This is a very short and simple little book. Perhaps thats why I like it so much. In fact, it is a childrens book, based on the true story of the lives of a group of child carpet weavers in India and of one boy, Iqbal, who is determined to seek justice for down-trodden people, whatever the cost to himself.
The children I know who have read Iqbal have immediately been gripped by the heros courage and compassion; they have raged at the evil villains and they have held their breath in the certain anticipation of a fairytale ending. More than that, young people usually adopt a straightforward and unquestioning attitude towards the themes of justice and fairness such as appear here. I find their approach very humbling and I often wonder why children change and what can make them become cynical and hardened.
For all its simplicity this story is quite searching for adults too. Iqbal is not religious in any sense, but at the same time it shows how Christ's story of hope, self-sacrifice and resurrection are not things from the past but are just as relevant today as they ever were. It even manages to make you think about what it may mean when we talk about the resurrection of Christ. Many people assume that to call yourself a Christian you have to believe that Jesus literally came alive again and walked out of his tomb. Many others agree that this is unlikely, but feel unable to voice their doubts or ask obvious questions. Iqbal provides a good starting point for this discussion and other issues too. Does God work through people who do not consciously acknowledge Him? If there are good and motivated people in the world, do we need religion? And are any of these things worth debating at all in the face of the real issues brought to light in the book?
Be warned, Iqbal is heart-breaking and inspiring for people all ages and I am sure it will move you. For my part, I will be satisfied if it only makes you ask one question what can I do?
Iqbal by Francesco DAdamo
(Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2004)
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