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