Presently there are 2 books in the Quranic Odyssey series: ‘A Quranic Odyssey: Towards Juz ‘Amma’ by Umm Muhemmed, republished* in 2016 by Mindworks, available via Amazon Books (and Kindle), illustrated by Azra Momim, and ‘Ya Seen: a hifdh journey in America,’ published in 2015 by Mindworks available via Amazon Books (and Kindle). The third book in the series, ‘From Surah Al Kahf: a journey of a lifetime,’ is forthcoming and selected chapters are being shared via this blog, as of October 2015. The anticipated release date for the 3rd book is 4Q2016 insha’Allah. As of April 29th 2016, all author proceeds from these books will be donated to Houston’s Interfaith Ministries Refugee Services and Urban Harvest. We pray that these efforts are accepted and that peace prevails.
As excerpted from the preface of book 2, ‘Ya Seen: a hifdh journey in America: On the cusp of a fight in the concluding chapter of A Qur’aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz ‘Amma, Abdullah Mamoo, says the following:
“Listen, Ibrahim has just done something really wonderful; he’s taken part of the Quran and put it in his heart. He’s memorized the whole of Juz ‘Amma. I’ve never been able to do that, and there are a lot of other people like me who’ve never even attempted it. But if we memorize without actually changing our hearts then what really is the point?”
Ya Seen: a hifdh journey in America picks up largely where A Qur’aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz ‘Amma left off, in addressing this central question. Once again, we meet familiar characters Ibrahim, Amna, Khadija, Abdurrahman, Nani and Nonna, as well as other names and faces.
Ibrahim and Amna have aged, slightly, now 6 and 3, and have recently moved into a new home. Their Ammi (aka Khadija), originally from Karachi, Pakistan, continues to narrate the story, alternately leading and following in the children’s adventures. She has resumed some of her professional work, albeit from home, but still appears to devote most of her time to shepherding the children through their Quranic study as well as focusing on her own hifdh (Quranic memorization/preservation), under the guidance of Hafidha Rabia, who hails from Jakarta.
Born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, Papa (aka Abdurrahman and Nico) also plays an integral part. He commenced his own Quranic study seven and a half years ago, after converting to Islam, and, together with Khadija, is guiding the children in their study, while still pursuing his own as well as working as a financial analyst. Not far from these pairs are the children’s Nani (maternal grandmother, who stays with them much of the time) and their Nonna (paternal grandmother), both of whom are retired journalists. There is Sabir, a best friend, presently living in Cape Town (from where Ibrahim and Amna have moved, approximately a year ago), and their cousins in Houston, namely Yasmeen and Yaseen, ages 8 and 9, respectively.
However, Ya Seen departs from its predecessor in timing and depth. The story takes place over just 17 days, during Ramadan, and each chapter delves deeper into issues of Quran and life. The goal of the story is not to teach Surah Ya Seen per se, rather to show how learning the surah may unfold in a 21st century Western family, with many of the same challenges that we all face.
Hifdh al Quran (namely memorizing and striving to preserve the Quran) is both foreground and background in the story, as it was with A Qur’aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz ‘Amma. That is, most of the characters are actively trying to learn and commit the text to memory, but perhaps more importantly they are attempting to live the Quran in a purposeful way, following the sunnah of Prophet Muhemmed, peace be upon him, which takes us back, continuously, to Abdullah Mamoo’s question, as restated earlier.
This story is based loosely on real life, but all characters and events have been fictionalized, with the exception to footnotes. Many ideas incorporated in this narrative are inspired and informed by Fee Qalbee. The author is grateful for the hifdh mentorship provided by the founder of Fee Qalbee, Hafidha Rayhaanah Omar. The author is also indebted to Kinza Academy for its wealth of homeschooling resources.
Ya Seen: a hifdh journey in America is for all who are interested, including parents who are helping to coach their children in learning and memorizing Quran or more general Quranic study. The author also hopes to reach out to non-Muslims (especially any who may be linked to cross-cultural families), trying to navigate and understand some of the intricacies of the ‘culture’ of Islam, especially with regard to the Quran. In addition, the text may be used in a classroom environment by teachers of any faith or conviction who seek to present Islam, and more specifically the Quran, in a positive ‘real life’ ‘Western’ environment. Through her storytelling, the author aspires to demonstrate that the ‘culture’ of the Quran and Islam may be complementary to the West.
In South Africa, where the author has moved from (together with her fictitious characters, Ibrahim and Amna) there may be approximately 300 hifdh programs, as nearly every locality and mosque has one. In Houston, Texas, where the author is presently living, there are countless such dedicated programs as well. Some children commence as early as 4-5 years old; however, there is no fixed age, with hifdh largely depending on the interest and maturity of the child. Quite apart from any dedicated institutions, the teaching of Quran, including memorization, is undertaken in mosques and Muslim homes worldwide. And it is not uncommon for children to begin learning short suwar (chapters) from the Quran at the age of 3. “The Holy Qur’an has been memorised [in its entirety] for over fourteen centuries. People of various ages and nations have managed to complete this … task … It is [also] a matter of honour to have memorized even a small part of the Holy Qur’an … Those who dedicate their lives to the study and preservation of the entire Holy Book are known as [Allah’s] special servants,” (Londt 2008:3).
The author recommends having a translation of the Quran readily available. Reference is made throughout the text to The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1989). See also The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an for School Children by Yahiya Emerick (2010) and The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English by Ali Unal (2013). It is important to highlight that there are many translations available; some are more popular; some vary in meaning significantly from others. Ultimately they are all translations and carry a bias. Quran has multi-fold meanings and therefore is difficult to translate.
In addition, the glossary included may also help considerably with reading and understanding the text. A Cast of Characters list is provided to help navigate the many characters and terms. Also included is a ‘setting’ description at the start of every chapter to help situate the story, together with a cast of characters for that specific chapter. Footnotes provide additional examples and clarifications.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in any information retrieval system in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, taping and recording, without prior written permission from the publisher.
*A Quranic Odyssey: towards Juz ‘Amma was first published in 2012 by Greenbird Books, which closed in 2015.