My son turned 4 this week. I bought him a World War Hulk action figure (he’s a big Hulk fan). He played with it all day and went to sleep clutching it in his hand. But as my children get older, so do I (33 at the time of writing this post). Only a fool truly believes that he/she will live forever. Death can come at anytime. It could be a bus later today, a falling piano tomorrow or even a genetic condition in twenty years time. The point is that you are never ready for it. Not everyone is as lucky as Anthony Hopkins in ‘Meet Joe Black’, having the luxury to set your personal and business issues in order before taking a walk with the Angel of Death.
So it got me thinking, what kind of legacy do I want to leave my children? I know I want them to have a good religious and academic education and perhaps some liquid and static assets to make sure their lives are comfortable. I want to make sure they are good people and become good parents too. But as I said above, there is no guarantees that a person is going to be around long enough to set all this in order. That’s when I thought of Hansel and Gretel.
For those of you who haven’t come across the story by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the woods by their parents because of the shortage of food. Hansel tries to outwit his step-mother by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to lead them back home. You can read the rest of the story on Wikipedia or borrow a copy of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales from your library, because its the breadcrumbs that are relevant here.
I’m hoping that my kids will want to read their dad’s books when they get older. Perhaps out of loyalty or curiosity, or maybe because all the other books in the world have spontaneously disappeared and they have to choose between my books and the Yellow Pages. In that scenario, I’m sure they’ll eventually put the Yellow Pages down and turn to my books. But once they do, perhaps they’ll open the book and get to the dedication page and see that I’ve dedicated my books to them and then, if they’re as smart as I think they are, they will read the story and understand like none before them, what went on in their dad’s head and they will learn from the character’s the harsh realities of life, the importance of considering your decisions and words before discharging them, and all the other ethical and moral conceptualizations that have been laid out in my fiction. The original purpose of fiction, particularly Islamic fiction, was to pass on universal truths and to explore moral and ethical philosophy, to give the opportunity to readers to learn from the trials and errors of fictitious characters and to divine from them a better understanding of the human condition. Perhaps even discover God. Maybe its selfish of me, but I like the idea that one day (perhaps I may even be alive that day) my kids are going to read my books and see, that even when I was cloistered away by myself working on my books instead of playing with them or teaching them, I was thinking about them and their future. I like the idea that they will read the words I wrote and think, so that’s what dad was always harping on about.
I’ve told this story many times now, and probably will tell a few more times before people get tired of me repeating it. I knew I wanted to be a writer after I heard my teacher reading out C. S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. What I haven’t told people is why I write. I want to inspire children and young people; not only to read and write, but to be better humans.