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The Son of the Gazelle


The Son of the Gazelle is a famous story from the twelfth century,

the heyday of Arab-Islamic culture. It is about a boy who grows up on a desert island and is raised by a gazelle. He doesn't know how he got there and goes on a journey of discovery on his own. While philosophizing, he gains insight into the great questions of life:


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?

What is a good person?

The Son of the Gazelle is a contemporary retelling of Hayy ibn Yaqzan, one of the great texts of world literature. The writer Ibn Tufayl (1110-1185) was an Islamic philosopher, theologian, physician, astronomer and high-ranking political advisor, who lived in southern Spain.

The story is accompanied by illustrations and written for a young audience (while also appealing to adult readers). This originally Arab-Islamic story will build bridges in our diverse society by showing that certain philosophical questions are universal, regardless of the philosophical/religious background of the person asking them. At the end of each chapter are a number of philosophical questions to ponder or have a philosophical conversation about together.

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About the makers:


Sabine Wassenberg:

Sabine is a philosopher, teaches at schools – philosophy for children – and provides trainings. She writes books on philosophy for children, such as Kinderlogica, philosophizing at a multicultural school, Philo & Sophia and three editions of the Great Philosophy Puzzlebook. Her first book however was about her own philosophical journey to discover the self: My ego and I.  


Kamel Essabane:

Kamel is a PhD candidate at the University of Nijmegen in Comparative Religious Studies on the theme of citizenship and Islamic education. He teaches a course in Islamic philosophy at the Fahm Institute. Kamel previously worked as a teacher at the teacher training college for Islamic education and as an educational counselor and trainer at Arkade.


The illustrations are by Karuna Wirjosemito. Karuna is a yoga and meditation teacher and gives massage therapy. In addition, she has been drawing with great pleasure since childhood. On her travels she always carries a drawing book with her to draw landscapes, plants and animals. Her love for the mystical insights of yoga and the drawing arts now come together nicely creating the illustrations for this book.


Philosophical Approach to Life Questions - training for schools:

For schools that want to get started with the book, Kamel Essabane and Sabine Wassenberg provide workshops to train teachers in guiding the philosophical conversation. ​


The reasoning in the book is easy for children to follow and challenges them to think for themselves and take up their own point of view, which does not necessarily match that of the main character of the story. This allows you to have wonderful conversations with your class about philosophical questions. More examples from the book: ​


How should you deal with nature?

What is the place of man in nature?

What is the essential difference between humans and animals?

What is life?

What is death?

How do you deal with grief?

Do you need school/education or can you learn everything independently (from nature)?

Do you need other people to be happy?

How can you be a good person?

What is love?

What is friendship?

The philosophical discussion method gives the teacher a safe position and thus the space to respect all answers and convictions, and to stimulate critical thinking. The book The Son of the Gazelle is a stimulus in this regard: a story provides input for the discussion in class about philosophical questions. ​


When booking a workshop Philosophy about Life Questions for your school, the teachers receive books for their students as a gift. Inquire about the possibilities.



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