Making the Stories of the Prophets Relevant
Now, I am sure we have probably made our own of lesson plans on the Stories of the Prophets – or perhaps we have just read stories with our children in the hopes of teaching them Islamic studies. However, have we made sure we are achieving the proper goals with our lessons? What did our children learn from these lessons? Here is an example from lesson plans that I am currently working on for my children based on the Stories of the Prophets. This may make it easier for you to understand what I was talking about in my previous post – making your Islamic Studies relevant.
First of all, I am using Ibn Kathir’s Stories of the Prophets as my main source of knowledge. While it is an adult book – I find that the information in it is not watered down like many children’s books are. There are many important facts – facts that are wonderful teaching resources for our children that are sorely missing because most of the books written for children are are way too simplified. For a preschooler – you can respect that – but as our children get older they really can benefit from many of these lessons without taking out a lot of the important details.
Despite the fact that I really love that book, I find it sometimes hard to read because of the way the information is provided. It is not written in story style with all information provided based on a nice timeline. Instead, information is divided up between things mentioned in the Qur’an and then the hadith and then the book moves to another historical incident and follows the same pattern. So, I started to rewrite the stories in a more child friendly way – making sure to keep all verifiable facts (according to Qur’an and Sunnah). If there was anything questionable – where sources weren’t mentioned – I just left it out.
This is a huge project – and I am still working on it – but I have tried out the lessons on my kids and they absolutely love the stories and the format. After several months where we put the stories aside – I went back to quiz the girls on what they remembered and they remembered most of the stories (without review) as well as the lessons that they should have learned from those stories. Masha’Allah it has been wonderful. It is sad that I don’t have as much time as I would like to complete these lessons. However, as with all things – patience and perseverance, right?
Anyway – here is an example of what I have been talking about – if you missed my previous post, please read it first. This is just the beginning of the lesson on Prophet Adam (as).
Adam (alaihi as-salâm) is Created
Imagine you are in a time and place before mankind was created. An assembly of angels and Iblis, who is a jinn, are gathered together before Allah.
“And We have created mankind out of a sounding clay, from a moulded mud. And the jinn, We created them before from a searing fire. And when your Lord said to the angels: ‘I am going to create a human from sounding clay, which is from mud moulded into shape. So when I have fashioned him (with all due proportion), and breathed into him of My Ruh (the soul which I created for him), fall down prostrating yourselves before him.” Surat Al-Hijr: 26-30
Have you ever wondered how Adam (alaihi as-salâm) was created? Let’s find out!
In the Qur’an it states that Allah created Adam (alaihi as-salâm) from sounding clay. We will find out more about sounding clay in a moment. First, let’s discover an amazing fact about our own creation. Have you ever wondered why humans have so many different colors and different qualities? The answer to that question is found in the following hadith.
Imam Ahmad has narrated from Abu Musa, who said that the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihe wasallam) said: “Allah has created Adam from a handful (of soil) which He had gathered from all over the earth. That is how the children of Adam came according to the (color and nature of the) earth. There are white among them, as well as red and black, and cross colors. There are those among them who are of bad nature and good nature, soft as well as harsh and in between.” (Sahih Muslim)
Masha’Allah – did you know that? Now, let’s get back to the creation of Adam (alaihi as-salâm).
Allah created Adam (alaihi as-salâm) with His Own Hand. This is an honor Allah has bestowed upon Adam (alaihi as-salâm). Allah created Adam a human and he remained as an earthen body for some time. This means that Allah did not put Adam (alaihi as-salâm)’s soul into the body yet – so his body was just an empty shell.
When the angels passed by Adam (alaihi as-salâm), they became frightened. Iblis was the most frightened among them. He would pass by Adam (alaihi as-salâm) and hit him. When he did this, the body would make a sound like the ringing sound of pottery when you knock on it.
Have you ever knocked on the side of an empty piece of pottery? If you did, that’s probably what it sounded like when Iblis knocked on Adam (alaihi as-salâm)! That’s why it says that Adam (alaihi as-salâm) was made from “sounding” clay. Let’s continue.
Anas said that the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihe wasallam) said: “When Allah created Adam, He left him for a while as long as He wanted him to be. Iblis went around him and when he found him hollow, he knew that he was a creature who could not restrain (itself).” (Sahih Muslim)
Allah then breathed into Adam (alaihi as-salâm) his soul.
Anas said that the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihe wasallam) said: “When He breathed into Adam and the soul reached his head, he sneezed and said: ‘Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil-‘Alamin.’ Allah answered him by saying: ‘Yarhamuk-Allah.” (Sahih Muslim)
This is where an important Sunnah started. Whenever you sneeze, you should say the same as Adam (alaihi as-salâm): “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil-‘Alamin.” Do you know what that means? It means “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.” Let’s try to repeat those words in Arabic: “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil-‘Alamin.” Now, whenever you sneeze, you know what to say!
Whenever you hear someone else sneeze and they say this phrase, you should always respond the same Allah did ‘Yarhamuk-Allah.” In English, this means “Allah bestows His Mercy upon you.” Let’s try to repeat those words again in Arabic: “Yarhamuk-Allah.” Now, whenever you say these words, you can always remember the important moment in history when it was first mentioned!
No lesson on Adam (alaihi as-salâm) is complete without discussing what he was like. While we do not have a lot of information, we do know he was much taller than people are today. In ancient times, the people used to be huge in size, and they lived much longer than we do now.
According to Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihe wasallam) said: “Allah created Adam sixty dhira’a (cubits) tall, and then said to him: ‘Go and greet those angels, and listen to what they greet you back with, because that will be your greeting and the greeting of your progeny.’ Adam said: ‘Asalaamu ‘Alaikum.’ They greeted him back saying: ‘Assalamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.’ So, they added to what he said: ‘wa Rahmatullah.’ Hence, everyone who enters Paradise, will enter it in Adam’s image, and since that time humans are being reduced (in their height) until now.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
There are a few things to be learned from this hadith.
First of all, Adam (alaihi as-salâm) was tall! Masha’Allah! Do you know what a cubit is? A cubit is an ancient unit of length that is equal to the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. A cubit is approximately 17-22 inches. Check that out on a ruler! So, in inches Adam (alaihi as-salâm) would be anywhere from 1020 inches to 1320 inches. Let’s look at that again – since 12 inches equal one foot, that means that Adam (alaihi as-salâm) was about 120 feet tall. My measuring tape only goes to 144 inches or 12 feet. That makes it hard to make a comparison. However, I do have a meter stick. If you had enough meter sticks, you would need somewhere between 26 to 33 ½ of them, laid one after the other in a row – to measure how tall Adam (alaihi as-salâm) was! Subhan’Allah – that is amazing! Do you have that many meter sticks?
Another thing we have learned from this hadith is that human beings will be reduced in their height until now. That means that over time, humans will become shorter and shorter than Adam (alaihi as-salâm) until now. Could you imagine being as large as our Prophet Adam (alaihi as-salâm)? Imagine how far he could see and how much quicker and further he could travel compared to man now. Masha’Allah, it’s amazing to think about!
The last thing we learn from this hadith is that another important Sunnah was started with Prophet Adam (alaihi as-salâm). Allah (swt) told Adam (alaihi as-salâm) to greet the angels. Do you remember what he said? Right! He said “Asalaamu ‘Alaikum.” Do you know what this means? In English, this means “Peace be upon you.” When Adam (alaihi as- salâm) said this, the angels replied: “Assalamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.” This means “May there be peace upon you and the Mercy of Allah” in English. This is the way a Muslim must always greet another Muslim, and it all started when Adam (alaihi as-salâm) was created! Masha’Allah! Now, whenever you greet someone you can always remember this important moment in history when it was first mentioned!
Activities for Enrichment:
Let’s find some fun activities to help us remember what we have learned!
- If you have a large field near you, bring a meter stick. Start at the beginning of the field, and measure 26 meters. Now look back at where you started – this is how large Adam (alaihi as-salâm) stood. Now, imagine him standing, masha’Allah!
- Get outside and collect soil from several different places. Now, take them home and notice any similarities and differences. They have different textures, different colors, etc. Think about this when you imagine how Allah made people out of different types of soil with different types of qualities. Perhaps you can make a compare/contrast chart to note the differences and similarities.
- Take some time to think about people from different countries. You could do this in a public place – noticing the differences and similarities between the people you see. You could also do this using books about people from different areas. Or, you could search the internet to find out more about people from different countries. Take the time to notice the differences in skin color and the differences in expression and dress. Also take time to note the similarities. Perhaps you can make a compare/contrast chart to note the differences and similarities.
- To better understand the concept of “sounding clay” – you could take the time to make a clay pot with your child. After it dries, you could have the child knock on it to hear the sound. If you have any pottery around the house, you could also use it instead of taking the time to make anything – but it wouldn’t be as much fun!
Questions for Review:
Now it’s time to review what we have learned. Let’s see how much you remember!
- What was Adam (alaihi as-salâm) created out of?
- How did all the people Allah created become so different – with different colors and different characteristics?
- What happened when Allah breathed the soul into Adam (alaihi as-salâm)?
- What does a Muslim say when he sneezes? How does another Muslim respond? How did this Sunnah get started?
- What does a Muslim say when he meets another Muslim? How does the other Muslim respond? How did this Sunnah get started?
- How does Adam (alaihi as-salâm)’s size compare to our size? How has the size of mankind changed since Adam (alaihi as-salâm)?
At the end of each lesson the kids learn, I have questions for review of the basic story. However, at the end of the complete story of each Prophet, I have what I call “Questions for Deeper Understanding.” Here is an example from the story of Prophet Adam (a.s.):
Questions for Deeper Understanding:
Now it’s time to review what we have learned. Let’s see how much you remember!
- What important lessons does the story of Adam (alaihi as-salâm) teach us?
- We may not completely understand something that Allah commands us to do (for example: don’t eat the fruit from this tree). However, from the story of Adam (alaihi as-salâm), what should we learn about what Allah asks us to do?
- What important lessons does the story of Iblis teach us?
- Both Iblis and Adam (alaihi as-salâm) sinned. Why did Allah treat them differently?
- How will the lessons we have learned from the story of Adam (alaihi as-salâm) help us be better Muslims? What can/should we do differently?
- Based on what we know about the creation of Adam (alaihi as-salâm), is there any reason why people should feel better than others based on skin color? Explain.
- Why did Allah make a covenant with mankind? Why was it necessary?
- Why did Allah send us books and Messengers?
- Why did Allah create mankind with different blessings – some are smart, some are beautiful, some are wealth and others are poor? What does this teach us about how we should show our thankfulness to Allah each day for the blessings we have? What does this teach us about being too proud or arrogant about our special qualities?
- Why is jealousy a bad characteristic? From the stories we have learned so far, who has had this characteristic? How did it harm them in the end?
Insha’Allah this helps you understand more about what I was writing in my previous post. I also want to add one thing – not everything has to be a lesson plan – perfectly detailed and written out. I also use The Sealed Nectar to teach the children. This book is also written for adults, but I find that I can alter the story a bit while reading it – to make it more understandable for my children. Since that book is written more in story form – it is a lot easier to do this.
All we need to do – when we are teaching – whatever we are teaching – is to engage our children – ask questions – and get them to think:
Why was this story was told?
What lesson is it trying to teach us?
How should we change ourselves to follow the story’s examples?
We can do this for any Islamic story or book that we read to our children – and we can also do this with the Qur’an. Read a passage of the Qur’an and then discuss it with your children. Take out the tafsir and see what the verses really mean. Do this as a family and then ask yourself the same questions. Insha’Allah this will help us provide our children with the most precious gift – a true understanding of Islam.
Sumayyah Umm SAA