Teacher's Guide for CALLIOPE: The Qur'an
Teacher guide prepared by: Elisabeth Greenberg and reviewed by Susan Douglass, Consulting Editor for this issue.
The classical Arabic language in which the Qur'an is written has spread across the world through the recitation and memorization of this holy book. Many of these Arabic words have come to designate certain religious practices, events, or topics of significance and are recognized in other languages. List the Arabic words used in the CALLIOPE® issue on a chart or in a personal list for each students. As a group have the class state whatever meanings they know for these words; then have students add the meanings of the words they don't recognize as they read through the issue. Some of these words that have become part of languages such as Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Malay and many other languages in African, Asian and European Muslim communities are:
salat (prayer), (and all of the words for the five pillars), "alhamdulillah" ("All praise is for God"), "bismillah" ("In the name of God"), "assalaamu 'alaikum" ("Peace be unto you," the universal Islamic greeting), "in sha' Allah" ("God willing," as an expressed intention to do something at a future time), and words such as rasool (prophet), kitab (book, or specifically, the Qur'an). In addition to words, names of important persons named in the Qur'an (especially Muhammad) and the companions, or early followers of Islam have become common names among Muslims, in addition to importing Arabic words describing good qualities, such as Jamila (Beautiful), Sharif (Honorable), and Karim (Generous) to use for naming children in Muslim families.
The words with meanings and the page number on which they first appear are listed here.
13, muss-haf, caliph
15, Allah, muhajirun, ansar
18, khalifa, hadith
35, wudu, due, istakhara, dhikr
36, juz, lailat al-qadi
47, madrasa, halaqa, rihla,
"What is Sacred Scripture?", pp. 4-5
Review the boxed definitions of scripture and revelation. Ask students what might happen as spoken words are written down and then copied at different times and different places? What beliefs, traditions and practices are mentioned in the text that help preserve a written and spoken text through time and across great geographic distances? How and why do you think that spoken and written words have been passed down in many world cultures over hundreds and thousands of years? Find some examples of such works of literature and scripture from many cultures.
Discuss and list on board beliefs, values, and concepts that are common to the Christian and Hebrew Bibles, the Qur'an, and other religious scriptures (see also pp. 30-31). (e.g. belief in God, prophets, forms of worship, honoring parents, charity, humility, honesty, and many others.)
"First Revelation", pp. 6-9
Encourage a group of students to hold a reading of the description of the first revelation for the class. That and other stories that are mentioned in the text might be accompanied by storytelling techniques featuring a "story bag" with objects representing that time and place, such as a stone to represent the Ka'bah's walls, a picture of a cave, sand from the desert, a jug of water, a white piece of cloth or rough wool to describe the heat of day and the cold of night in the desert climate, a small model of a camel, a horse, and so on (see text for further ideas). Another famous narrative from the origins of Islam is the story of the hijra, or migration of Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah, in which he and his companion Abu Bakr hid in a cave to escape the Makkans who were pursuing them. Their pursuers left the cave alone because they found its opening covered by a spider's web and the nest of a dove sitting on her eggs, thinking that the cave must have been undisturbed for a long time.
NOTE TO THE TEACHER: It is important to set the stage for these stories or readings by describing them as narratives related to Muslims by Muhammad and transmitted orally and in writing by his followers generation after generation. The teacher must avoid presenting or implying that such narratives from any faith tradition in the US public school classroom are either true or false. Rather, they should be described as texts based upon historical sources and supported by religious beliefs. Religious narratives can be validly presented in the classroom, but they must be accompanied by language stating "Muslims believe that . . . " or "According to historical sources, Muhammad reported that . . . "
Research: Find out about the idea of revelation and the revelations in several world religions. What does the word and its root word mean in these traditions? Look for common elements, such as the importance of fasting and isolation from ordinary life for Christians, Native Americans, and Buddhists/yogis, of extraordinary beings such as angels who bring the revelation, such as in the Christian Annunciation and the scriptures of the Latter Day Saints, and narratives involving extraordinary spiritual experiences such as a voice from the heavens or in a dream. Compare the Islamic narrative about the beginning of the revelation to Muhammad with other faith traditions' narratives about revelations and spiritual experiences.
"Recording the Revelation", pp. 12-13
"The Companions", pp. 14-16
Questions for discussion:
Compare the role of "special followers", e.g. the companions in Islam, the Apostles of Christianity, the Elders in the Mormon church, in various religions.
How are "followers" important to the spread of a religion and its teachings?
How can followers cause splits or schisms as communities of belief become formal religious organizations?
How is the collection of hadiths related to the Sunnah? (ANS: The hadiths, or collected narratives of Muhammad's words and deeds, are the main historical source for knowledge of the Sunnah, which means the example of Muhammad's life that Muslims try to emulate.
"Verifying the Verses", pp. 18-22
ART: In the stained glass window photo, observe that the verse about the bounty of the sea is written in the shape of a fish. Challenge students to take an English word of their choice, such as bird or sharp, and write the word into a shape that fits. (For additional examples, see the Smithsonian teacher resource "Arts of the Islamic World," a collection of art teacher activities based on museum pieces which can be found online at www.asia.si.edu/education/islam.pdf.)
"Dotting and Diacritical Marks", pp. 20-21
Read for information:
What kind of languages are Arabic and Hebrew? (Semitic)
What is unusual about the Semitic languages, compared to English? (consonants, not vowels, are mainly represented in writing)
How are the vowels represented in Arabic? (by the optional use of marks called diacrits)
How else could letters using the same shape be distinguished? (By their relationship to surrounding letters and words in the sentence)
How was this system of using context workable? (Because the strong oral tradition of the Arabs meant that people were usually reading something they already knew by rote).
How many letters does Arabic have and how many letter shapes does it use? (28 letters, but only 18 shapes)
Who invented the dot system to indicate vowels in written Arabic? (Abul Aswad Al Du'ali, the legendary founder of Arabic grammar)
Who replaced the dots with the dashes and curved lines called diacritical marks? (Al Khalil ibn Ahmad alFarahidi)
"Fun with Words", p. 23
Challenge students to create an illustration, cartoon, or mnemonic to help remember the origin of each word, e.g., the word "revelation" might be illustrated by a hand pulling back a curtain to reveal the written word "revelation".
"One Qur'an", pp. 24-27
Read for information:
How did Christians, Jews, and Zorastrians encounter Islam? (By being brought under Muslim rule and living with Muslims as Muslim rulers extended their territories, and it continued to spread over centuries into Asia, Africa, and Europe through trade, travel and the exhange of ideas.)
Why did Muslims in different regions begin to recite the Qur'an differently? (Sometimes the sequence of chapters in the copied mus-hafs were different; sometimes letters which were similar were misread; sometimes the pronunciation in different regions also differed, leading to confusion about the exact word)
How did the caliph Uthman solve the problem of different versions of the Qur'an that were emerging? (He borrowed an original manuscript of the Qur'an from Hafsa, a wife of Muhammad, and had three perfect copies, which agreed in every particular, made by Zayd ibn Thabit and a team of three other scribes)
How were the other, perhaps inaccurate, copies of the Qur'an treated? (They were burned as a sign of respect)
Creative writing: Examine the picture of the children in Mali on pp. 26-27. Pick one child and write a story about him, using the information from the article and the caption.
"Following the Qur'an", pp. 28-32
ART: Read and compare the Old Testament and the Qur'anic versions of the creation story. Find examples online of historical arts that depict the creation of the world in various cultural traditions. Which traditions discourage or prohibit making pictures of religious or holy figures? What reasons do they give for this, and what other forms of artistic expression are used? (For example, Islamic geometric and floral designs often express the idea of infinity in the sense that they are very complex, seem three-dimensional, and have no beginning, end or direction, as allover patterns.)
ORGANIZING INFORMATION: List the different ways in which
Muhammad taught his followers to practice their religion.
RESEARCH: Compare the teachings of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. Which teachings are shared by all three scriptures? Which are different?
DISCUSS: How do Muslim scholars work to insure that Islam is a religion relevant to the modern world?
"The Call to Worship", pp. 34-37
Fill in the blanks (answers in parentheses):
All Muslims should (honor) their creator.
Muslims pray (five) time a day.
Muslims can pray anywhere, but they usually gather in a (mosque) to pray together.
The prayer niche in the mosque indicates the direction of the (Kaba) in the city of (Mecca) .
Two types of voluntary prayers are (supplications or dua) and (requests for guidance or istikahara) . (also, repeating the names of God or dhikr)
Muslims consider fasting a form of (worship) because it teaches (patience) and sympathy for the (poor) .
The celebration of lailat al-qadr commemorates the first time Muhammad told about his (revelation) from the angel Gabriel.
The purposes of zakat are to redistribute (wealth) and support the (poor) .
Many Muslims place the Qur'an on a special (stand) to show their respect for their scripture.
"A Style of Its Own", pp. 38-41
Write a short essay explaining how calligraphy developed into an art and how Ibn Muqla, Ibn al-Bawwab, Yaqut al-Musta'simi, Mir Ali Tabrizi, Shaikh Hamdullah, and Mehmed Es'ad Yesari Efendi and his son contributed to the beauty of Islamic writing.
Encourage students to look for and share examples of Islamic calligraphy.
"The Tradition of Studying the Qur'an", pp. 46-49
Questions for discussion:
Why are children taught to memorize the Qur'an? Is this a good way to learn? Have you ever had to memorize something without first understanding it? Did you learn from doing that? How might the sound of the words help understand or appreciate the meaning?
How is the Qur'an brought into the study of subjects other than religion in the madrasas and in other forms of Islamic education like weekend and full-time schools?
Why do you think Muslim scholars chose to study in halaqa or learning circles?
What is the role of the hafiz or master?