University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Literature-Based Character Development & Islamic Children’s Fiction: A Study with American Muslim Children, American Muslim Writers and Middle Eastern Muslim Children

Gilani-Williams, F. (2015) Literature-Based Character Development & Islamic Children’s Fiction: A Study with American Muslim Children, American Muslim Writers and Middle Eastern Muslim Children. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

Text (PhD thesis)
PhD Thesis Fawzia Gilani Williams.pdf - Submitted Version

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This study was an investigation of whether Islamic children’s literature could empower
children’s personal, social and spiritual understanding. The research question was further
delineated into three objectives
a. What is Islamic children’s fiction?
b. To what extent does current Islamic children’s literature contribute to this through
understanding the motives and purposes of those who wrote it?
c. What insight can we draw from social/moral/multicultural education?
This study arose from an awareness and concern for individual, community and global
harmony. The promulgation of human kindness and consideration is essential in order to
respect the rights of all individuals. If children can recognise the fundamentals of human
rights and understand that human rights are inviolable for themselves and for others, then
they are in a much stronger and more informed position to contribute to and create a better
The initial focus group for this study was Islamic school children in Western lands and
Western Islamic writers. As a result the reconnaissance phase was conducted in the USA with
Muslim children. However, the research was later moved to the Middle East. Although the
Middle Eastern children like the American children were a homologous group in the sense
that they were all Muslim, they were also a heterologous group because of their parent’s
diverse national origins. Since the study sought to determine whether Islamic children’s
fiction could empower Muslim children to change their negative behaviour the study did not
alter from its initial focus despite the change of geographical location. However, the
geographical location did create a difference because of some cultural behaviours and
attitudes in the Middle East being different to those in America.
As this study was initially concerned with literature-based character development in Western
Islamic school settings, Western Muslim writers constituted the focus group. The motives and
purposes of the writers had relevance for the Western Muslim child mostly in terms of sense
of place, visibility, positive identity and bibliotherapy. These elements were also transferable
to the Middle Eastern child especially those who were marginalised through having different
The methodological approach for the study utilized action research. Action research was
conducted with female Muslim children aged between eight and ten. A baseline assessment
was conducted using a questionnaire. A cycle of specifically written stories were used to
engage thought and discussion on oppression and empowerment. Data was gathered through
pupils’ work, parent questionnaires, field notes, interviews and observations. In addition
teachable moments were reflected on and carpet discussions were held daily to encourage
familiarisation and application of the terms ‘right thought’, ‘right speech’, ‘right action’ and
‘wrong thought’, ‘wrong speech’ and ‘wrong action’. It was found that a combination of
these interventions allowed most students to develop their personal, social and spiritual understanding.
The methodological approach for the second objective used life story methodology. Six
writers from the USA, one writer from Canada and one from the UK took part in the study
and responded to various questions about their lives. The responses illuminated interesting
points about the development of Islamic children’s fiction and its purpose. This study also
focused on what insight could be drawn from social / moral / multicultural education. As a
result this study has introduced a new term, qissa-ihsan or biblioihsan which is
complementary to bibliotherapy and aligned to the personal, social and spiritual development
of Muslim children. The concept of qissa-ihsan or biblioihsan was formed as a means of
empowering Muslim children who are suffering difficulty and hardship.
Finally, in the absence of a theory that promotes an Islamic Weltanschauung, Islamic Critical
Theory was adapted from Critical Theory to give an Islamic worldview. This was developed
using Horkheimer’s three criteria definition of a critical theory. It can be argued that Islamic
Critical Theory is a new theory in as much as textbooks on theories do not include it. This
study outlines the characteristics of Islamic Critical Theory showing Islam has an
emancipatory proclivity and ties these to give historic origins dating to the re-emergence of
the Islamic message in the Arabian Peninsula. Islamic Critical Theory was used to underpin
this study.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the University’s
requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Worcester, 2015.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Muslim children's literature, Islamic critical theory, personal understanding, social understanding, spiritual understanding, character development, Muslim children's authors, bibliotherapy, biblioihsan, qissa-ihsan, action research, life story
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2021 11:54
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2021 11:54

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