Writer Turns Her Popular 30 Days Blog About Ramadan Into A Book Of Meaningful Stories

Salma Hasan Ali used her passion for storytelling to create a 10-year Ramadan tradition. Now, she’s turned it into a book.

Courtesy of Salma Hasan Ali
Courtesy of Salma Hasan Ali

After Salma Hasan Ali published a piece more than a decade ago about her family’s journey from Pakistan to the U.S. — their move to an immigrant neighborhood, her parents’ multiple jobs, navigating classrooms while knowing little English— she was struck by notes from readers across America.

The emails came “from Jewish grandmothers and people of Christian faith and from different cultures saying, finally we get to meet a Muslim family and get to know them as if we were sharing a cup of tea together,” Ali recalled to NowThis.

Ali — a mother, writer, consultant, and self-described “storyseeker” — started the blog 30 Days with her two children during the month of Ramadan in 2011. As Muslims marked their second Ramadan during COVID-19, she adapted a decade’s worth of posts and storytelling into the book “30 Days: Stories of Gratitude, Traditions, and Wisdom,” published in April 2021.

Since the blog’s inception, Ali and her family write daily for the holy month’s duration about a theme selected for that year — such as 30 good deeds, 30 recipes, 30 prayers, and so on — so they could experience the spirit of Ramadan and continue to share their stories as Muslim Americans with other people.

“Beyond not eating and drinking, there's so much more to this month that they can celebrate and be a part of,” Ali said. “Doing good and being kind and sort of being conscious of these values and these habits.”

As the years progressed, Ali’s blog gained more readers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, she said. She also added new voices to the mix: poets, entrepreneurs, politicians, and restaurant owners.

“The power of our personal stories, what we think are ordinary — yes, they may be ordinary, but that’s what connects us to each other,” Ali explained. “Our ordinariness, our everyday values and what we worry about, what our challenges are, what our hopes are. Chances are that most people have very similar feelings.”

Ali’s book features reflections from musician Zeshan B, former Obama adviser Dalia Mogahed, Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam, and South African diplomat Ebrahim Rasool. The writers share wisdom they’ve learned, reveal mental health struggles, detail their activism, and ultimately bring forth human stories.

“In addition to the pandemic, we're in the midst of such a difficult, divisive time in our political and social history,” Ali said. “I was keen to get [the book] out at this time because I think we need it right now. We need to feel connected to each other.”

In addition to the book itself, which includes exquisite illustrations and calligraphy from Afghan artist Sughra Hussainy and is hand-stitched by a group of artisans in Bangladesh, readers receive a series of postcards so they can write their own narratives and send them to people they’d like to get to know better.

“They're not Muslim stories. They're not Ramadan stories in any way,” Ali reflected on both the blog and the book. “[It] takes place during Ramadan and the central characters happen to be Muslim.”

One of Ali’s own entries reads:

“My father loved dessert; anything sweet and delicious brought him so much pleasure. I inherited his sweet tooth. Growing up, whenever there was an office birthday or holiday party at work, Dad would wrap up his share of dessert in a napkin, keep it in his briefcase, and bring it home for me. He’d unwrap it after dinner and put it in front of me, with a twinkle in his eye. And then he’d savor the moment — it tasted so much more delicious to see me enjoying every last bite.

It’s a small story that reveals my dad’s huge heart. Making someone else feel comfortable, at ease, happy, well fed, taken care of, made his day.”

Several hundred copies of Ali’s book are available to purchase from her website. They are currently on sale for $75 each.