Monday, November 15, 2010

Reader: The Muslim Family Reader: A Builder of the Islamic Personality Vol II

I found The Muslim Family Reader: A Builder of the Islamic Personality (Vol II) in a box of discarded books from a local masjid. The authors, Dr. Saidi J. El-Liwaru and Maisha Zoja El-Liwaru compiled 25 one - three page stories which "should be read aloud by a family member in the presence of the rest of the family." (preface)

This book reflects ideas Muslims had in the 1980s about Muslim families in the United States. They reflect a confidence that, by living Islam publicly, Muslims would win the friendship of their neighbors, improve society and attract reverts/converts to Islam.

In Let's Get High, Khalid convinces his high school football teammates to avoid drugs until the end of the season. In Why Should I Mother, Kamau and Faida convince Gloria to be more obedient to her mother, who thanked the two Muslim girls for their positive influence on her daughter. In Slap a Lion and Dare Him to Roar, Sensei Maasi, from his dojo, helped a student named Mike Chadwick to overcome his anger by teaching him and his father Islam, which they adopted, and Mike won the State Karate Championship.

There are other stories which relate to issues of belief and behavior. In these cases, an older and wiser Muslim will wisely open up a new way of thinking to the misbehaving, misguided Muslim, who subsequently repents.

I don't believe this book is using a useful model for today's world. Do any families sit together and talk anymore? Its illustrations are too basic to attract a small child, and the tone is too didactic for the teenager. In addition, volume is stapled together, so any copy you find today is likely on the verge of falling apart, like my copy.

One story which disturbed me was Cut off a Hand and Save a Life. In this story, one Saudi cousin explains to his cousin who had lived in the United States during his childhood how necessary and good it was to cut off the hand of a thief. I don't want anybody's hand cut off, and I don't like the US penal system either. I don't know what to do. Spoonfeeding doctrines which have little relevance to children seems to me to be a poor way to raise a Muslim in North America. The child is likely to attach to everything he's labeled as "Islamic" or reject everything he's labeled as "Islamic."

So if this book comes into your home, read it first and then decide which stories are useful for your kids. I'd recommend Thank Allah for Dirty Dishes, Trust in Allah, Why Do You Pray So Much?, and I Saw Allah Today.

My recommendation for all children books is not to rely on the publisher claiming that the book is good for Muslim children. Quality varies, and not every story is appropriate for every child.