Son of the Gazelle

De Zoon van de Gazelle
Anak Rusa Mencari Tuhan

is a contemporary retelling of a famous story (Hayy Ibn Yaqzan) from twelfth-century-Spain (Al-Andalus), the heyday of Arab-Islamic civilization. The book tells of a boy who grows up on a deserted island and is raised by a gazelle. Not knowing how he got there he sets out on his own journey of discovery. While philosophizing, he gains insight into the big questions of life, like what’s the origin of life, what is the difference between humans and (other) animals, what can we learn from nature, is the universe infinite or finite, and, what is a good person?

The ‘De Zoon van de Gazelle’ (The Son of the Gazelle) is written especially for a young audience (but also very appealing to adult readers). It is written with the aim of philosophising with children about existential questions (at school, at home or elsewhere) and building bridges in our diverse societies. It shows that certain existential philosophical questions are universal, regardless of the philosophical/religious traditions and backgrounds. At the same time, it is written to connect children from different backgrounds with a story from the Islamic (philosophical) tradition that is often marginalised. This illustrated book is a small contribution to the decolonisation of children’s philosophy and literature that is often Eurocentric. The story also connects philosophy with science, mysticism and religion, bridging the apparent contradictions between these disciplines or domains and opening new questions for discussion. At the end of each chapter are some philosophical questions to ponder or engage in a philosophical group discussion or critical dialogue.

The original story, Hayy ibn Yaqzan (‘Living Son of Awakening’), is one of the great texts of world literature. The writer Ibn Tufayl (1110-1185) was an Islamic philosopher, theologian, mystic (sufi), physician, astronomer and high-ranking political advisor, who was born in southern Spain and lived there, as well as in Morocco.

Publication history

The book was first published in Dutch titled ‘De Zoon van de Gazelle’ in november 2022 by Publishing House De Meent. The book won two awards in the Netherlands: The Ludoq Public Prize 2022 for best philosophical children’s book, and the Berry Heesen Prize 2023 for best innovative idea for children’s philosophy. In September 2024 a theater play about the book will be performed in the Netherlands.

In May 2024 the book was translated and published by Mizan Publishing under the title ‘Anak Rusa Mencari Tuhan” (The Son of the Gazelle in search of God). Translations in other languages might follow. The authors are happy that the first translation of the book is from Dutch to Bahasa Indonesia, because Indonesia is the largest Muslim majority country in the world with a Dutch (colonial) history, and it is also a multi-religious country. They hope it can play a role in the context of interreligious dialogue, between Muslims and Christians (and other groups) and also between Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Read the Publisher’s Introduction (Mizan Publishing Indonesia)   Introduction Publisher IND, Introduction Publisher ENG , Introduction Publisher NL.


About the authors:

Sabine Wassenberg is philosopher and writer. She teaches philosophy for children and also gives training courses. Other books she wrote include ‘Kinderlogica’ (Children’s logic) and ‘Mijn ego en ik’ (My ego and I).

Kamel Essabane is Ph.D candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen, Department of Comparative Religious Studies. He teaches Islamic philosophy at the Fahm Institute. Kamel has been involved in NICMCR and contributed to some of its conferences.

The illustrations are made by Karuna Wirjosemito, yoga and meditation teacher. Karuna has been drawing since childhood. Now her love for the mystical insights of yoga and the art of drawing, come together beautifully in creating the illustrations for this book.

Read more about the book:

To order De Zoon van de Gazelle (25 euro), click here:

To order Anak Rusa Mencari Tuhan  (75.650 RP) click here