As a parent of one young boy, I try to do my best to teach my son about cultural and religious diversity. I’d like to think that this helped me learn to be more accepting of others, and this is what I also want for my son.
However, being based in the Singapore, surrounded by people who generally look the same, speak the same language, and believe in the same things, I have been finding it extra challenging to teach my kid about diversity. My best “teaching tools” so far have been real-life experiences and children’s books.
“A Boy Named Ibrahim”
This is why I was so pleased to discover A Boy Named Ibrahim, a children’s picture book published by Adarna House.
Written by Sitti Aminah “Flexi” Sarte and illustrated by Aaron Asis, the book is about a day in the life of Ibrahim, a Muslim boy. It shows how Ibrahim is able to pray five times a day, as is the duty of devout Muslims, even while he does what other children do, like go to school and play soccer.
Sarte says she was motivated to write Ibrahim’s story because of the lack of Islamic children’s books. “At that time, I was pregnant with my eldest child and could not find any so I decided to write one,” she shares. “I was lucky… that Adarna picked up the story.”
“I hope to break stereotypes about Islam and Muslims, and inform the readers about the beauty of this religion,” Sarte adds. “When I was new to Islam, I would often be asked, ‘How can you pray five times a day?’
“Through this story, I hope that everyone can understand how easy it is — that even a young boy can perform his obligatory prayers,” she shares. “As for the Muslim child/parent, I hope that this encourages them to exercise their religion freely.”
A parent’s perspective
Sarte has certainly achieved her goal of showing everyone how Muslims of all ages — even young children — can do their obligatory prayers through A Boy Named Ibrahim.
The repetitive phrases she uses in certain parts of the book, particularly when it’s time for Ibrahim to pray, will help children become familiar with the specific steps Muslims take before they say their prayers.
She also shows how Ibrahim relates with his parents in a loving and respectful way — something that I’d like to think is expected of all children, whether they are Muslims or not.
My favorite part, though, is when Ibrahim’s Mama talks to him about the importance of prayer:
“Remember that prayer is important to every Muslim.
The more we pray, the more we remember Allah.
The more we remember Allah, the more He remembers us.
The more He remembers us, the more He loves and showers us with blessings and mercy.”
Because of that particular paragraph, I believe that even non-Muslims like me will find the book useful in teaching children about the importance of prayer and putting God first.
It’s also a great springboard for discussions on many other topics like strengthening one’s faith, world religions, cultural minorities in the Philippines, Muslims in Mindanao and other parts of the world, to name a few.
Children and adults alike will also become familiar with Islamic/Arabic terms like Bismillah and Assalamu Alaikum. The glossary at the back of the book gives the definition of each new word, so you need not do any additional research.
Introducing different languages like Arabic in this way to my kids has also led us to touch on different subjects like Geography (we talked about countries in the Middle East) and Values Education (we talked about the importance of respecting others’ religions and beliefs).
To make the book a bit more “interactive,” the page after the glossary is an activity page, where children can draw pictures related to the story.
Last, but certainly not the least, I’m sure you and your children will delight in the colorful and lively illustrations by Aaron Asis, which are a perfect complement to Sarte’s story.
Reaching more people
When asked about her dream for A Boy Named Ibrahim, Sarte says she hopes that the book will reach Muslim countries and countries with Muslim minorities such as the Singapore. “Right now, I am very happy to say that we are in the exploratory stages of distributing internationally, God willing,” she adds.
One thing’s for sure: if and when Sarte’s dream comes true, a lot of families will certainly benefit from reading A Boy Named Ibrahim. I know because my family definitely has!