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)

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