As a child, I developed a passion for reading – books, magazines, newspapers – anything. A passion that was nurtured by my late father who, every week, as part of his weekly shopping trip, would buy me a ladybird book. Needless to say I had the lot – Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Chicken Licken, The Enormous Turnip …. you name it – I had every single one. And many of them first edition! I loved my books and kept them in a cupboard in the family living room and every day would sit and read them or have my big brothers and sisters read them to me. Until 1973 that is. Because in 1973 my nephew, the first of the next generation of the Haroon family came into the world. And from the day he started to crawl and get into all sorts of nooks, crannies and cupboards my lovingly bought collection was systematically massacred. And yes I have forgiven him (and still love him dearly) but I’ve never forgotten my books. Especially one. The one book I’ve always remembered but could not quite recall the story of was one called Naaman and the little Maid.
Just before Christmas someone said to me “Amazon have everything”. And I decided to search for my much loved long lost but never forgotten storybook. And surprisingly and much to my delight (and almost 40 years after first reading it) I found it! What I hadn’t realised was Naaman and the Little Maid was an Old Testament tale set in Israel and Syria about the Prophet Elisha and how, by washing in the River Jordon, Naaman was cleaned from leprosy. I remember how excited my dad was when he came home with this little book – and have only just realised why!
“Elisha (Arabic: Alyasa’ اليسع) is also considered an Islamic prophet and is seen by Muslims to be the prophetic successor to Elijah (Ilyas). Elisha is mentioned twice in the Quran as a prophet, and is mentioned both times alongside fellow prophets:
And commemorate Ishmael, Elisha, and Ezekiel: Each of them was of the Company of the Good. (Quran, sura 38 (Sad), ayah 48)
And Ishmael and Elisha and Jonas and Lot: and to all We gave favour above the nations:
(To them) and to their fathers, and progeny and brethren: We chose them, and we guided them to a straight way. (Quran, sura 6 (Al-An’am), ayat 86-87)
Ibn Kathir traces Elisha’s genealogy through his father, in Islamic tradition named Ukhtub, back to the lineage of Aaron. In the various Stories of the Prophets compilations in Islamic literature, Elisha’s story is often grouped with that of his contemporary Elijah. The historian Hasan of Basra said: “Elisha came after Elias, peace be upon them. He called his people to the way of God and followed the laws and Shariah revealed to Elias, till he passed away”.
Muslims believe that Elijah was directed by God to appoint Elisha as the succeeding prophet before vanishing into the protection of God. The narrative of Elisha in Muslim tradition is similar to that in the Hebrew Bible. Muslim scholars believe that Elisha prophesied through the reign of four kings: Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Jehoash but that Israel refused to hear his words.
Some Muslims believe the tomb of Elisha is in Al-Awjam in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia. The shrine was removed by the Government[when?] because such veneration is not in accordance with Wahhabi or Salafi Islam. It had been an important landmark for many centuries during and before the Sunni Ottoman dominance of the Middle-East. It had been a destination for pilgrims.
A shrine of Elisha is present in the Eğil district of Diyarbakir Province, Turkey”.
Childhood memories are so precious. But there will always be some memories that have a lasting effect on us. For me, one such memory is of my loving daddy and the greatest gift he bestowed upon me – the love of reading.
“Read! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created-
Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood:
Read! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,-
He Who taught (the use of) the pen,-
Taught man that which he knew not.
Quran, sura 96 (Al-Alaq), ayat 1-5