Sira: The Tree of Many Fruits

Tonight we read about the tree of many fruits mentioned in the children’s Sira The Light of Muhammad by Hajjah Amina Adil.

We learned about the dream that the grandfather of the Prophet (s) had before his birth with a tree of many fruits.  My son asked why Abdul Muttalib needed to kill one of his sons.


I told my son that he was confused and that Allah (s) only asked this sacrifice of Ibrahim (a) and then the angel saved Ismail (a).  In this story though Abdul Muttalib sacrificed camels instead of his son Abdullah in the end.

My son asked what Allah (s) really wanted Abdul Muttalib to do with his sons.  I said that maybe Allah (s) wanted the sons of Abdul Muttalib to follow the Prophet Muhammad (s).

In the dream of Abdul Muttalib there was a man glowing with light.  I asked my son who that man was and he said the it was the Prophet (s).

Please share you ideas for teaching children about the Sira of the Prophet Muhammad (s).

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Sira: The Green Lamp

Tonight we reviewed the story of the creation of the light of the Prophet (s) in The Light of Muhammad by Hajjah Amina Adil.  This year for Rabi al Awal my son insisted that we read the Sira again. I had planned to only read the birth story of the Prophet (s) because we are now in the middle of our Illuminated Quran Project and I had planned to start our 99 Names: A Visual Tasbih soon, but to my son the Masjid of Sira Project is now Mawlid tradition and so he helped me mount the canvas on the wall and add the green lamp to the first port.

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The story be began with a description of the creation of the light of the Prophet (s).  My son asked if Allah (s) created himself.  I said that no Allah (s) was not created.  My son asked why the light of the Prophet (s) was with Allah (s) for a very very long time.  I said that I did not know why but that maybe Allah (s) was teaching the Prophet (s).

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My son asked if the light of Muhammad (s) is with Allah (s) right now.  I said that I did not know for sure but that the Prophet (s) is also still alive in his grave so I was not sure if he could be in two places at once but that it was possible.

In the story we learned about the pen and my son wanted to know how the pen wrote by itself.  I said that I did not know either but that it was a special pen.  He asked if anyone knows what the pen looked like.  I said that I did not know for sure but that I painted the pen for the surah about Luqman (a).


My son wanted to know why Allah (s) made bad jinn.  I thought this could be so that we learn what is good from what is bad.

My son wanted to know if Allah (s) made the languages.  I said I did not know for sure but that he did make the heavenly languages and the source of language.  My son asked how Allah (s) created language and I said the same way he made everything else but I did not know the details.  My son asked how Allah (s) made our tongues.  I said that he wrote the instructions in our cells called DNA.

Please share your ideas for sharing the Sira of the Prophet Muhammad (s) with children.

Mawlid Ornaments: All the Fish of the Sea

I am so excited to present our first contributed Mawlid Ornament this holiday season!  I received these photographs yesterday.  These are fish of all the 7 seas that learned of the birth of the Prophet (s) from Zalmusa, the great fish that announced the birth to them in the Sira story.

 

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They used cardstock to make the fish and then hung them with string.

 

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If you would like to read more about Zalmusa and the story of the Prophet Muhammad’s (s) birth please see The Light of Muhammad by Hajjah Amina Adil.

Please share your Mawlid decorating ideas so we can be inspired by you.

Mawlid Mobile: Zalmusa

This year for our Mawlid Mobile I looked at many examples of fish in Asian and Islamic art and finally settled on this composite of a fish to represent Zalmusa, the enormous fish that danced in sea and announced the birth of the Prophet (s) to all the 7 seas.


I used a light green construction paper in two layers for the body and glued the fins between each piece.

When all was dry I painted on the eyes, scales and other detail with blue watercolour paint.  Then I added a jeweled eye and some pearl stickers to the scales.

 

My children were so excited to see the completed mobile with all the ornaments and lights this year.  Their eyes light up and they run around shrieking with joy and it all seems worth it to put in this effort each year to make the holiday special.


Please share your ideas for Mawlid decorating.

25. Illuminated Quran: The Criterion Lesson Review

Tonight we reviewed the lesson plan for 25. Illuminated Quran:  The Criterion.

We began this lesson by looking at the watercolour wash painting for this surah of light above and dark bellow.  My son wanted to talk about what the light and dark meant.  He wanted to know if light is good and dark is bad.  I asked if that is so how do we know what is good without bad.  He said if we listen to Allah (s) we are good and have light and powers like he gives to the Prophets.  He went on and said that if we are bad we are like orcs (demonic Tolkien book characters) and Allah (s) will put you in Hell and maybe forgive you and take you up to Jenna.  He said that even if you go to Jenna after being bad you won’t have the light because you listened to Shaitan.


I asked my son if he could think of an example of right and wrong.  He said that people think light is up and down is black.  Lights are like Jenna and down is like the fire of Hell.  He said it is wrong if robbers are bad and steal.  He said that the all the Prophets do right things.

I asked my son if we have night and day for a reason.  He said we are tired so Allah (s) gave us time to rest for a long time and then wake up.

I asked my son what light and dark mean.  He said Shaitan is dark and bad and Allah is light and Jenna so maybe that means that light is good.

I asked my son what it means if there is a shadow.  He said that dark is bad and sometimes black.  He said that in the dark (darker room) his shadow is lighter.  He said “I glow like light in the dark.”

Please share your experiences with exploring the meaning of the Quran with children.

Gardens of Islam: Kuwait City Park

One of our contributors recently submitted these photos from a park in Kuwait city.


I want to thank our contributor and you can find more information about this park at this link: al Shaheed Park.

I would like to thank our contributor and invite our readers to send us photos when they visit the Gardens of Islam with their children.

Gardens of Islam: Herbal Skin Ointment

For our second workshop our little apothecaries learned about the properties of lavender and camomile from the Hadiqat al-Azhar, a medieval text about traditional Islamic medicine.  The children love this class because it makes them feel like they are in a potions class at Hogwarts.  We tell them they are making real medicines like medieval herbalists.

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We learned that lavender is antimicrobial as well as soothing and calming for anxiety.

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Camomile helps with skin irritation and has a calming or sedative effect as well.

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The ingredients for this ointment are:

Coconut Oil

Beeswax

Olive Oil

Chamomile Oil

Lavender Oil

The beeswax was grated and added to all the other ingredients and then heated on the stove until melted.  The ointment was then put into a glass jar to cool and needed to be mixed occasionally.  When cool the oinment was rubbed onto the temples of the children and they did seem calmer afterward.

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I would like the thank Miriam Hicklin for hosting this amazing workshop from her Hadiqat al Azhar series.

Please share your ideas for learning about the Gardens of Islam and Traditional Islamic Medicine.

24. Illuminated Quran: The Light Lesson Review

Tonight we reviewed the lesson plan for 24. Illuminated Quran: The Light.

This surah speaks about animals being created from water.  I asked my son why water is important for living things.  He was not sure.  I asked him if the planets without water look dead.  He agreed.  He asked why they are dead and did they once have life.  I said that some people are trying to find out if they had life once and then lost it but we also do not know if any other planets have life now.  I explained that Mars maybe had life if it had water.

This surah speaks about animals that crawl and walk on 2 legs and 4.  I asked if he can think of an animal that crawls and he said a baby cheetah.  I asked if he could think of an animal that walks on 2 legs and he said a squirrel, or that at least they can stand on 2 legs.  I asked if he could think of an animal that walks on 4 legs and he said a cheetah.

 
This surah speaks about some rules around respecting privacy and taking permission before entering a room etc.  I asked my son what privacy is and he wasnt sure.  I explained that it means you get to have a private place in your home.  I asked him why we are supposed to knock before entering a room.  He said that if a lady is getting dressed we need to knock first.

Please share your experiences with exploring the meaning of the Quran with children.

23. Illuminated Quran: The Beleivers Lesson Review

Tonight we reviewed the lesson for 23. Illuminated Quran: The Believers .

This surah speaks about the story of the Prophet Nuh (a).  This section is part of our Tree of Prophets  series: Tree of Prophets: Nuh (a)

I asked my son if he would be afraid if he were on the ark in the flood.  He said that he would not be afraid.  He said that if you slept and someone put you in a boat maybe you wouldn’t be scared.

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I asked my son what the most important part of the story was.  At first he said that the ark finding dry land was the best part.  I asked why and he said because it gives us hope.  After he said that the best part was when Nuh (a) made the ark.  I asked him why that was important.  He said that it was really clever to learn how to make a boat of wood and that it was more clever to build the boat before the flood came.

I asked my son what happened to the believers.  He wasn’t sure so we discussed how they landed after the flood and started having families.

I asked my son if the earth is like an ark that carries life through the solar system.  He said that sounded right and he wanted to know why he can’t feel the earth moving around the solar system.  I explained that the earth is moving so fast that you can’t feel the speed and that gravity is pulling us down so we don’t fly off the earth.  He then wanted to know why airplanes are not pulled down by gravity.  I explained that airplanes travel so fast that as long as they have a certain speed they will not fall down.  Like when we throw a ball in the air, it will not fall immediately but later once it slows down.

This surah speaks about the context of creation and biological life.  For this surah I decided to talk about the ideal placement of the earth in the solar system to support biological life.  First I played my son a short YouTube video about mars so that he could see the differences between a planet with life and a planet that appears dead.  My son wanted to know “why the water is gone from Mars.” I explained that this is one of the things scientists are studying right now but they do not know for sure.


I asked my son where earth is in the solar system.  He said he did not know so I pulled up a model of the solar system on my phone and showed him that we are the third planet from the sun.  My son asked if there is life on other planets and I said that we think so but that we have not yet found proof.  He asked if there is life on Jupiter.  I said we do not know but that it was not likely because of the conditions there.  He asked if anyone ever went to another planet and I told him not yet but that many people want to.  I told him that people have gone to the moon.  He wanted to know why they did not die.  I explained that they brought water, air, food and warm space suits.

I asked my son if it would be hard to live on Mars or Venus.  He wasn’t sure so I asked if you can breathe there; he said no.  I asked if there is water to drink there; he said no.  I asked if there is food to eat there; he said no.  I then asked if the earth is special in that way and he said yes it is.

Please share your experiences with exploring the meaning of Quran with children.

The Children’s Ghazali Project

Some of our readers have asked my opinion about the The Children’s Ghazali Project.  I do own the Al-Ghazali book illustrated by Demi but I had not seen the Al Ghazali Book of Knowledge for Children or Al Ghazali Book of Knowledge for Children Workbook until this week.  A friend visiting from the UK brought both books with her on a recent visit and I was finally able to have a look.

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I read through the first two lessons and I am pleased to see that they introduced a wali figure to teach and mentor the children as a way to introduce the concepts.  This is exactly what I am doing with a young adults version of the lives on the Prophets that will be posted here in a few months.  Encouraging children to search out the wise people in their community instead of others who are poorly informed is an excellent example.  The type is large and easy for children to read.  It is nice that the children in the story are so sweet and are seeking knowledge but children are not always little angels and so I do wonder if their characters ought to be a little more flawed but perhaps they are further along in the curricula.

The workbook has a list of suggestions for discussion and critical thinking about the concepts introduced each chapter.  I would not recommend using all of the suggestions unless you are on a role and the kids are very engaged because the family that brought the books to me said that the kids found it a little boring.  This may have more to do with the implementation though because the boys said that the lady leading their study group was using a Power Point presentation and that did not really connect with them.

I would also recommend some sort of sequence or advent calendar format for each chapter like we did for the life of Prophet Musa (a) because I find that children need a gimmick of some sort with a large project to conceptualize where they have been, where they are, and where they are going with a long narrative.  The idea is to have an image or something you add each time you complete a unit so the children can visualize their progress.  If I come up with something for the Ghazali curricula I will post it on the website.

 

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The thing that I would have done differently with the text of Imam Al-Ghazali: The Book of Knowledge for Children is to use sufi teaching stories or other stories from Islamic literature to convey the lesson.  This would be easy to do if the wise person the children were speaking to told the story and used that story for the lesson.  For instance in chapter 25 when the Grandmother figure is speaking about the dot on the heart a short story from the sira of the Prophet Muhammad (s) could be used to speak about how the angel washed the heart of the Prophet (s).  Later in the chapter they speak about the concept of spying or looking for the fault of others and this would be a good point to tell the story of how Iblis did not bow to Adam (a) and instead looked around to see if anyone was not making sajda to Adam (a).  This nesting story style is common in Islamic literature like the  Arabian Nights and The Conference of the Birds.  I feel that style would work better because teaching stories are very valuable tools with children.

The artwork for Imam Al-Ghazali: The Book of Knowledge for Children is good quality and hand drawn or photographs made to look like watercolour painting.  However, I would have prefered if the artwork was in the Persian miniature style that Demi used for Al-Ghazali.  This is because I believe that whenever possible the Islamic art style should be used for Muslim children.

 

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This is why I have attempted to draw from Islamic art with most of our projects on the website even though I am not an artist and struggle to do so.  The reason I do this is because the art that people make is related to the concepts their culture values.  The aesthetic of Muslim art ranges from Medieval illuminated manuscripts to abstract and geometrical patterns and calligraphy bent into representational images.  The images in Imam Al-Ghazali: The Book of Knowledge for Children are not from this aesthetic and if they were going to depart from Islamic art for this project I would have prefered Waldorf style pastels which can give a nice mysterious and mystical feel.

I am not sure that I will use this curricula soon because I am still working through some very long projects with my children like The Illuminated Quran and I am not sure I can expect my 6 year old to sit through a lesson without a story at this time.  I do think this could work well for older children who have more patience and can read the chapters on their own.  Later if I use this series I think that I may read the book to my children and add notes where I will tell useful stories with the lesson and ask contemplative questions.  I may not use the workbook formally but look over the lesson plan for the contemplative questions.  The Great Books program is an excellent way to teach by using contemplative questions and I think that the Ghazali Project for Children is a step in this direction.

I applaud this curricula for emphasizing contemplation because this is something often missing from Islamic teaching for children that emphasizes memorization over comprehension.

I hope to see more Islamic curricula in the future in this style and it is my sincere hope that contemplative lessons become the standard of education for Muslim children and that the Ghazali Project for Children is part of that educational program.

Please share your experiences with the Ghazali Project for Children and any other curricula that challenges Muslim children to think as well as memorize.