Summary - As Sophia is taken to the Collins place by Mr. Bodine she continues to observe the natural beauty of the more pristine prairie as one amongst other more ominous signs in her surroundings that she has been transported back in time. Upon arriving at the Collins place she meets Mathew Collins, who will become a pivotal character in the book, the old-timey rusticness of Mathew’s dress, home, and appearance leads Sophia to conclude in her mind that he must be Amish. Mathew decides to take her to “the Sampson place” in his wagon.
Points of connection for Muslim students
“the sky turned azure” - the choice of the word “azure” here is interesting and I believe it is a deliberate choice by the author. Azure means blue and is not often used in English anymore though it was in the 19th century (where Sophia has gone back to) and it is also a word that originally comes from the Arabic word allāzaward which Arabic took from Persian and latin then took Arabic. The word azraq is the most commonly word used for blue in Arabic and Arab Muslim students would certainly know it and even for non Arabic speaking Muslim students there is a good chance they have taken some introductory Arabic lessons in mosques and learned color names. The Spanish word for blue “azul” comes from these same origins. You may not explain all this to students but there is a good chance they will not know what “azure” means (though it can be inferred from the context talking about the sky which is how the first question on the Ch. 5 questionnaire can be answered) and you could ask if students know how to say blue in Arabic (azraq - and zarqa’ is the feminine form) and explain that this is an older English word that was originally borrowed from Arabic through latin and french; if there are students in the class who know Spanish the connection with “azul” can be made; which touches on a much grander issue of the massive borrowing of Arabic words in the Spanish language (here is a neat video if you have students who speak Spanish and Muslim students).
“He’s Amish!” - Students may be limited in the extent to which they know about the Amish and most likely if they have heard of them, depending where they are in the country, it is most likely to be through some sort of pop culture reference. There are interesting parallel between Amish people and Muslims that can be pointed. Like Muslims the Amish observer conservative dress for men and women which includes head coverings, the do not consume alcohol or pork, they do not partake in gambling, the men grow beards and shave the mustache (which is exactly the same as Islamic protocols for men’s facial hair). Why these similarities? Part of it is attributed to the fact that the Amish follower the teachings and law of the Old Testament much more closely than other Christian denominations which generally believe that the Old Testament law was abrogated for non-Jews following the teachings of St. Paul in the letter to the Romans in the New Testament. However, this marks the the beginning in the book of portraying a series of parallels between the beliefs and practices of pre-industrial era Christians (Amish or otherwise) and Muslims (and this chapter and the next are the only ones where the Amish are brought up, but it can be accurately pointed out that while the Amish are often seen as strange today during the pre-industrial era they blended in with other communities much more, which is part of the reason why Mathew is able to appear Amish to Sophia). This is a narrative that has some subsistence in Muslim communities in the Western world. It is a narrative within modern day Islamic polemics that Muslims should not be shy of who they are when people in the Western world see them and their practices as backward and Muslims ought to remind people in the Western world that it was not too long ago in America when men and women dressed conservatively (and later in the book parallels between the hijab and sun bonnets are brought up) abstained from alcohol and had conservative values. Within Islamic polemics it is often asserted that what is really different and strange is the cultural changes of the West in the modern world and its various forms of permissiveness in the name of personal autonomy and emancipation from restrictive and oppressive traditionalism. Note: if a student really wants to learn more about the Amish and their contemporary existences this PBS documentary is a splendid resource.
“Bismillah” - now we are starting to see how saying “Bismillah” is straight up normal and regular for Sophia, as it is for any Muslim. Especially before eating and drinking (muslims do NOT do any type of group prayer or invocation before embarking on a meal as many Christians do).
“An immigrant like her…just because she wore scarf” - clearly this part can sprout many different discussions, especially amongst ESL students, Muslim or non-Muslim. But that Sophia thinks she is being singled our for wearing her hijab is something particular to her essence as a Muslim female and I would venture to say most, if not all, Muslim females in America can speak to having been singled, discriminated against, or had something assumed upon them for wearing the hijab (if they choose to wear it). In this respect, in America the “burden” being seen outwardly as a Muslim falls much more on the shoulders of the Muslim women.
“tasbih” - this is just referring to the tasbih dhikr that was mentioned on page 22 of chapter 2.