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Pruning the Youngster by Abdinoor Derow: A Book Review

By Adan Makina

The recently published book, Pruning the Youngster by Abdinoor Derow has been in progression for three years, according to the author who painstakingly took the time and energy to make it a reality. Published this year by Audi Publishers of Nairobi, Kenya, the book deeply focuses on the best ways of upbringing Muslim children by their parents. Taken from the Arabic translation of Tarbiyat al-Awlad that is part of the broader Tarbiyat al-Islam (Islamic etiquettes), the book, Pruning the Youngster, is loaded with Qur’anic and Hadithic exhortations that are the two major factors that make Islam a practical religion, a way of life, and as well supranational.

Figure 1: Pruning the Youngster. Photo by Dr. Abdullahi Ali, CBS on Twitter

In modern times and with the rise of social media that is proliferated by Information Technology (IT), Muslim youngsters’ access to Desktop and laptop computers, Smartphones and other software gadgets, propel them into unnecessary sites that finally alter their major family responsibilities like the care for their parents. Apart from being a great reader, and a listener and seeker of knowledge, the author is only twenty-two years old and a mentor of Muslim youth who desire to excel in this world and the Hereafter. Likewise, he took tremendous efforts to safeguard our current young generation and their parents.

Pruning the Youngster or Tarbiyat al-Awlad requires deeper focus and scrutiny especially among Somalis who have been without peace for almost three decades. When it comes to learning the Qur’an, Somalis could be regarded as the leading country in the world because, in every city, town, and villages or pastoral settlements, the number of privately-owned and administered Qur’anic dugsis (local religious schools) remain uncountable. The use of the old slate that is carved from wood for writing and known as Loox plus the old ink that is a mix of charcoal and milk or water and whose Somali name is either Inqaas or Anqaas, still remain in use. Adhering to the words of Allaah in the Qur’an and the Tradition of the Messenger of Allaah and learning from those endowed with knowledge helped the author reach his objectives. To further justify the wisdom in those endowed with knowledge, Allaah tells the believers to consult them or question them if they don’t understand anything related to his commandments in the Qur’an since they are the torchbearers of Islamic knowledge.

One living Somali Muslim legend who has mastered secular and Islamic knowledge who has been praised by the author together with other sheikhs is Sheikh Mustafe Haji Harun whom I also regard as the best religious consultant. During the launching ceremony in Nairobi, the author heaped praise on those who helped him reach his destination at the following link Abdinoor Derow speech during the launch of his book “Pruning the youngsters” at KICC Nairobi. In another interview, the author did not forget his mentor who is none other than the writer of this review. You can watch from STN Interview with author Abdinoor Derow to learn more about the role the reviewer played in the production of the book under discussion.

In this era of contemporary globalization, the widespread intermingling of multicultural societies and harsh artificial and natural push/push factors have driven many Muslim youngsters to plunge into un-Islamic social domains. Regardless of learning the Qur’an at tender ages in Madrasa and Dugsi from harsh teachers who may have been the major levers that injected ingrained hate and explosive anger as they grew up, obviously some turned out to be rebellious to their parents and siblings and the general public afterwards. No wonder, some even resort to apostasy. The author has used immense quotations from the Qur’an and Hadith and from learned Muslim scholars of the past and present. Taking a leaf from the Qur’an, he cites Luqman in Surah (chapter) 34, ayah (verse)14 and 15 where Luqman advises his son to be dutiful to his parents when they attain old age.

“And We have enjoined upon man concerning his parents. His mother beareth him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years–give thanks unto Me and unto thy parents. Unto Me is the journeying (verse 14).” In the above ayah, Allaah Almighty is relaying His Messages through His Messenger, Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)–messages in the form of revelations that were delivered by Archangel Gabriel (Malakul Jibriil, Aleihi Salam) that it is incumbent upon entire humankind concerning to care for both parents and it is not a message that is only directed to Muslims. From Surah Al-Aniya (21: 30), after expounding the separation of the earth and the heavens in what Cosmologists refer to as the “Big Bang”, Allah clearly tells us in the Qur’an “Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” Praise Be to Allaah who created me from a drop of disdained sperm, Aamiin.

Allaah’s use of “We” has nothing to do with Him having partners. Instead, it is the language used by the “King of Kings” who created everything living out of water and to Him they will return after death. Many ancient kings used the title King of Kings or Shahan Shah and yet, none is living today. He, al-Hayy (The Ever Living) took their souls despite decorating themselves with titles to disassociate themselves from their inferior subjects who served them to the end. In the Qur’an, Allaah refers to Himself as “Al-Malik ul-Mulk” which means King of Kings. The message by Luqman to his son is compulsory and obligatory upon humankind regardless of religion, creed, race, color, national origin and political association.

The belief in the Western world that once a child attains adulthood (18 years) that he or she is free to leave home and enter a new world while disposing the parents in old-age homes is unfounded from Islamic perspectives. Research after research conducted on old-age homes have uncovered harrowing tales of the mistreatment of elders by the same employees who get paid for the welfare and upkeep of those under their care. While the establishment of old-age homes is a business venture, generally, it is a human right violation that deserves eradication. A travel through the width and breadth of many Muslim countries is a testament to the absence of old-age homes. Broadly speaking, in the African continent, the term old-age home could be unheard of for millions.

Some Muslim scholars believe Luqman was a black man who was full of wisdom. While working for a reputed king whose name is unknown, the master king twice tried and tested Luqman. On the first trial he asked him to slaughter a sheep and bring him the best part of it after performing a perfect cooking of the meat. After a while, Luqman delivered nicely barbequed animal tongue and heart to which the master questioned him why he chose those body parts. In response, Luqman told him that the tongue, if effectively used, could lead humankind to the right path to attaining bliss and blessings and direct entrance to paradise. Likewise, the human tongue is the major cause of disbelief, wars and aggression.

In another episode, the master king again told Luqman to slaughter a livestock and bring him the worst part of it. Luqman did as directed and likewise delivered a heart and tongue. As for the heart, it gets laced with disease when misused and that Allaah increases disease upon disease to the heart of the disbeliever and the ultimate end is a gateway to hell. However, to the clean heart of the believers who believe in the unseen, observe prayers and then give away or offer to the poor parts of the sustenance provided by Allaah, their abode is paradise.

The following ayah contains a different message. If the parents ascribe partners to Allaah and if they strive to follow a religion other than Islam, their children will end up theologically lost, evade the right path and utterly disgraced if they follow their beliefs. However, abandoning them for ascribing partners to Allaah is sinful and unacceptable in the light of the Qur’an that is protected, unchangeable and without doubt. The best the child can do is to keep on admonishing them while giving them utmost care. That’s why Allaah tells those who believe in Him and His ayats (signs) that they should not obey them. “And if they strive with thee to make thee ascribe unto Me as partner that of which thou hast no knowledge, then obey them not; however, consort with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who repenteth unto Me. Then unto Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what ye used to do (verse 15).” Consorting the disbelieving parent means discussing and debating with them humanely without demeaning them and causing them unnecessary stress.

Whenever Allaah mentions gifts, He says or mentions “wahaba”. Some of the examples of honoring our children can be traced back to Prophet Ibrahim. While supplicating to Allaah, Ibrahim (Caleyhi Salaam) raised his hands heavenwards and cried to His Creator saying Oh My Lord! Gift me with pious children (Qur’an, 37: 100). Ibrahim (CS) also reminds the “Slaves of Allaah” to be mindful and dutiful to The Creator and pray to Him by saying: “And those who say ‘Our Lord!’ gift us from our children and spouses that which will be the coolness of our eyes and make us leaders for the pious (Qur’an, 25: 74).” Abraham or Ibrahim was given Ismail or Ishmael whose mother was an Egyptian whose name was Hagar in Hebrew and Hajira in Arabic. Later, Allaah sent angels to Ibrahim who hosted them as his guests by bringing them the meat of a roasted calf even though they did not eat. Then he became afraid of them.  They said: “Fear not,” and announced to him the good news of (the birth of) a boy endowed with knowledge (51:28).”

In Surah Hood, that child was Isaac whose mother was Sarah. Isaac who is Is-Xaaq (CS) became the father of Yacquub (Jacob) (CS) who was also known as Israel and was gifted with the interpreter of dreams Yusuf (CS) or Joseph and his 11 brothers.

“Allah is the One, based on His ultimate wisdom, who grants whomever He wills sons and daughters; He grants sons only to whomever He wills, and grants daughters only to whomever He wills, and if He so wills, He makes whomever He wills infertile [Qur’an 49:50].” For those who have not been given children, adoption is the best alternative for there are millions of abandoned children who desire parental care. Children and wealth are nothing but worldly glitters and what is important for the time you are on earth is having good deeds. Speaking to parents requires morals and values. The use of harsh words must be discarded and replaced with dignified language. “And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], uff, and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word (Surah Al-Israa 17, ayah 23).” One deserves to have a good grasp of Arabic etymology to understand the Qur’an so as not to make erroneous mistakes in interpretations of what is direct speech, metaphorical or allegorical. Sometimes Allaah uses similitudes that are likeness or resemblance. The term “uff” means fie and it is no different from speaking in a disgraceful manner. Though from old English, fie means disgust or outrage.

In his last sermon, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “O mankind, your Lord is One and your father is one. You all descended from Adam, and Adam was created from earth. He is most honored among you in the sight of God who is most upright. No Arab is superior to a non-Arab, no colored person to a white person, or a white person to a colored person except by Taqwa (piety).” [Ahmad and At-Tirmithi]. Going by the old adage, “charity begins at home”, it is the responsibility of the Muslim parent to teach their children good manners and stand up for their upbringing until they are capable of supporting themselves, so that, by the time the parents attain feeble age, the same children will provide for them affectionately. Children should be treated equally for elevating one over others could be a recipe for disaster.

With gender equality on the rise in modern times, Islam succinctly states the highly status of the mother in the Qur’an and Hadith. For the female, motherhood begins immediately after pregnancy. While the father is responsible for providing household provisions, it is the mother who bears the weight of raising the child from birth to adulthood. The Messenger of Allaah, in response to a question raised by one of his followers, repeated thrice the superiority of the mother over the father in terms of respect and allegiance. “Paradise lies beneath the feet of the mother” was his final response (Ahmed & Nasai). The author states in his book, Once a man came to the Prophet Muhammad (Swalallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! Who from amongst mankind is the most worthy of the best companionship from me?” He replied: “your mother” The man asked “Then who?” so He replied “Your mother.” The man then asked, “Then who?” So the prophet replied again “Your mother” The man then asked, “Then who?” So he replied, “Then your mother.” [Bukhari]. The fourth worthy person as a companion is the father.

Taken from the book under review, the author notes: Hudhaifa Ibn Usaid reported directly from Allah’s Messenger (Swalallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) that he said: When the drop of (semen) remains in the womb for forty or fifty (days) or forty nights, the angel comes and says: “My Lord, will he be good or evil?” And both these things would be written. Then the angel says: “My Lord, would he be male or female?” And both these things are written. And his deeds and actions, his death, his livelihood; these are also recorded. Then his document of destiny is rolled and there is no, addition to and subtraction from it. [Sahih Muslim Book 33, Number 6392].

The author has done enough research on the importance of parents and with that in mind, he grabbed a beautifully crafted poem by a Moroccan poetess who, in support of our mothers, wrote:
The most beautiful word on the Lips of mankind is the word
And the most beautiful
Call is the call of “My mother.”
It is a word full of hope and love, a sweet and
Kind word coming from the depths of the heart
Our mothers are everything
They are our consolation in sorrow
Our hope in misery,
Our strength in weakness.

He who losses her, losses a pure soul
Who blesses and guards him constantly
Everything in nature bespeaks the mother
Let us strive to make them feel loved and happy
It is not only a duty but an obligation.

Nabsiyow, raag mooye, run baan kugu jeclaaday is a Somali proverb that could be translated to mean ‘O you defamation, apart from your delays, I admire you for being truthful’. Defaming parents is dangerous and could lead the child to divine oppression in this world and intolerable punishment in the Hereafter.

Sang by the King of vocal music Mohamed Suleiman Tubeec (May Allaah admit him to Jannatul Firdows), the most admired Somali song on the importance and love of our mothers is called ‘Hooyo’ which means ‘Mother’. Despite the author being a ‘Wadaad’ or a religious scholar, I hope he wouldn’t mind if I add a few reminders regarding the exceptionality of the Somali mother.

Without a mother
We couldn’t have learned spelling
Without a mother
We couldn’t talk
As human beings
The more you sing…
Take care of your mother
Hold on tight to her…

In a nutshell, “A child by definition is a person of young age who has not reached puberty and is incapable of making important decisions for him or herself. Child development is the process and mechanisms which act during the physical and mental growth of a baby before turning into adult. Childhood is divided into two which are early childhood and middle and late childhood. Early childhood is from when the child is a baby until 6 years old while middle and late childhood is between 7 and 12 years old. A child during middle and late childhood starts to develop inquisitive nature about the things they see and observe (Mohd Jaladin, 2010).”[i]

Drug abuse is on the rise among the Somali youngster and Muslims worldwide. Parent’s failure to restrain their children’s behaviors from childhood until adulthood is the major cause of such behavioral changes. Parents munching miraa with their children is a dangerous behavior that deserves to be tackled. Eloping young girls or forcing them into marriage against their wishes is also another primordial culture that requires total abandonment. Demanding enormous dowry from the bridegroom is un-Islamic. Among Somalis, in the past, dowry was paid in livestock, however, in modern times, demand for the U.S. Dollar has become a common culture. With divorce on the rise, it is best to rethink what the major causes are. Brides who demand expensive home furnishings and gold is another headache for the bridegroom. Marriage should not be expensive. Resorting to witchcraft to overcome the bridegroom has been increasing among married women in modern times.

For male Diaspora Somalis and other nationalities who abandon their families with the deceptive intents to migrate to their countries of origin, during their temporary or permanent absence, the pain and anguish suffered by the single mother and her children is worth recollecting. Reading through the lines of a previous article related to this issue is worth mentioning. First written in 2010 by a prolific writer[ii], the article has undergone reproduction twice by the current website with the intention of bringing to the attention of Diaspora Somalis the significance of the presence of fathers with their families rather than bidding voyage to their loved ones and returning to their homelands to partake in miraa chewing sessions and getting elevated to unnecessary pharaonic statuses known as apotheosis (God-like).

In conclusion, the author of “Pruning the Youngster” is a young man who deserves to be emulated in terms of philomathy which is the love of reading and writing. While Somaliland youth have taken the lead in the production of books, the author of the book in review hails from northern Kenya especially the town of Wajir. Therefore, I would advice those who have taken to what Somalis refer to as “wareeg iyo waab tiris” to abandon such activities and take to the pen and write and as well read as much as they can.

By abandoning ‘unnecessary movements and counting enclosures or walls’ (wareeg iyo waab tiris), they will always be available attending to their parents. When the youngster stays closer to the parents, close cooperation, collaboration and coordination (three Cs) will obviously come to fruition. Doing that will enable both parties to learn from each other.

To order a copy of “Pruning the Youngster”, please contact the author Abdinoor Derow @ +254-713-583-910. He can also be reached by email @ [email protected]

Adan Makina
Email:[email protected]


[i] Mohd Jaladin, R.A. (2010). Perkembangan kognitif kanak-kanak. Dewan Kosmik. Retrieved from Perkembangan_kognitif_kanak-kanak [20 Mei 2014].

[ii] Sii’arag, D. The Inglorious Absentee Father in Contemporary Somali Politics.

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