For the week of February 23 – Muddy Handprints and the Meaning of the 5 Fingers…..

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An entire course could be created on Shi’a Islam. There is such a depth and complexity to their devotional practice and many rich images of such. The topic is a favorite of mine and my in-laws in Kuwait are Shi’a.

What I was searching the Internet for are photos of the rear of cars with muddy hand prints on them. This is because in Kuwait during Ashura all the Shi’a would take leave or be excused from their jobs and schools and go to Hasanias to participate in the taziah events. I have not witnessed participants covering themselves in mud as they do in Iran but youths would make muddy handprints on the back windshields of cars. I could not find any pictures of that so substituted a photo of a t-shirt with a muddy hand print.

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In Kuwait, taziah is not performed with mud as shown in the images above. The whole event is so charged – I do know the kids wear t-shirts with Hussain’s image on it that they don’t wear at any other time, but the whole mud thing as in the pictures is – visceral – so involving, getting mud on your clothes, having to wash them, getting mud in your car when you drive home, mud in the house….I can imagine having to clean it up afterward. Just very visceral – involving – powerfully involving.

Now one thing I learned about the hand print – why the hand print on the car – is that it is called the Hand print of Fatima with the five fingers standing for Mohammad, Fatima, Ali, Hasan, and Hussain. I didn’t know. 5 fingers for the 5 people. A muddy five fingered hand – how fascinating. It all makes sense.

For the week of February 9 – Teaching Mohammad and Prophethood to Muslim Children

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The picture displayed is a ‘Prophet Tree’

Prophet Tree made by Children

Prophet Tree made by Children

from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/5255842189…
The education of religion as a devotional practice is a topic of interest to me. My children are Muslims because their father is Muslim and even in private schools in Kuwait which follow Western curricula they were required to take classes in both Islam and the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran class was entirely age appropriate memorization of the Quran and the texts memorized (memorization came first). The Islam class had broader subject areas in the curriculum though and included other subjects.
This image struck me as real – something children obviously created and not a commercially printed poster of the chain of prophets in Islam (although the ones seen in http://jarirbooksusa.com/16645.html may be more appropriate for older children). Also, it was group made and produced for display presumably to a larger group than who made it. Pedagogically and aesthetically, I think that tree is fabulous! From what I know and from what the course has taught, the tree the children produced is based on the Quran and hadith. It reinforces in children’s minds from a young age that Mohammad is a prophethood, in a group/line of prophets and is the last or seal of the prophets. Children are raised with the notion of other respected prophets (Jesus, Moses, etc.) but also that Mohammad is ‘their’ prophet – the prophet for Muslims. Subtly it can be said that Muslim children are raised to believe Mohammad is ‘different’ and – better than the other prophets.
In this image, Mohammad’s branch is off to one side with no other small branches from it. This to me may not signify a Sunni classroom because the family of Mohammad are not prophets and next to this tree in a classroom might be a student produced ‘family of the Prophet Mohammad’ tree…Teaching that Mohammad is a prophet in a line of prophets is central to teaching Islam as a devotional manner. This tree is a fabulous tool in that.

For the week of February 2 – A Quran Reading Pen? Who knew?

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I was deeply moved by the lecture titled, “The Qur’an: An introduction; God’s word as sacred sound” and film screening of “Word Power in Islam.” My in-laws in Kuwait privately read the entire Quran (in Arabic) during Ramadan and I have known of classes which help Western converts read the Quran in Arabic. When I found there was a product to assist learners of the Quran, I was amazed for a variety of reasons.
Being immersed in Muslim culture, I took reading the Quran for granted. From a technological perspective, I marvel what is now available. With the mere touch of the pen on any page, verse, or chapter, the pen will play that page, verse, or chapter of a specially printed Quran in Arabic or translations into English, Urdu, Persian, or French (why French I thought, maybe for the north or west African markets?) From a business perspective, I thought of what a large market as Muslims represent 1.6 BILLION people today – almost 25% of the world’s population. With the centrality of the Quran in Islam, what a business opportunity! Wow!
This You Tube clip and others states that this object can ‘rapidly improve skills.’ Learning a new language is NOT easy and reciting/learning the Quran is far more difficult I believe than learning a new language. What the user of the Quran Reading Pen is doing is learning the Quran (the sounds in Arabic and the meaning based on a translation), internalizing the Quran by parroting/echoing it, and producing a transcendental effect by being immersed in the sound and understanding of the Quran (the latter similar to the Christian Lectio Divina, a practice of scriptural reading and reflection of it). Clearly, this pen is useful in those endeavors. In listening to other You Tube clips of these products, I see some come with children’s voices or other voices. Clearly, a discerning customer has choices.
My thought process in selecting, researching, and composing this blog post moved beyond matching this product to course material into what it would be to use this product. What impact this products have in spreading the Quran worldwide into areas of illiteracy. What moderating effect of actually listening to the Quran yourself in your language is and liberating it must be to learn the Quran WITHOUT a teacher who may be wrong in their interpretation or otherwise radicalized. These products could counter the spread of terror…… but with the advent of this technology might not radicalized elements produce their own pens? Just like the printing press, technology can be used for any purpose.
On the whole though, I am amazed by these pens and know that hadith, images, and video clips are on the near-term technological future.

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