It is the truth-tellers among us who are the most beneficial, in my opinion: the ones who can discern when something is off and then let others know. We need to be grateful for every one.
Dr. Freda Shamma has done a massive service for the ummah by identifying trends in children’s publishing that are counter-productive to Islamic values. May Allah protect and increase her work, in this day when the industry churns out heaps and heaps of books, for the first time in human history, in which the boundaries between fantasy and reality are obliterated, the boundaries between human and non-human are erased, the triumph of good over evil is no longer even in the picture, and children everywhere, Muslim and non-Muslim, are reading about the disintegration of culture and civilization as if it were a perfectly normal and desirable state of affairs.
Dr. Shamma states:
“There are many thousands of books aimed at young people,and thousands of them are appealing to children. In preparing this list of books that develops and/or reinforces Islamic values, we are not suggesting that children should not read any of the appealing ‘fluff,’ those books that entertain but don’t teach. We are suggesting that too many of these appealing books actually contain ideas that go against Islamic values, and teachers and parents need to be very selective as to which books they want to encourage their children to read. In preparing this list, we have paid particular attention to several prominent, un-Islamic features and tried to select books that include the Islamic value. Therefore, we might not include a book that includes the value of helping others if it features someone who does this action with no family interaction. If the illustration shows a parent in the background, or the character speaks positively to a parent before going to help someone, then we consider that a good book to recommend. While it is not about family, it does include family”.
The book list by Dr Shamma was compiled on the basis that:
1. Family is important. As discussed above
2. Family is comprised of humans. Parallel to the idea that you don’t need family, is the idea that what you need instead is a pet, preferably a dog. Therefore, one should be careful of books in which many animals are featured as ‘family.’
3. Best friends should be of the same gender. It is unsettling how many books written even for 4-5 year olds push the idea that one’s best friend should be of the opposite gender. Although there is certainly nothing wrong in young children playing with the opposite gender, there is no good going to come from stressing the boy-girl relationship continuously from age 4 to age 18.
4. Witches and magic have a minor role. Although most Muslims will not object to occasional stories with witches and magic, as long as they are firmly placed in a fantasy world, one must be careful to minimize stories featuring them, particularly when they appear in otherwise normal settings.
5. Working for the good of others is important. Although we cannot expect to find the Islamic idea that all work and all life should be done for the sake of Allah and for the good of humanity, we do need to look for stories that stress the benefit of working for the good of others. Too often the idea is put forth that people should do whatever feels good for them, i.e. be an artist because you have talent and want to paint, regardless what kind of artist you will become.” (Courtesy: Reading List)
It’s so useful to have that spelled out. And I’d like to suggest the time has come for us to draw the line a bit tighter. We should “expect to find the Islamic idea that all work and all life should be done for the sake of Allah and for the good of humanity” in the books our children, the next generations of Muslims, read. In fact we should insist on it. I’m beginning to suspect that the ideal of children reading hundreds and hundreds of books is a piece of the brainwashing I grew up with that becomes more and more evident to me the longer I live in a Muslim country. In the past, even during the times of the most enlightened cultures the world has ever known, enlightenment was not engendered by children reading constantly, but on the contrary children were busy learning how to grow up, and this never seemed to inhibit their educations as adults. In fact, children reading hundreds of idiot fluff books only serves to reinforce the collective lie that this world and what we see with our eyes is all there is, and to marginalize, trivialize, and totally misrepresent the times and places in history when whole empires were based on the ideals of doing everything for the sake of Allah and the akhira. Contrary to what western-generated histories will tell you, these empires provided protective, supportive, enlightened governance of vast numbers of people across races and continents. Just as the Quraysh denied the Message in the time of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, the deniers of today still insist “There wasn’t any such thing as Islam.” Rather than bow under the pressure of that age-old denial, what if we stand up to it instead? Rather than just doing damage control, can’t we stride forward with our righteousness and piety and utter commitment to finding out what Allah wants from us and doing it no matter what? I am convinced we would all be dazzled by the outcomes, Allahu alim.