Raising a Generation of Readers
By Kiran Ansari

If you are a Muslim that grew up or moved to the United States in the last 25 years; chances are you have read an IQRA’ book. Whether you attended weekend school, ISNA conventions or strolled down Devon Avenue, there is no way you could not have heard about bestsellers like Mercy to Mankind, Three Muslim Festivals and Our Prophet.

There are many more textbooks and literature about Islam by Muslim Americans now, but while we should enjoy the greater variety we have the luxury of having, we should also remember the pioneers who set the ball rolling.

We all have brilliant ideas at some point in our lives, but how many of us actually follow through with them? How many choose to trade-off uncertainty and simple living as compared to landing a plush corporate job after PhD’s from Harvard University in the 1970’s? Very few.

The story behind IQRA’ books is not just pertinent to Chicago Muslims. It is an American story, a Muslim story, a story of love and dedication. At a time when you couldn’t Google books and have them shipped with a few clicks, IQRA’ founders Drs. Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi saw the need to develop curriculum for and by American Muslims. Literature written by well-intentioned scholars in South Asia or Egypt, for instance, was not going to gel with the new generation of baseball and pizza-loving children that were growing up in America.

For twenty-six long years, the IQRA’ team has consistently taken Islamic education up a notch each year. They haven’t rested on their laurels, they have continued to improve what was good to make it even better. They embraced technology with making resources available online while still keeping timeless traditions like storytelling intact.

However, like many nonprofit organizations, IQRA’ has had its share of financial constraints in the past decade with Islamophobia on the rise. Moreover, many think IQRA’ makes money by selling books. They do not factor in the years of research and development that it takes to produce one book. It is not a corporation, it is not a business. IQRA International Education Foundation is a waqf, a trust of the community, that cannot be sustained indefinitely without our support. As parents and as community members, we need to share in the responsibility of ensuring that an organization as committed and as valuable as IQRA stays afloat for a very long time.

We buy our kids Nike sneakers and Playstation 3 games, but when it comes to books, we think $14.99 is a lot of money. We need to impress upon our children the importance of reading balanced, informative and interesting literature to raise the next generation of readers. We spend time farming virtual soy beans on Facebook and tweeting our itinerary for the day. How much time do we spend sharing enrichment literature with our children?

There are several ways you can support IQRA, with the simplest being to commit to just $10 a month on a regular basis. I hope most people reading this will think that $10 is way too little for such a cause, so don’t limit yourself to just $10. Ask your family and friends to chip in the cost of a fraction of an XBOX game, a fraction of dinner at Red Lobster and a fraction of a GAP winter coat.

We need to continue watering the plant for whichthe seeds were planted a quarter of a century ago so that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren also enjoy IQRA’ books with as much fervor as we have.

Don’t delay it any further. Starting a good deed in Ramadan will just multiply the barakah (blessings) many, many times. Go to www.iqrafoundation.com and click on the Ansar program to see the many convenient and secure ways to make a tax-deductible payment.

Go ahead and do it now, so that the next time you see a dazzling IQRA’ book cover in the hands of your child – or any child - you can smile knowing that you regularly contribute to this cause.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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