May Li is Muslim, and Jorge is Christian. Muslims practice a religion called Islam, and Christians practice Christianity. The holy book of Islam is the Qur’an. For Christians, it’s the Bible. Muhammad plays a central role in Islam, just as Jesus does in Christianity. Muslims go to pray at mosques, and Christians pray in churches. In Islam, there is only one all-powerful being called Allah, and Christians refer to that being as God.
Despite these differences, both groups come from the same origin. Followers of both Islam and Christianity believe in the story of Abraham. As the different versions of the stories go, Abraham had two sons. Their names were Ishmael and Isaac, and Abraham had to sacrifice one of them to show God that he was faithful. Because Abraham took all the necessary steps to sacrifice his son, God allowed the son to live. Muslims believe the son to be sacrificed was Ishmael, while Jews and Christians believe him to be Isaac. Ishmael is sometimes called “Father of the Arabs,” and he became the leader of a people who later came to believe in Islam. Isaac is often called “Father of the Hebrews” because, like his brother Ishmael, he too became the leader of a people. Followers of Isaac are now thought to be those who believe in Christianity and Judaism.
Unlike May Li or Jorge, Dar practices no religion. Although Dar’s parents grew up Christian, their family does not practice Christianity. They consider themselves “culturally Christian.” This means they celebrate Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but they do not attend church or study the Bible.
Since May Li is young still, she does not fully understand what the Muslim faith means to her or how to practice it. Her parents, who both passed away when she was two, were religiously Muslim. This means they followed the laws of the religion of Islam as described in the Qur’an, such as those related to how and when to pray or what to eat. Grandfather, who is now raising May Li, has different beliefs. He was a religious, practicing Muslim when he was younger and is now “culturally Muslim,” just like Dar is “culturally Christian.”
Even though his own connection to Islam has changed since he was younger, Grandfather is very supportive of May Li’s interest in maintaining and practicing the faith her parents taught her. That’s why he bought her a purple prayer rug — her favorite color! — and makes time for her to perform her prayers when possible. In Islam, prayers are supposed to be performed five times a day throughout the day. For now, May Li prays just once a day before bedtime. It’s one special way for May Li to maintain a connection to her parents and the way she lived her life back in Myanmar.