• Burhana Islam

Harry Potter and the Lessons Learnt

Updated: Jan 24, 2018

Today I started a conversation with someone about Harry Potter- surprise, surprise. This little lady hadn’t indulged in the magical world like the rest of us. She hadn't been swept up by the storm the Potterverse gave our eyes. When we may have had late nights with our noses buried in the trio’s search for the Deathly Hallows, she, well, she wasn’t doing so- and to me that’s enough of a crime. I guess she was the kind of girl who hadn’t had her heart broken by Dobby, she hadn’t wept shamelessly when Severus Snape declared the truth behind the mask he so convincingly wore, and she didn’t stay with Harry until the very end. Bro, she didn’t even start that stuff. 

So this is sort of dedicated to her- dedicated to the girl who didn’t live. 

There are people in this world who tend to dismiss the Potter books as popular fiction with no literary merit. They sweep it aside along with the likes of Hunger Games, Twilight and Divergent, regarding it as a mediocre buzz in the emerging world of Young Adult literature. The series had found its peak some time ago, but now is declining to gathering dust at the back of a forgotten bookshelf.  

And then there are those who believe it's cardinal sin- I'm not exaggerating here. 

To be honest, I’m not going to go into either in detail. I’m going to give you my take.

Like a lot of people, the Potter world is something I hold dear to my heart. It IS my childhood. However, there’s still something about it that resonates even years after I’ve left those pages behind me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve only really become certain of one fact: the only thing that we are guaranteed in this life is death. I don’t mean that in a morbid way; it is what it is and I accept that- just as Harry did when he walked into the forest again. That’s why I like the books so much. Rowling has a way of dealing with death that others don’t. I’ve seen and been in schools who have banned the books because of their religious ideologies. They claim that the books have satanic, unchristian and unorthodox (to any mainstream religion) subtexts, but they don’t seem to take into consideration that these stories- unlike many others- endorse the ideas of afterlife, morality and the triumph of choosing between what is right and what is easy. Last time I checked, mainstream religions definitely promoted those particular themes.

There’s a poignant moment in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Harry’s in the Department of Mysteries listening to voices behind the veil. He and Luna are the only ones that hear the loved ones they’ve lost on the other side. They, unlike their classmates, have unfortunately experienced death in a way that I can’t even imagine. There’s something comforting about the voices beyond the veil though, something that kind of takes your breath away. As Sirius quite rightly says, the ones that love us never truly leave us. They remain with us until the very end. It’s a beautiful thought.

Years later, when Harry visits his parents’ graves in Deathly Hallows, the stone’s inscribed ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’ (Corinthians 15:26). He mistakenly takes the inscription as something Voldemort himself would recite, but Hermione corrects him. James and Lily accepted death. They welcomed it with open arms like the third Peverell brother. His parents embraced the idea of living beyond death; they acknowledged that there are some causes that need protecting and things worth fighting for- whether it’s big ideas like freedom from oppression and overthrowing a tyrant or small things like struggling to stay on the right path and working on our flaws. Death wasn’t an obstacle anymore: ‘to the well organised mind- [it] was but the next great adventure’. I just wish some of these school would see this side of it. In neglecting them, their depriving their kids of the enchantment of this whole other world.

Stories like these teach us that there is something precious about the life that we take for granted and, you know what, it’s going to take us a hell of a long time to realise it. I’ve read a library of stories throughout my childhood (and I will continue to do so in shaa Allah), but there’s a little magic in these books that aren’t confined to spells, sorcery and Hogwarts: A History. Maybe it’s the child hero that fights for what’s right despite all the wrongs he has faced, maybe it’s the search for justice spun in a web of lies, or maybe it’s about remaining hopeful in the storm of adversity. Whatever it is, it’s taught me that these stories are powerful and the great ones will linger long after we’ve left. 


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