic woman who reached out after reading her blog online. The woman, who had only heard Islam described in a negative light, was distraught that her 19-year-old daughter had fallen in love with a Muslim man and wanted to convert to Islam.

“So I sent her some book ideas and connected her with people that she could speak to, and we start this online friendship,” Ali said. Over time, as the woman read more, got to know Ali and met her future son-in-law’s family, she came to support her daughter’s journey. “And now she speaks to the media and to church groups about the Islam that she's come to know.”

Ramadan begins on April 2 next year, but Ali’s book resonates far beyond Islam’s holy month.  From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, Hanukkah to Winter Solstice to Christmas, themes of gratitude are plentiful this time of year. Ali hopes her book will be a timely gift for people of any faith who want to spread some cheer this winter.

 “In our faith tradition, there’s a hadith that says making someone smile is a form of charity,” Ali says.


#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org.


more from IFYC

Join IFYC on February 7 at 10 AM CT for an important conversation with Black thought-leaders, activists, and organizers engaged in on-the-ground efforts to destigmatize HIV and eradicate the virus.
The metaverse has dramatic implications that should make all of us sit up, lean in, and claim our role in shaping the worlds within the world that is being created.  
A chance encounter with an army chaplain put Colonel Khallid Shabazz's military career on a different path.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who survived a hostage-taking at his synagogue last Saturday, gave the closing remarks at an online White House briefing Friday, with an impassioned plea for civility.
Rather than focusing on canonical doctrines, a workshop trains educators to teach “lived religion” -- all the creative things that people do with their traditions.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, described as 'the second most famous Buddhist in the world, after the Dalai Lama,' by one expert, founded a worldwide network of monastic centers. He once said: "My life is my teaching. My life is my message.”
Many content creators use their platforms to build community beyond their brick-and-mortar congregations, to dispel myths, break stereotypes and invite people from diverse faiths to get a glimpse into their lives.
IFYC's innovative online learning experience, #Interfaith: Engaging Religious Diversity Online, offers lessons on how to approach others online in a way that leads to building bridges.
Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh, the person who nominated Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize and encouraged King to speak out against the war in Vietnam.
What Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about the power of mindful breathing through art.
A scholar of democratic virtues explains why Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on hope are relevant today.
From covering spirituality in Silicon Valley to writing an online newsletter about her own journey to Judaism, reporter Nellie Bowles keeps finding innovative ways to reflect on religion and technology.
Six ways religious and spiritual leaders can help the internet serve their communities right now.
At the request of his editors at Religion News Service, Omar Suleiman writes about waiting with hostages’ families.
Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, the PNBC leaders said they plan to lobby Congress in March and register voters weekly in their congregations and communities.
King’s exasperation at self-satisfied white Christians holds up a mirror that is still painfully accurate today.
A day before the U.S. Senate was expected to take up significant legislation on voting rights that is looking likely to fail, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eldest son condemned federal lawmakers over their inaction.
The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, is particularly well connected to the larger interfaith community and on good terms with many Muslim leaders.
For Martin Luther King Day, an interfaith panel reflects on the sacredness of the vote and the legacy of Reverend King.
In his new book, Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer reexamines the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel and finds lessons for interfaith political activism today.
King drew criticism from Billy Graham, who told journalists that he thought King was wrong to link anti-war efforts with the civil rights movement.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.