Mainstream publishing companies often say outright that they don’t want manuscripts with obvious “morals” to be submitted for publication. They’re more interested in publishing good, entertaining stories as opposed to stories with a teaching objective.
For me, the optimal children’s book is one that combines both: a great, memorable story and a good moral. For this reason, The Prophet Says Series written by Mariam Al-Kalby (which includes two books so far) is a valuable resource.
My daughter recently received these books as gifts and she loves them. I’ve read them to her several times, and now she has basically memorized the two stories. Luckily, the books are sturdy enough for her little hands to handle on her own and she can look at them as long as she wants!
The Apple Tree is based on the following hadith:
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows seeds and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats from it except that it is regarded as a charity for him.”
Little Shaima plants a seed with her father in their front yard to grow a beautiful apple tree. Her father attempts to convince her that sharing whatever apples grow would be considered an act of charity. When apples finally grow on her tree, however, she becomes reluctant to share them with others. Then when she notices the happiness the apples bring to her friends, animals and birds, she begins to understand the merits of freely giving them away. This story follows Shaima’s inner struggle to overcome her own selfishness and discover the joy of sharing with others.
Circle of Sandcastles is based on the following hadith:
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of faith.”
Maimoona is a shy girl playing at the local park when she witnesses her classmate being bullied by three older children. The first time she witnesses the bullying, she allows her shyness to prevent her from acting upon what she sees. With the passing of time and as she witnesses the same scenario again and again, she builds her self-confidence and finally comes to the aid of her bullied classmate.
The best thing about these two books is that they take the concepts of charity and standing up for what’s right (which are two immense and important Islamic concepts), and make them easy to understand for children. Kids of all ages understand the effects of bullying and have more than likely witnessed or experienced bullying. Similarly, generosity and kindness to both humans and animals are both traits that any parent would want their children to adopt.
My mom is an Islamic studies teacher and she borrowed the books for a few days for her school. She explained to me how absolutely enamored the (SK) kids were by the stories (especially Circles of Sandcastles about bullying). If you’re a teacher, invest in these books! There are tons of opportunities to build lesson plans, activities and even field trips around these stories and concepts for your class.
Even as a parent, these books can serve to open up a dialogue between you and your children about the merits of generosity, sharing, kindness to all of God’s creatures and using your voice and abilities to help others.
The illustrations are charming and the stories are easy to understand, even for a toddler like my daughter (I simplified the wording). There are a number of other interesting details and components to the stories – like the inclusion of some Arabic words in The Apple Tree, and some Urdu words in Circle of Sandcastles. But most importantly, instead of teaching these hadiths in a boring and overly didactic way, Mariam Al-Kalby hit the right spot in addressing the importance of these concepts without compromising any entertainment value.
The two books are nestled safely on Ruqaya’s bookshelf, and I hope there are more in the making!
For more information about the books and their author, visit: