Understanding the Qur’an using Lego

As always I’m on the lookout for new books and media that would enlighten Muslim kids and teens while encouraging them to feel a sense of happiness in being Muslim and to practice their faith with confidence. So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this pictorial blog: Teaching Kids the Holy Quran. It’s a site dedicated to illustrating ayat (verses) of the Holy Quran using Lego.

Yes, that’s right, Lego; those plastic construction toy blocks. The blogger and designer, Mezba, uses his vast collection of lego to ‘illustrate’ scenes and incidents narrated in the Quran. He then take a photograph of these scenes with the relevant ayah (verse) added in. The detail and vivid colours of the designs are amazing. What I find interesting is the ‘Prologue’ that precede the actual verses. These act as a sort of ‘introduction.’

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...

Image via Wikipedia

I think these illustrated ayat may be useful to parents and teachers when teaching children and even teenagers the meaning of the Qur’an. While we memorise the Quran in Arabic the majority of people attempt to grasp the meaning of the Quran in the language they know. At Teaching Kids the Holy Quran, the English translation is used. 

Thus far there are mixed selection of verses from Makki and Madani surah. Up on the site now is Surah Al Zalzala (The Earthquake) showing an excellent depiction of the chaos that comes with the arrival of the last day.

If you’re interested read more about what the site is about here or just visit http://readwithmeaning.wordpress.com/

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The War Within Our Hearts (Book Review)

From time to time I come across books that I wish existed when I was a teenager. Books that would have helped me develop my self-identity and answered many of the burning questions that confused my head. The War Within Our Hearts is one such book that I encountered recently. It’s filled with almost all the kinds of questions young adults have these days. And it gives the answers too, realistically from an Islamic viewpoint, without being preachy and overbearing. Today I don’t think there are any books on the market quite like this for Muslim teens and early adults.

A bit hefty, its 183 pages, the book is divided into two main parts; the first part outlines problems and challenges facing young people in today’s world whilst the second part presents solutions. Each chapter in the book comes with attractive titles, using the language teenagers use these days. So there is “In Da Club” which is a chapter on partying, “Who Dat?” which is a chapter about lowering your gaze and “”I’ve Been Thinkin’ About You” which looks at the importance of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Other interesting chapter titles include “The Deadliest Weapon” which concerns guarding what we say (i.e. use of the tongue), “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” which is about suicide, depression and abuse and “See You at the Crossroads” which looks at why we must remember death.

Each chapter takes its flavor from its title. Issues, problems and concerns are examined in most cases from the young person’s point of view and also from the parent’s point of view. This lends a balance to the discussion.

Quotes from the Qur’an and Ahadith occur throughout the book. Stories from the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his companions and the Prophets are used to illustrate a point and are seamlessly integrated into the text. A box at the end of each chapter provides helpful summaries of the main action points or reminders to note.

 

 

image via simplyislam.com

However I do believe that there are a few areas the book could have improved upon. For one, there is a need for graphics, photographs, diagrams and other illustrations (for example, comic or manga) to help break up large blocks of text and provide visual interest. It’s true that in some cases a picture is worth a thousand words and young people of the Internet generation in which we live respond readily to visuals.

I wished there were more examples of the author’s experiences aside from the few that I read. I think the stories that are interspersed in the text really brought the message home that the authors, like readers had challenging times. But a book like The War Within Our Hearts also needs a great deal more examples of youth struggling and striving in varying situations. Results from interviews or surveys with Muslim youth could have added another dimension to the book.

I was surprised to find that the book did not have an index. Indexes are useful for quick referral on a subject.

This book is a must-read for all Muslim teenagers and interestingly, even adults into their late 20’s will find much within the pages of this book that would speak to them. There is a great deal in the book that would help bolster a young person’s self-esteem and self-identity as a Muslim. This is also the kind of book every teacher, counselor, imam and leader involved with youth should read.

I definitely recommend this as a book to initiate discussion in Islamic Studies classes within full-time Islamic or weekend Islamic schools. But I think the real benefit of this book can come from both parents and children in the home reading and discussing its contents together.

Title: The War Within Our Hearts

Author: Habeeb Quadri and Sa’ad Quadri

Publisher: Kube Publishing

ISBN: 9781847740120

Category: Non-Fiction

Reading Level: 13 and up

Teacher Study Guides for Islamic books

Study guides for classroom use have been around a long time and are used by educators for a variety of subjects that they teach. In studying literature for example, teachers and students benefit from the use of novel study guides. They add valuable support through the activities they provide. 

In North America for example (and I am sure elsewhere as well), novel study is a component of the language curriculum. Hence children in Islamic schools are required to read and study works of literature. Many times teachers select general works of fiction; books which present a challenge at times as they may contain themes that do not conform to Islamic practices. With the slow but steady growth of Islamic novels over the last few years teachers in Islamic schools have greater choices. 

And thanks to a Muslim publisher in the U.S., teachers now have study guides to use with some of these Islamic novels. The teacher study guides are available from

image source muslimwriterspublishing.com

Muslim Writers Publishing. MWP has produced teacher study guides for several of its published works. There are study guides for a historical novel, Sophia’s Journal: Time Warp 1857; an engaging teen fiction, Muslim Teens in Pitfalls and Pranks and for all titles in the Islamic Rose Series. 

According to the publisher’s website: 

Using TSGs and corresponding fiction novels in school Language Arts programs will provide a comprehensive cross-curricular resource that has been field-tested and approved by Muslim educators and administrators. Content in each TSG includes:

  • Key curriculum connections
  • Engaging Islamic integrated activities
  • Critical thinking and reading comprehension
  • Internet research and projects
  • Multicultural themes
  • Vocabulary and quizzes

 So if you’re a teacher in an Islamic school or if you home school you’ll find the teacher study guides for Islamic fiction to a valuable resource. Samples from the teacher study guides are available at  http://www.muslimwriterspublishing.com/schools.html

Enlighten and Entertain Kids & Teens in Ramadan (Reading List)

Even during Ramadan we look for ways and means to keep our children and teenagers entertained. What better way than to do this than by providing them with a wonderful selection of informative and attractive books to read. Better yet, create a family circle time where all members of the family read Qur’an (and/or ahadeeth) listen to a story and then discuss their thoughts and feelings .     

The following is a list of books (fiction and non-fiction) that you may consider reading and sharing with your children and teens during this Ramadan [I know it seems late to be posting this list, after all half of Ramadan is over, but it’s better late than never. I am sure someone will benefit from it, inshaAllah (God Willing)]:     

Note: I have read all the titles listed here and personally recommend them. You will find a brief summary of each title and clicking on a title will take you to the publisher or online bookstore.     

 

Ramadan Reading for young children (4-7 years):

Pizza in his pocket. Learning to be thankful to Allah by Jawah Abdul Rahman (Goodword Books)     

A simple picture book with a big message. Young readers  meet a little boy who learns that while Allah has given him a variety of food (think of baklava, samosas and pizza, of course), he should not overeat. When he meets a hungry girl, he decides to do something good with all the food he has. For ages 4-7.      

A Time to Give by Mennah I. Bakkar (Arab Scientific Publishers)     

A lovely picture book that introduces the concept of charity to young children and the importance of giving to those in need. For ages 5-8.     

A to Z of Akhlaaq. Moral values for children by Sr. Nafees Khan (Goodword Books)     

Each page introduces a moral o ra good habit every Muslim child should learn and practice, from truthfulness to generosity to patience. Vibrant illustrations depict children in various situations which help to make abstract concepts easy to understand. This book would be great not only for parents to read-aloud to their children, but for teachers (Islamic or weekend school) to use in their Islamic studies lessons. For ages 4-9.     

The Kind Man and the Thirsty Dog (Upright Series 1) by Umar and Salimah Salim (Al-Hidaayah)     

Beautiful illustrations and simple narration describes a hadith narrated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the man who Allah forgave because of his kindness to a thirsty dog. For ages 4-6.        

Allah Gave Me Two Ears to Hear by Amrana Arif (The Islamic Foundation)     

Beautiful watercolour illustrations draw young readers into the world of a little girl as she describes the wonders she hears in the world around her using her ears. Children will love to chime in the refrain on every page, “Allah gave me two ears to hear…” This book is part of “Allah the Maker Series” which cover the five senses and includes these titles as well: Allah Gave me Two Hands and Feet, Allah Gave me a Nose to Smell, Allah Gave me Two Eyes to See and  Allah Gave me a Tongue to Taste. For ages 4-6.     

      

Ramadan Reading for older children and preteens (8-11 years):

A Great Friend of Children by M. S. Kayani (The Islamic Foundation)     

A revised edition of what I consider a classic, A Great Friend of Children is a collection of six short stories about noble and beautiful actions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as he interacted with the children around him. For ages 7 to 11. [Note: I’m unsure whether this book is still available; but I do know that it is available on audio CD see here.]     

image source ukiabooks.com

 

The Fire that Saved. The Story of the Prophet Ibrahim adapted from writings by Maulana Abdul Hasan Ali Nadwi (UK Islamic Academy)     

A captivating narration of the life of the Prophet Ibrahim, this chapter book will hold the interest of older children as they read in detail about the life of this great man. For ages 8 to 11.     

image source taha.co.uk

 

Imran Learns about Qur’an by Sajda Nazlee (Ta-Ha)     

A beautiful, simple short story about a boy named Imran who has learnt his Arabic alphabet and is about to get his own copy of a Qur’an. His natural curiosity causes him to ask many questions. His mother and father tell him all about the Quran, how it was revealed, its significance. For ages 7 to 10.    

image source iqra.org

 

My Moroccan Village (Islamic Village Stories) by Luqman Nagy (Goodword Books).     

If you ever wanted to introduce your children/students to the life and history of Muslims in rural areas of another culture then this story (and the others in the series) is ideal. A boy named Abd al Hay takes us on a journey though his village located in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco. He shows how houses and the masjid are constructed, the craft-work of the villagers and the food. Also in the Islamic Village Stories series are these titles: My Turkish Village, My Yemeni Village, My Chinese Village, My Palestinian Village, and My Hausa Village. For ages 8-11.     

 

    

image source al-hidaayah.co.uk

 

    

The Story of the Leper, the Bald and the Blind (Upright Series 1) by Umar and Salimah Salim (Al-Hidaayah).     

A story (from a hadeeth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which demonstrates why we should be grateful for what Allah has blessed us with. For ages 8-11. Other titles in this series for this age group include The King, the Boy and the Sorcerer, Al Khadir and the Begger and The Man and the Gold.      

      

Ramadan Reading for teenagers (12-16 years):

image source islamicbookstore.com

 

    

Companions of the Prophet by Abdul Wahid Hamid (MELS)     

The lives of thirty companions, men and women, of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are told in a compelling, easy-to-read format in this first volume (of a two-volume set). The troubles, trials and achievements of these companions bring the richness of early Islamic history to life. For ages 12 and up.     

      

image source ifna.net/bookstore.htm

 

    

Isabella. A Girl of Muslim Spain by Yahiya Emerick (IBTS)     

A beautiful story of a young girl’s courage and determination to find the truth despite the odds that face her. Set in Spain during the time of Islam’s presence and power in that country, Isabella learns and teaches Islam to those around her. For ages 11 to 16.     

       

 In the Prophet’s Garden. A Selection of Ahadith for the Young Compiled by Fatima M. D’Oyen and Abdelkader Chachi (The Islamic Foundation)     

This is a beautiful collection of ahadeeth on various Islamic topics including eman (faith), repentance, respect for elders, friendship, knowledge and good manners. The book includes stunning photos of nature and decorative borders that compliment the text. For ages 12 and up.     

      

Tell Me About Prophet Muhammad by Saniyasnain Khan (Goodword Books)     

This book is a fascinating look at the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) using photos, maps, pictures of relics and captivating narration. It is great for Islamic studies lesson or just for general reading and discussion. A list of ayat of Quranic references is included at the end. Other titles in the series are Tell Me about Prophet Yusuf, Tell me About Prophet Musa, Tell Me About the Hajj and Tell Me about the Creation. For ages 10 to 16.     

      

Child Companions around the Prophet translated by Sameh Strauch (Darussalam)     

Here we meet ten companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during their childhood and youth. Rather than narrated as a story, each chapter is subdivided into sub-sections that give a factual account of the lives of companions such as Abdullah ibn Zubair, Anas ibn Malik, Usamah bin Zaid and Hasan bin Ali to name a few. The narration shows how these young companions interacted with and benefitted from the Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the information provides good role models for our current generation of young adults. For ages 12 and up.