I absolutely loved this article (http://afrocentric-muslimah.blogspot.com/2007/12/what-books-have-taught-me.html ) on Sister Saaleha’s blog AfroCentric Muslimah and it totally inspired me (I agree with her comment about Dan Brown).
Books have always been my window on the world. I come from a conservative South Asian background and grew up with restrictions on most places I could go alone as my parents were very protective of their girls (though funnily enough not of their son). That left school, library and family, and a happy but potentially somewhat stunted childhood and teenage. My saving grace was books. Apartheid in South Africa? Holocaust in WW2 Austria? Disappearances in South America? Cowboys with learning difficulties? Murderous Scottish thanes? Cheerful traditionally-built aunties in Botswana? For someone who is not well-travelled I have had the chance to gain insight into a host of different worlds, cultures and lives.
I also believe that reading so much has made me more understanding of people who are different to me and more receptive to diverse people I have met as I journey through life. My community can often be prejudiced against others and I have found these prejudices inherited by some of my generation despite growing and mixing with other communities. Narratives and stories from different places have helped me to see and distance myself from this thinking, and in doing so opened my heart and outlook to friendships and relationships with people whom otherwise I might have misunderstood and even disliked.
It has also meant that I can sit with people and talk about things and places and people with confidence. It has raised my expectations about what I want from life and also about what a human being can achieve.
I hope I can do the same thing for my children, teach them empathy and valour through the lives of the Sahabah (RA) and the Prophets (AS). Widen their cultural outlook through the stories of Aesop, Ananse, Sheherezade and Erik the Viking and open the door to pleasure through the kind efforts of Mr Dahl, Mr Pullman, Dr Sues and their friends.