Caveat: I haven’t quite finished reading Coming of Age – A Muslim Girl’s Guide. At 300+ pages it is nearly an encyclopedic volume on physiological and fiqh issues related to puberty and menstruation. It is written only from the perspective of the Hanafi madhab, and does not cover emotional development during adolescence.
The author, Hedaya Hartford, writes that the aim of this book is: “…young girls from the age of 8-13 will be able to understand this book with the help of an elder like her mother, aunt, or guardian, and for those 14 and older to be able to read it on her own.” I am reading through the book with my daughters, ages 8 and 10, and they are both thoroughly enjoying the information presented and discussions centered on things previously unknown to them or considered about their bodies. The book also includes plenty of “general advice for moms or guardians” regarding various issues from being quick to provide girls/young women with proper underclothes, teaching how to dispose of sanitary products, and dealing with stained bedding.
Coming of Age is broken into three sections: ‘Biological Perspective’, ‘A Sacred Law Perspective’, and ‘An Interactive Experience’. ‘Biological Perspective’ not only includes a thorough explanation of the menstrual cycle, but it also covers variables such as differing body-growth rates and breast development, which is especially wonderful for girls to know that their breasts are “normal” even if not the same as the cookie-cutter-made breasts they see everywhere in mainstream media. The section also explains the growth of body hair and the permissibility and means by which to remove it, and other good basic hygiene practices. This first section has several very tasteful anatomical diagrams, which my daughters love and I appreciate seeing the female body so blatantly normalized in an Islamic-based text.
‘A Sacred Law Perspective’ is the largest portion of the book, covering “Sacred Law Rulings” on prayer, fasting, mosque etiquette, etc.“The Basics”; categories of menstruating women, colours of blood, discharge, etc.; “Tuhr”; establishing your “habit” or learning how to know your individual cycle, as well as explaining ghusl, “Istihada” and “Menstrual Precepts.” Hedaya has included an incredible wealth of information in this tome, and surely readers, including my family, will return to it as a reference time and again.
Since the book is written for children/young women, the final section ‘An Interactive Experience’ includes personal narratives of “Stories from Girls Like You”, as well as review questions, puzzles, checklists and other activities to continue to help young women learn about and even track their cycles.
Frankly, this book is so comprehensive, masha Allah, that I even learned a few things, though I would like to remind readers that it is written from the perspective of the Hanafi madhab, so there were also some things I do not follow. I especially enjoyed the first hand accounts from young women around the globe that Hedaya has sprinkled throughout the book. While Hedaya repeatedly emphasizes that each woman’s experience will vary, the young women’s experiences are great examples that reiterate her message and often also serve as guidance to guardians on how to handle various issues during these pivotal years, such as not leaving girls uneducated about menses and physical development.
Coming of Age – A Muslim Girl’s Guide is a heavy, as in weight but also dense with information, book worth its hefty price tag, but to see for yourself readers can receive a free 37 page sample of the book at http://www.comingofage.info/.
Brooke Benoit is the Content Director of SISTERS and the mother of seven well-spaced children.