The Mothers of three Prophets (Book Review)

To continue the celebration of Women’s History Month, I present a review of the Mothers of three Prophets. This is a small book that children age 8 and up will enjoy reading on their own. (See here for the review I did for International Women’s Day) 

 

Let’s take a look at three mothers who played very important roles in the lives of their sons, sons chosen by Allah to be prophets. These women faced severe tests beyond the abilities of the average woman to endure. Each was inspired by Allah to be faithful, devoted and strong.


 

The Mothers of three Prophets contain stories that narrate the lives of three phenomenal women. They are: Hajar, the mother of Ismael (alyahis salam); the mother of Musa (alyahis salam) and Maryam, the mother of Isa (alyahis salam). 

These women are showcased not only because they were the mothers of three of Allah’s prophets but also because they were outstanding individuals. They possessed personalities, attitudes and approaches to life that we could all learn from. 

The stories are told in a way that a child of eight should be able to read on his/her own. But I think the significance of the stories may be better understood by children who are a bit older (possibly 10 and up). The concepts of sacrifice, obeying and submitting ones will to Allah are conveyed throughout the book. Ayat (verses) of the Quran are woven seamlessly into the narration while emphasizing the importance of the situations described. 

Apart from telling us the history of the prophets, this book is a tribute to all mothers and it teaches us how obedient we must be to Allah, despite hardship, fear of loss or being ashamed of ridicule. 

Talking points: The three stories in this book can be used as the starting point of a discussion among older children (10 and up) on the meaning of sacrifice and obeying Allah’s commands. Let students talk about characteristics they posses that reflect the characteristics of the mothers of the prophets and what they can do to develop such characteristics. The stories in this book are good for reading aloud as well to a group in the classroom or masjid. 

Title: The Mothers of three Prophets
Author: Jameelah Jones
Publisher: Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd.
Date: 1994 (reprint 2001)
ISBN: 189794022X
Age Group: 8 – 12 years

Umar and the Bully (Book Review)

 “Umar stopped and looked back at the school gates. The late afternoon sun shone upon two older boys talking in low voices, huddled beside the wall. A heavily-built boy handed something to the other in a clenched fist…”
 


So begins Umar and the Bully, a short novel that tackles the problem of bullying among children in schools. Umar is a kind-hearted, caring boy of approximately eleven years who witnesses an older boy bullying a timid seven-year old student, Asad. Umar is angry and uncomfortable with what he sees but has no idea what he can do to help the victim.

A voice made itself heard inside him, asking: “Are you scared too?
Should you be scared?” This voice was familiar to Umar.
It was the voice that always came from a mysterious place inside
him whenever a problem nagged him.

Before making any rash decisions Umar speaks to the older brother and sister of a close friend. During the discussion, they tell him of Umar the second caliph of Islam. He stood up for justice and felt responsible for those under his leadership. Compelled by the fact that he is named after such a great man, the Umar prays and makes dua to Allah for courage and strength to face up to the bully. But Umar and his friend are sensible youths. They enlist the help of their teacher, the trusting Mr. Fudayl and in the end resolve the situation.

The writer does not hesitate to describe the effect of bullying on its victims. The ill effects of bullying are shown from the injuries inflicted by the bully to the deceit it causes its victims to get involved in. So while this book can be read by a six or seven-year old who is a confident reader, such a child may not be emotionally ready for this book. However, a parent or teacher may choose to read this book with them and explain the issues.

Talking points: This book presents a perfect opportunity for parents and teachers to read and discuss what bullying is, why it is wrong and how to go about dealing with it. Another theme worth discussing is the way in which Umar turns to Allah for help each step of the way. This coupled with his common sense results in a resolution to the bullying problem.

Author: Shabana Mir

Illustrator: Asiya Clarke

Publisher: The Islamic Foundation

Date: 1998

ISBN: 0860372960

Age Group: 8 – 12 years

 

A Boy from Makkah (Book Review)

 

“We’re almost there, Ahmad!” my father said, “We’re almost in Makkah!” The cheerful tone was apparently meant to encourage me to walk on, though my father himself looked exhausted, having covered such a long road from our native village, Beni Faham, on foot.” 


 

So begins A Boy from Makkah, a moving story that chronicles the life of Ahmad from childhood into adulthood. It is at once warming and rewarding to read. At times, especially in the beginning, the story will evoke deep emotions in the reader. 

A Boy from Makkah is an English translation of the Arabic novel al-Yad as SuflaaThe Lower Hand by Muhammad Abdo Yamani. The reader follows Ahmad, a boy from the desert who is forced to leave his home and work in Makkah to help support his poor family. For ten years Ahmad works as a house boy to various wealthy Makkan families never once returning to his home in the desert so that he begins to regard Makkah, and his master’s family as his own family and home.   

Ahmad, despite his background, exemplifies the meaning of hard work, sacrifice and patience in his approach to life. First shaken by his distance from his family, his first work experience exposes the young boy to unkindness. He quickly moves on to work with a kinder employer only to be uprooted a few months later because of a death in the family. His last and final employer, who he worked for many years for, proves to be the life changing element in the boy’s life when he encourages and supports Ahmad’s education (primary, secondary and eventually tertiary). 

But while Ahmad may appear to be almost perfect, he does have weaknesses. He finds himself falling in love with his master’s daughter, Aziza. Ahmad thinks that he is not ‘good enough’ for Aziza. His feelings and emotions toward her are described in a sensitive but not sexual way. Moreover, the author portrays how love could develop in an Islamic way between two people without them getting involved in romantic courtship as depicted  in mainstream literature for young adults. 

Talking Points: This book presents a lot of issues to discuss. While the first person narration used for most of the book may make it difficult for reading aloud, parents/teachers may want to read this book simultaneously with the child/student and pause to discuss various problems and issues. Some of the latter are: social inequality, child labour, sacrifice, love and education as a means of social mobility. Ahmad’s life of hardship and how he overcame them through struggle, perseverance and trust in Allah are good characteristics worth discussing among youth at home and in the classroom.  

A Boy from Makkah by Muhammad Abdo Yamani is a novel written in clear prose with vivid imagery. It is a refreshing read amongst books available for young adults in general. Muslim parents and young adults themselves, looking for a positive role model will find one in the character Ahmad. It is recommended for the age group 13+ (i.e. young adults). 

Title: A Boy from Makkah 

Author: Muhammad Abdo Yamani 

Publisher: IQRA’ International Educational Foundation 

Date: 2002 

ISBN: 1563160579 

No. of pages: 150 

Age Group: 13+ (Young Adult)