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Storytelling Class Experience

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Someone asked me recently to conduct a storytelling class for children on a distant continent by Skype. I was skeptical, to say the least, because during my fifteen-year stint of teaching storytelling intensively, twenty years ago, I always felt it was the physical presence of the children that drew out my abilities, as if in response to their needs. I am surprised and bemused to see that the first class was actually a bit of a success, if you judge by what happened for at least one of the (7 year old) children after it ended: I think it was a good idea that you dictated the children the notes. She used those notes to write the story in her own words and performed it (she did it all on her own without any prompting from me)….in front of our whole family ….MashAllah they were all so impressed….:)…actually so was I because I had no idea she was such a good listener and knew so many big words…. This girl was retelling a story which is actually about each one of us, at one time or another.  A prince, through the patient efforts of his teacher to expose him to some new voices and perspectives, discovered that he was on a path that would wreak destruction for his whole kingdom. The message got through; he was willing to walk a different walk and alhamdulillah everyone lived happily ever after, which is what actually happens in the wake of true repentance, though if you look around in the collective cultures we share today it seems that few remember this. A little traditional folktale shared playfully and for the purpose of developing language capacity flowered into this: a young muslimah got to grapple with – and transmit – truly beneficial information. This, too, is information that is almost obliterated in the popular culture all around us. It is everywhere in our deen, of course, in the Qur’an and hadith literature, but that isn’t enough. It must be part of the small change in people’s pockets too, the everyday ordinary state of affairs, and that’s why storytelling is so crucial to us. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: relate to them….tell the story…because it’s not enough for the story to exist. It must be told, and heard, again and again. Teaching children to appreciate and tell stories is a vital way of protecting what we have been given by the grace of Allah, Who is creating us anew in each moment, as we process each word, each letter. And He knows best, and is the Best to decide. I still have reservations about being the reason a child would turn to the computer. I still am not willing to use my camera so they see my image, though I do see theirs and pray that since it is electronic, ie without substance, Allah will accept it. I was worried that my disembodied voice would distract them but alhamdulillah it seems it did not, and it seems that the essential thing, the story, is what got through and was able to work its benefit on them. We, all of us in this umma, are in such need of help and support and education, may Allah help and protect...

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A Desert Winter Wonderland

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

For the first time in more than one hundred years Amman Jordan was blanketed with over a meter of snow. The joy of it all was short-lived, however, in relation to the plight of thousands of Syrian refugees living outside Amman in tent villages. May Allah give them patience and relieve their suffering, and may He teach us to rely upon Him and Him alone, and to know that He is the Disposer of all our affairs, and the One who is cherishing each and every one of us, in each unfolding moment giving us precisely what we need according to His Supreme...

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Sweet Pudding

Posted by on Nov 23, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

Legend has it that when the Great Flood was finally over and the prophet Noah could bring his ship to land again, it was the tenth day of the first month of the lunar new year, Muharrem.  His people went through the ship’s hold and found two handfuls of wheat, a handful of rice, half a handful each of chickpeas and white beans, a handful each of raisins, figs, apricots, walnuts, and almonds, and a good dollop of honey. To celebrate Muharrem and their safe landing, they cooked all these handfuls together over a roaring fire, and it became a lovely sweet pudding. Ever since that day, the legend tells us, Muslims have made ashurah during the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Muharrem.  They cook huge pots of it, and give it away to their neighbors and the poor. In Turkey, children learn from folk-beliefs that the first day of Muharram is the day that Adam arrived on the earth; the day he met Eve; the day Ibrahim and Ismail built the Kaaba; the day Yusuf was pulled from the well; the day Jacob got his sight back; the day the sea parted for the Bani Israel; the day Musa received the Tablets; and the day Yunus was released from the whale. Some scholars assert that the only historically accurate thing on this list is the parting of the sea, since we know for sure that the Jews were found fasting on the Day of Ashurah for that reason.  Yet, even if this is only a folk tradition, it is beneficial as an occasion to repeat the stories of many of the prophets God has sent to awaken mankind. How to make ashurah: Put 1/4c chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water. Do the same with 1/4c white northern beans. (soaking breaks down oligosaccharides) Put 1C brown rice and 1C whole wheat berries mixed in another bowl and cover them with water. (Soaking grains greatly increases the fiber available to the body)  Soak all these overnight. The next day, empty the rice and wheat, with their soaking water, into a large stainless steel pan. Add 3 quarts of water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to the lowest possible heat and cook for several hours. Stir it frequently. If it starts getting too thick, add more hot water. In another small saucepan, drain and rinse the chickpeas, discarding the water, and cover them with three cups of water. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest and cook for at least an hour until they are tender. Drain them and set them aside. In a third saucepan, drain and rinse the beans. Discarding the water, and cover them with three cups of water. Cook for about an hour or until tender. Drain them and set them aside. When the rice and wheat are cooked so long that the grains have started to fall apart and the water is thick and milky, add sugar until it is sweet enough for you. If you want you can use honey instead.  Add the chickpeas and the beans, and keep simmering over the lowest possible heat. Stir it often to be sure it isn’t sticking. Add...

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It’s here! Musa: Prophet of Allah – The Fall of the Tyrant has just been released!

Posted by on Nov 22, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s here! Musa: Prophet of Allah – The Fall of the Tyrant has just been released!

About fifteen years ago the thought occurred to me that I had never seen a careful telling of the entire story of Prophet Musa and a desire took root in me to produce one, though at the time I never believed I would be able to do it. However as the years passed I found Allah bringing the story to my attention again and again, and my fascination grew. Later I began telling parts of the story and I remember in one of those early groups was a little girl who burst into tears when I told of the baby Musa being carried down the river in a basket. How amazing now to reflect that her father’s name was Musa, and that he now lies buried in the old section of alBaqa’ Cemetery in the city of his first love, Madina. It is to him that this work is dedicated. Allah has gifted me with nearness to some amazing generous scholars, and my work has been entirely informed by them alhamdulillah. I have learned that most of what has been written about the extraordinary series of events of the life of Musa aleyhisalam is inaccurate or distorted, so I feel especially grateful to have had the participation of these scholars in the work, because the truth of the story is brilliantly fascinating, alhamdulillah. Allah has also gifted me with the opportunities, over the past three years, to tell this story in all its evolutions to many hundreds of eager children and adults in the US, the UK, and Jordan. Their profound listening and their longing to touch and taste and experience the events as they happened so long ago have contributed immensely to the development of the work. May Allah bless and protect each and every one of these listeners, and draw them ever deeper into knowledge of Him. This has been a year of bounty, and I am grateful. It is the year of the completion of this project, alhamdulillah, and also the year in which the entire first printing of When Wings Expand – the Journal of a Muslim Girl was sold out and a second printing was made. If a single word of this work can increase a single reader’s or listener’s love for Allah and all that is His, I will be so grateful. Click Play to Listen to a Sample...

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An Interview with Productive Muslim

Posted by on Apr 2, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

An Interview with Productive Muslim

Sister Maryam is the author of a number of Islamic books, both in written and audio formats. Her latest book is called When Wings Expand and explores how a Muslim copes with hardship and loss. We caught up with Sister Maryam to find out more about her work, her latest book and, of course, practical tips for emotional productivity! Assalam alaikum Sister Maryam. Thank you for taking the time to be with us. To begin with, please tell us a little more about yourself and your work. I have committed myself to writing vivid and reliable narrations of Qur’anic and traditional Islamic stories. I say vivid because I want people to feel the reality of the events, and reliable because one of the miracles of Islam is that its knowledge has been preserved in the miracle of the Glorious Qur’an and by meticulous scholarship such as the world has never seen. Having grown up a Christian, I developed the habit of ‘If you don’t know, make it up.’ That kind of thing may be necessary in traditions where the knowledge has been lost, but that is not the case with Islam and the Qur’an alhamdulillah, and in fact Allah has promised it never will become the case. So verifying everything becomes crucial. To read the rest of the interview click...

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A Truth-Teller

Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

It is the truth-tellers among us who are the most beneficial, in my opinion: the ones who can discern when something is off and then let others know. We need to be grateful for every one. Dr. Freda Shamma has done a massive service for the ummah by identifying trends in children’s publishing that are counter-productive to Islamic values. May Allah protect and increase her work, in this day when the industry churns out heaps and heaps of books, for the first time in human history, in which the boundaries between fantasy and reality are obliterated, the boundaries between human and non-human are erased, the triumph of good over evil is no longer even in the picture, and children everywhere, Muslim and non-Muslim, are reading about the disintegration of culture and civilization as if it were a perfectly normal and desirable state of affairs. Dr. Shamma states: “There are many thousands of books aimed at young people,and thousands of them are appealing to children. In preparing this list of books that develops and/or reinforces Islamic values, we are not suggesting that children should not read any of the appealing ‘fluff,’ those books that entertain but don’t teach. We are suggesting that too many of these appealing books actually contain ideas that go against Islamic values, and teachers and parents need to be very selective as to which books they want to encourage their children to read. In preparing this list, we have paid particular attention to several prominent, un-Islamic features and tried to select books that include the Islamic value. Therefore, we might not include a book that includes the value of helping others if it features someone who does this action with no family interaction. If the illustration shows a parent in the background, or the character speaks positively to a parent before going to help someone, then we consider that a good book to recommend. While it is not about family, it does include family”. The book list by Dr Shamma was compiled on the basis that: 1. Family is important. As discussed above 2. Family is comprised of humans. Parallel to the idea that you don’t need family, is the idea that what you need instead is a pet, preferably a dog. Therefore, one should be careful of books in which many animals are featured as ‘family.’ 3. Best friends should be of the same gender. It is unsettling how many books written even for 4-5 year olds push the idea that one’s best friend should be of the opposite gender. Although there is certainly nothing wrong in young children playing with the opposite gender, there is no good going to come from stressing the boy-girl relationship continuously from age 4 to age 18. 4. Witches and magic have a minor role. Although most Muslims will not object to occasional stories with witches and magic, as long as they are firmly placed in a fantasy world, one must be careful to minimize stories featuring them, particularly when they appear in otherwise normal settings. 5. Working for the good of others is important. Although we cannot expect to find the Islamic idea that all work and all life should be done for the sake of Allah and for the good of humanity, we do need to look...

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A Trust of Treasures Full Free Audio Download

Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in Featured, Free Gifts | 2 comments

A Trust of Treasures Full Free Audio Download

Come, let me read you a story! Here is a tale of praise and gratitude, To the Power of the One, Who created the magnificent riches of the earth and the skies and then, Like a hidden treasure wanting to be known, Created us. And it is we alone among all creatures Who can reflect, And accept stewardship, And bow down in love and awe. A world waiting to be discovered, enjoyed and respected, but too often taken for granted. Right Click on mp3 image to download the complete audio...

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EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS CHANGING

Posted by on Feb 25, 2013 in Blog, Featured, Uncategorized | 0 comments

EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS CHANGING

I grew up, as a Catholic child, learning what I now see was a stunted view of Allah, the old bearded man who had created the world and then, for me at least, the rest of the story seemed shrouded in darkness….had he just gone off somewhere to do something else, only occasionally returning to dole out punishments, or what? Meanwhile, I understood, the world just ticked along like some kind of machine on its own. So this is why I love the story of Nasr-ed-Deen Hoja, the wise teacher known as the ‘Triumph of the Religion’, who got off his donkey every few minutes to count its legs. When children asked him why he explained that since everything was always changing, he had to keep counting just to be sure. The idea that Allah is creating us anew in each moment, out of love and immeasurable mercy, gives me such a different view of reality than I had growing up, and I cannot say how grateful I am to have been given...

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A Message From the time of Prophet Ibrahim

Posted by on Feb 17, 2013 in Blog, Featured, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A Message From the time of Prophet Ibrahim

My friend studying at Yale treated me to a quick trip to the library where we saw this small exhibit, a stone tablet with its envelope dated from roughly the time of Prophet Ibrahim peace upon him. And then this artifact from closer to our own times, the ancient card catalogue. Yale University officials couldn’t bear to part with it and keep it around in the library as a piece of curious carpentry in this digital age that has made it obsolete. This was once one of my favorite things in all the world. I can still remember the smells and the textures and the excitement of finding the titles, authors, or subjects of longed-for books, and then the anticipation of either searching them out myself or waiting for library staff to bring them down from the...

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Home Again

Posted by on Feb 14, 2013 in Blog, Featured, Live Performance News | 0 comments

Home Again

My trip to Florida and New York was alhamdulillah successful and not too tiring. I had so much help from my friends in Orlando and New Jersey, my (very pregnant alhamdulillah) sales agent and research/editing friend in New Haven, and last but most of all my son and his dear family in Northern Vermont, ice country. I’m very grateful that I have a special permission for traveling because of my work and want to make it clear that other than that I stick to the traveling limits for women because I have found that taking the medicine of Islam as it is prescribed rather than as I would prefer to take it brings the most sweetness. The live performances of The Fall of the Tyrant were very exciting. I had a full week in a beautiful Florida lake-side setting to prepare, and then three school performances and a community organization event that was really special because it was all adults. After a short lovely visit with my grandsons and their parents in their new home I went to New York, where there were three more schools, two of which I had visited before, two years ago. In every school venue I found that children from kindergarten to HS seniors loved the material and listened eagerly in hour-and-a-half-long sessions and showed with their questions a thirst for more knowledge about it alhamdulillah. In New Haven I had the opportunity to meet with a scholar of Egyptian history in the Yale library. This has inshaAllah opened up some new research locations for me and was very beneficial. The hour-and-a-half train trip from NY to New Haven was a great highlight!...

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