Iqbal is the fictionalized story of the young Iqbal Masih, a real boy who escaped virtual slavery in a carpet factory to fight against child labor in Pakistan. Although the book is a short read at only 120 pages, it is heavy in content. The description of the children who work all day often tied to their looms to make the beautiful carpets desired all over the world, is both incredibly gut wrenching as well as inspiring. The book has an AR level 5.1 and while the author and main character are not Muslim, most of the minor characters presumably are, as is the environment. I am using this book for our new Book Club book because the message and determination of young Iqbal is something middle school students should feel empowered by, inshaAllah.
“So long as there’s a child in this world who is deprived of his childhood, a child who is beaten, violated, or exploited, nobody can say it’s not my business.” …Iqbal
The story is told from the voice of a young girl, Fatima, bonded to a carpet weaver where Iqbal joins her and a handful of other children who are forced to make carpets to pay off their parents’ debts. Iqbal has a reputation as being the best carpet maker and is rumored to have made one of the most difficult designs for a former master. While good at what he does, Iqbal combats the naivety of the other children by pointing out that they will never be allowed to leave, even if they manage to pay off their debt. This slow realization empowers all the children with Iqbal as their leader to dream of freedom, and to stand behind Iqbal as he dares to do more than just dream.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I like this book because it is vivid in detail and really takes the reader to a place they have never seen, nor thought about. To read about another’s life paves the way for the reader to develop understanding and empathy, characteristics most middle school students rarely exhibit. The fact that it is based on a true story, in the recent past, really hammers these concepts into the reader and changes the way one looks at hand tied carpets, and child labor in general. I think it also makes the reader appreciate their own life, their own freedom, and educational opportunities even more.
The book is clean, but the concepts are for older kids.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
Summary with pictures: