Posts Tagged ‘muslim books’

The Football Convert

Assalamu alaikum – peace be upon you all.

It’s been a whirlwind year for Imam Munieb. As the short excerpt at the bottom of the page will demonstrate, it began with a considerable amount of frustration at the condition of the boys in his madrasa, and in particular their evident love of football above anything else. (Imam Munieb would freely admit that, back then, he had no time for the game whatsoever).

The Imam on football: he used to bleat about it; now he tweets about it!

Now the Imam finds himself the humble founder of arguably the most successful extra-curricular venture ever to be undertaken at the mosque, the reluctant star of The Victory Boys… and even an occasional dabbler in the world of social networking!

So, why the change? And what exactly does the Imam know about football? Perhaps this interview with theKubekidsblog will shed some light…

 

Kube: What possessed you to start a football team?
Imam M: Yaa akhi, I hope your readers will not think it is a case of possession. Actually, I have a group of boys at the weekly madrasa – they are all about 10 to 14 years old. All they talk about is “football this”, “football that”. I began to think that maybe football was their life. But Islam should be their life, and I wanted them to see this. But you know, after a while, I started to think: maybe there is room for football in their life too. So I tried to marry the football to the deen, in a good, halal way.

K: Do you know much about football?
I: What would you like to know? It is a round, leather thing. Inside there is air. Also there are two goals and you have to kick the ball into these goals.

K: Can you explain the offside rule?
I: I have heard of this off-slide rule but no, I do not know how many points you will get for an off-slide.

K: How will you be able to manage a team knowing so little about the game?
I: I have made the good intention, and I pray for its success, Insha Allah. I hope that maybe I can find someone to help with the team and I have a young man in mind who I think will be perfect. Also, the boys are telling me we need a good coach, but I do not plan for any long journeys to games. We can play in the local park. Or catch a bus if we need to.

K: Has the introduction of football made a difference to any of the boys’ attentions in class?
I: I feel yes, Masha Allah, there is a big difference now. Before the boys didn’t want to learn about their deen. Now they see the team and the deen are things which bring them together.

K: Do you think the team are good enough to win anything?)
I: They think they are good enough! I think you will have to read the book to find out if they really are!

Chapter 4, "A Change of Heart"

 

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Living Islam, Danyal, and The Victory Girls

Assalamu alaikum.

Yesterday found me in a tent, in a field, in Lincolnshire (an English county I’d never visited before) as Day Two of the famous Living Islam event got into full swing. I had agreed, with Kube, to run a couple of writing workshops for Muslim Scouts, and had devoted many spare moments over the last couple of months to generating ideas for activities that would (hopefully) not resemble some sort of punishing Summer School!

Living Islam, in Lincolnshire


Anyway, that these young writers came up with such impressive results had far more to do with their enthusiasm and creativity than the somewhat experimental format of my workshop! Please read on and enjoy Eesaa’s composition below.

By way of context: I worked with one group of girls and one group of boys, all aged 10-12. They had to write, in instalments, the next part of The Victory Boys to follow a section I had read. To complicate matters, and to tap their imaginations, the children had to

(1) write in new characters (Danyal for the boys, and a whole team of Victory Girls: Isha, Saara, Yasmin and Aishah – selected by the tried-and-trusted Cinderella “Whose Shoe?” method!);

(2) add mystery objects from randomly chosen boxes (ranging from a banana skin to a plaster (that’s a Band-Aid, y’all!) to a mobile phone); and

(3) take blindfold shots at a goalnet.

(4) Finally, they were also asked to include some of the agreed descriptions and traits of these new characters in their writing!

The most impressive pieces of written work were rewarded with free personalised copies of the book – many thanks to Kube Publishing for providing these! Here is one of the winners:

As Mr Bateman walked off, Saleem thought, “Hmm, a speedy substitute…”. He looked over at Danyal sitting on the bench in his shorts and scratching his short, black hair. As Saleem walked over to him Danyal looked up.

“Yes, Coach Saleem!” As soon as the words came out of his mouth Ibrahim, on the pitch, was fouled and his knee started bleeding. Limping off the pitch Ibrahim put a plaster on his knee.

“Danyal, you’re on!” said Coach Saleem. Danyal jogged on and got into the striker position with just 5 minutes left. News came through on mobiles that the leading team had won their game so Shabab Al-Nasr had to win.

Back on the pitch a superb through ball by Junayd had released Danyal who raced clear and… slipped over a banana skin! It had been thrown by one of Rovers’ defenders. The ref blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. PENALTY! With 1 minute left Shabab Al-Nasr had won a penalty!

Danyal stepped up nerveless, even though the pressure was immense. As Danyal ran up the keeper waved his gloves distractingly. The ball hit the crossbar… then post… and went in!! The final whistle blew and Shabab Al-Nasr celebrated. They had won!

by Eesaa

In pursuit of a publisher…

(This post continues Victory-Boy Meets World…)

I cannot claim at the outset that I hoped or expected to get The Victory Boys published. I’d always felt that I had a chance of having something published one day if it was a good idea and if I had long enough to do justice to it. My recollection is that I didn’t begin the book with the notion that it might be published; I was just trying to say something, maybe even get it off my chest. I know quite a few people who say that the best way of venting their spleen is to write it all down. I totally empathise with that sentiment, but it didn’t do me a lot of good at school, so I try to be very careful what I write these days!

Anyway, after three chapters or so, the idea suggested itself that I was on to a good thing. By the end of it, I was confident that I’d written something worth reading and, heck, if no-one wanted to publish it, I’d jolly well publish it myself! As it was, and particularly because my manuscript was, by design, a Muslim football book, I sent off two chapters to a couple of Islamic publishers (as per the submission instructions on their websites), and busied myself with other matters whilst waiting for a response.

Out of courtesy to the first of the publishers to reply, I will not name them here. It is enough to say that they wrote me a very encouraging reply which ultimately boiled down to “Loved the script; sorry, don’t do fiction.” Oh well.

A few days later, I heard from Kube. The (then) editor, Sister Fatima – an established author herself – was also full of enthusiasm and asked me how much of the book I had written, and if she could see more. I was delighted to pass the whole thing to her, and soon after she told me that she would be referring it to a panel, who would give their collective verdict on whether the book should be published, and what (if any) changes might be required. This process was estimated to take roughly five weeks.

Sure enough, about five weeks later, I found an email from Sr. Fatima waiting in my inbox. Having felt my heart beat just a little faster as time had drawn inexorably toward this response, and knowing very well that – in terms of a verdict – this was probably it, at this point I gave a model demonstration of ‘skim’ reading, finding what I wanted to know in approximately one-zillionth of a second and disregarding all of the finer details!

The beginning of sister Fatima's email

As one may infer from the last part of this excerpt, there were some changes to be made before the book could be published, although this also opened up a period of negotiation and compromise regarding some of these stipulations and suggestions. More on that in the next instalment!

(To be continued…) (again!)

Jumpers for goalposts? (well… chair legs and rugby posts anyway…)

Salam, one and all.

I cannot deny that, when I was a boy, I was hopelessly obsessed with football.

Among the habits I developed during this time, were:

*recreating goals I had seen in my bedroom (to clarify: the recreations took place in my room – few, if any, worthwhile goals had otherwise occurred there to my knowledge);

*drawing stick-man diagrams of goals I had witnessed, either on television or by the team for which I played. (Since I also started out as a goalkeeper (and was somewhat narcissistic) I did detail some of my finer saves as well, though I was certainly no Hasan…);

Hasan: Definitely a better goalkeeper than I.

*arranging my cuddly toys in formation to play out (often frantic) games between chair legs using one of those rubber balls with impossibly high bounceability so appealing to young children – if the placement was just right, it was possible to contrive a shot that would hit both posts a good six or seven times in total, which I assume would be a record were it ever to happen in, er, ‘real’ life…;

*tottering down to the rugby club with my friend Simon, a ball, and a sheet of fixtures he had prepared for the ultimate precursor to ‘Fantasy Football’: we would take it in turns to be goalkeeper/entire-opposing-team, and provide our own commentary as we played out the league games in the manner we felt they should unfold!

There were probably many more examples of cringeworthy, football-related deeds on my part, and one has to wonder what form these might have taken if I have already confessed to football matches with cuddly toys. Years of therapy (read: marriage) and disillusionment at the dismal performance of my own team have helped to dampen my enthusiasm to a more appropriate, balanced level, but it should not be assumed that any of these states of childishness are beyond me, and being the father of two boys is unlikely to help my rehabilitation (I also have high hopes for my daughter Insha Allah…)

Some of the agents provocateurs of my age of football fever were particular comic books, novels and TV series relating to football. I distinctly remember enjoying the sheer amount of football action in the books of Michael Hardcastle (I have no recollection whatsoever regarding plot, but I’m sure there must have been one!) and I have sought to emulate this concentration on the football itself in The Victory Boys. I was also a fan of Roy of the Rovers, especially since in those days I was enjoying a prolonged flirtation with Liverpool FC, whose then player-manager Kenny Dalglish seemed to me the real Roy Race.

My favourite comic book, however, was the Football Picture Story Monthly series. Why, oh why, is there not an equivalent series now? Even speaking as a teacher, I would love to get my hands on some of those books (and dearly wish I’d kept my own…) as it doesn’t take a skilled detective to know that the majority of boys love football, and comic books do not carry the same level of commitment as even a short novel – perfect, then, for the reluctant reader.

However, my favourite football novels of the day (and remember, this is before the day of High Fidelity-the-book, never mind the hugely disloyal film of the same name – the romance of football ruined by the romance of romance!) were definitely, without a shadooo of a dooot: Jossy’s Giants.

For those who haven’t seen it, Jossy’s (Glipton) Giants are a team of one-time losers who are transformed by the inspirational figure of Joswell “Jossy” Blair, whose own career was curtailed before it had truly begun, let alone blossomed. From the pen of the renowned darts commentator Sid Waddell, the books are written with more than a little humour and enough match action to satisfy the young football devotee.

A very tough act to follow, in my humble opinion!

Jamal

A foot in two worlds

Another factor that motivated me to write The Victory Boys was my belief that there was a severe shortage of books for young Muslims of the kind that can bridge the two worlds in which many find themselves.

Clearly and by definition, knowledge of God is fundamental for the Muslim; yet in turning to literature for both knowledge and entertainment, he or she finds that the overwhelming majority of books available have little remembrance of God, and is presented thus with a broad dichotomy of two worlds: the spiritual (but disproportionately young-child-centred) book world of “A is for Allah”; and the ‘dunya’ tales that may – and often do – tick all the boxes of good story-telling, but generally relegate God to an irrelevance or an irrationality.

All of this said, I was surprised and delighted to discover lately that there is quite a bit more fiction available to the Muslim (pre-)teenager than I had known. A couple of sites that I stumbled across which are definitely worth a look are Ummah Reads and Muslim Teen Reads.

Ummah Reads
Muslim Teen Reads

And, since our young readers of today are most likely to be our writers of tomorrow, the Islamic Writers Alliance(who offer book grants to Muslim schools and stage regular writers competitions) are also deserving of support. (I should add that I am a member but that the IWA is a not-for-profit organisation, lest anyone suspect I have a vested interest in plugging them!)

Be a Muslim Champion through the Islamic Writers Alliance

Jamal

Can faith and football flourish side by side?

Assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you) and welcome to the world of The Victory Boys, from Kube Publishing.

In fact, the world of The Victory Boys is not so very different from the world in which we live (except that the characters are fictional, of course, and do not in any way resemble any of the people I have ever known, nor myself in a dark mood…)

Indeed, the inspiration behind the book was in large part my perception of the ease with which community apathy might be replaced by purpose; all-pervading futility by positivity, and how the idea of any one, or handful of individuals, could be the catalyst for dynamic, uplifting change.

Imam Munieb, with ‘black sheep’ Saleem

The main adult character, Imam Munieb (you may have had the, er, pleasure of receiving his Tweets) could only be described, were the word to exist, as a footyphobe. At the outset, he sees absolutely no benefit in playing, watching, or possessing even the most rudimentary knowledge of such base, worldly entertainment. Unfortunately for him, the boys at his madrasa (school) do not share his views on ‘The Beautiful Game’, and given that they’re nowhere near so receptive to his classes, something has got to give…

In the next few posts, with the book release’s imminence imminent,  I’ll be linking the odd excerpt and introducing a few of the characters from the book.

Get involved – let me know your thoughts on the concept, the characters, the excerpts, and – hopefully in the very near future InshaAllah – the book itself!

Jamal