Books Middle Eastern Literature Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Celebrating the Roots of Modern Civilization in Bryn Barnard’s “The Genius Of Islam”


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

I got this book from Katie Day’s collection which I have been featuring for my book hunting expedition posts during the past two weeks. When I saw this title, I immediately put it aside, knowing that I would feature it for our current reading theme.

The Genius Of Islam: How Muslims Made The Modern World

Text and Art by: Bryn Barnard
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
ISBN: 0375840729 (ISBN13: 9780375840722)
Obtained a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I have always known that the Islam civilization is one of the most ancient in the world. This book clearly highlights how Islamic culture and innovations created centuries ago successfully paved the way for modern conveniences that we enjoy now.

As noted in the first part of the book:

The Quran esteems learning, saying, “God will raise up in rank those of you who.. have been given knowledge.” Two adages attributed to the Prophet Muhammad underscore this idea: “Seek knowledge, even if be in China” and “The quest for learning is a duty for every Muslim.” Many scholars followed this advice to investigate and build on “foreign knowledge” – the centuries of learning of non-Muslim cultures, the common heritage of all humanity.

It was here that Islam would make some of its greatest contributions to the improvement of the human condition. In the hands of the open-minded and curious, Islam became a vehicle for unprecedented intellectual discovery.

As can be seen in the pages above, this title is quite text-heavy. The young reader would definitely need some scaffolding from an adult to fully comprehend the marvels found within. This book clearly shows how Islamic civilization is way ahead of its time when it comes to engineering, literature, mathematics, architecture, and in caring for the ill and infirm, the latter being one of the things that really caught my eye and interest.

Their health-care model is so sophisticated that their “place of the ill” even had a convalescent area, a pharmacy, a retirement home, libraries, special surgical theatres, courtyards with fountains and music to aid in the healing process. Rather than being billed, the sick people were even provided a stipend when they are discharged.

What broke my heart, though, is the ending, whereby much of the Arabic contribution to civilization has been systematically eradicated from history, until they were nothing but “barely a memory to all but scholars of the obscure.”

This is truly an interesting title that deserves some kind of discussion in your classrooms and would be a good addition to your library.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Celebrating the Roots of Modern Civilization in Bryn Barnard’s “The Genius Of Islam”

  1. lindabaie

    Clearly those in power manage to erase the history they do not want to live. It is sad that Islam now has only one meaning to many, violence. Thanks for this, Myra. I hope I can find it!


  2. That’s really neat! I will see if my library has this. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: