Points of connection for Muslim students
"Christianized Indians" - http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/native-americans-and-christianity
"9/11" - focus on badness of groups who commit terrorism, there is a disproportionate amount of focus on Muslim groups. I recommend avoid delving to deep into 9/11 as an issue itself. - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world-0/terror-attacks-media-coverage-muslim-islamist-white-racism-islamophobia-study-georgia-state-a7820726.html - there is of course and endless discussion and background knowledge to go into the matter; but the point ultimately boils down to what is articulated in the book, that a rotten few create an adverse situation for all.
"Abbey has been doubting Providence" - Now this is beginning the set up of a recurring role in the book for Abbey where Sophia will articulate to her Islamic attitudes towards faith and hardship and other matters related to Islamic teaching. The study guide will highlight and expand upon these parts in the book as they come up.
““Not only was Matthew not a Muslim…” - Islam puts marriage restrictions on Muslims, and there are several differences between marriage in Islam and marriage in Christianity, though some similarities also. These differences weigh rather heavy on the cultural experience and concise of our Muslim students who are growing up in America. As the story is alluding to here, Muslim women are only allowed to marry Muslim men in Islam, Muslim men are only allowed to marry Muslim women, Christian women, or Jewish women, and they are many Islamic scholars who say that for a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman should only take place under certain or extenuating circumstances. This is something that can effect the Muslim youth in a myriad of manifestations. Beginning with the girls, they can experience many trials over this. As they emerge into pubescence and romance becomes a curiosity to them they will feel pressure to put their thoughts about under this restricted frame. I have seen girls who seem to have gone to lengths to find out about Muslim celebrities to fulfill their impulses to fantasize about celebrity romance under these restrictions (such as Zayn Malik from the band One Direction). If they do develop a “crush” on a non-Muslim guy (celebrity or otherwise) they might fit their fancies about him into a narrative wherein they teach him about Islam and he converts to it before marriage (and indeed, there have been many men in the West who converted to Islam because a Muslim girl taught him about it whilst one of them had a crush on the other).
19th century terms in PowerPoint - outhouse, soddy, chiggers, scabbard, bonnet, scrub board, house raising
Points of connection for Muslim students
“make ablutions before prayer” - see the previous chapters reference to ablution (wudu) and tayamum and the link her that describes it.
“sunbonnets, which Sophia discovered made a perfect head covering” - There is a picture of a sunbonnet on the powerpoint to go with this chapter. So part of the arc of this book is highlighting that there are more inter-religious commonalities amongst the Abrahamic religions if we only look a little bit back in time to how Christianity was practiced; again, I believe it is generally true that this is a narrative that is espoused more lucidly in Muslim communities in the West - here is an example of an article where you can see that narrative at play. One point highlighted with this is that Christian woman used to wear head coverings as part of their religion, and the sun bonnet was one manifestation of that which also had the practice applications of blocking out the sun in the vast prairie. Head coverings by both men and women in the desert climates of much of the Muslim world have the same effect. The first epistle to the Corinthians written by Paul in the New Testament says women’s hair is for covering, there is a website that is apparently devoted to advocating within the Christian community to bring back head covering
“the quilt was an amazing good room divider” - Muslims tend to be familiar with a variety of types of room dividers because of the adherence of edicts to separating men and women. It is common in mosques in the west that the separate areas for men and for women are nothing more than a curtain or a type of stand alone divider that might be associated with use in a dressing room or something like that.
“sleeping with Joshua on the other side took some getting used to” - this because of the separation of the genders that is adhered to it would not be in keeping with Islamic protocols for post-pubescent individuals of the opposite gender to sleep in the same room together. Not all Muslim students may relate to this, especially if they are from large low income families that live in a condensed urban space, they are probably familiar with having to share space closely in all kinds of scenarios, at least with family members. Somalis, generally, are considered to be more liberal with the mixing of the genders than many other Muslim ethnic groups such as Arabs or Indo-Pakistanis, and for kids growing up in the West this only more so. Nevertheless, it is still likely that Muslim kids have engendered some sensitivities to inter-gender mingling that their non-Muslim counterparts may not have.
“Sophia’s city-girl squeamishness…to milk the teat” - Now if you have some students who lived for a good amount of time in East Africa they maybe have had the experience of milking a cow, so it can be interesting to ask if anyone has ever done it. I was surprised when I had a students (who outwardly seemed rather acculturated to American life) who had done so regularly in Kenya in younger years, and she scoffed at Sophia's squeamishness her. “Squeamish” is a good word to describe here also. I have also found teaching biology to urban-raised Somali youth that they tend to be squeamish about things like bugs and dirt etc. So saw reaction to the idea of milking the cow yield very different reactions from my Somali students depending on their personal background.
“the Bible stories they read about Prophet Noah or Prophet Moses, even Prophet Jesus all contained admonishments to worship God” - The meaning of the word admonish here is something to explain to students, as it is another thing that is ubiquitous in Islam and most likely their upbringing as Muslims, but not something that they always know the English terminology for. There are different words in the Qur’an that are rendered as the word admonish in different English translations of it, words that are some times also translated as “warn” (andhar) “remind” (dhakr) or “advise” ('adhat), and any verse reminding of the Day of Judgement and of the punishment of Hellfire is considered to be admonishing. It is present in the narratives of Islamic polemics that modern-day interpretations of Christianity have become too permissive and ignores the importance of admonishment in inculcating restraint upon humanity. The inclusion of this in this paragraph may be harkening to this (that and the fact that Sophia is “surprised” that Christianity and Islam have such similarities). It is also notable that Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are all titled as, and only as, "Prophet" in Sophia's conscious. Because in Islam they are not considered saints or anything god-like. Prophets in Islam were human beings that God chose to receive revelation and deliver the message of the revelation to people.
“they had been afraid that Sophia worshipped cows or trees or something” - this is of course a reference to being mistaken as Hindu. Something Indo-Pakistan Muslims might have some experience with in their life. Hinduism is much further away from Islam than Christianity and Judaism are, the explicit worship of animals and attribution of the divine to created things in Hinduism render it in direct opposition to Islam’s first pillar.
“She recited part of the chapter called “Yusuf,” the story of Prophet Joseph.” - this refers to the Joseph whose story is told in the Old Testament in the book of Genesis who was the son of Jacob whose older brothers were jealous of the dreams he had that foretold future greatness for him so they plotted against him and threw him down a well where he was then picked up by caravaners (in the Old Testament the brothers sell him straight up to the caravaners) and brought to Egypt where, after many trials, he used his gift for interpreting dreams to help them prepare for and survive a famine and thereby being appointed as a wazir (or vizier, a high ranking minister) of the land after which he was reunited in harmony with his father and brothers. The same story is told in the 12th chapter of the Qur’an (and it is actually the only chapter of the Qur’an that is devoted to the complete telling of a story of just one Prophet), it is remarkably similar to the one in the Old Testament. The story in the Qur’an is a much more succinct telling of it and is a less cumbersome read than the story in Genesis and is a story that is famous and well known to Muslims. The reference is NOT about the Joseph in the New Testament that is said to be the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary (Maryam or Mariam in Arabic and Islam) does not have a husband in the Qur’anic teachings about her and the New Testament Joseph did not exist in the teachings of Islam -
“his black horse, who was named Othello” - This is another clever reference the author is making. Othello is of corse a famous Shakespeare play in which the daughter of a prominent statesman in Venice falls in love with and marries a general in the Venetian army that is of “moorish” decent (an alternate name to Othello is the Moor of Venice). Moors was a European monicker given to the Muslims of Morocco and Spain. While Othello’s religion is never explicitly discussed in Othello the implication in the play is that he has converted to Christianity and is indeed helping Italy fighting against the “Turks” who are the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Visual depictions of Othello have always shown him in Muslim-like dress. Othello is said to be adapted from another story by an Italian playwright entitled A Moorish Captain (Un Capitano Moro) - there are several theories that Othello was based on Muslims Shakespeare had met in Moroccan delegations to England or based on a North African servant in the Italian court of the 17th century who had later done some writings.
“I do hope that Providence will reunite you…” - Here we have the mention of providence that was alluded to in the Chapter 1 study guide page 4. To repeat that information. Providence is equivalent to the Islamic term qadr Qadr is a tenet of belief in Islam, the belief that all things, good and bad, come about by God’s decree and God has ultimate knowledge of everything. However, qadr is NOT a fatalistic belief in Islam as Islam interprets life as a test of ones choices, beliefs, and actions. When I taught this with my Muslim students I found that they knew what qadr was but they did not know how to express it English terms, and they appreciated learning the words “divine decree” and “predestination” which are the best English renderings on the meaning. Providence is another word that means the same thing. Islamic authorship, however, usually does not use the word Providence when translating qadr as it has a more overtly Christian connotation to it than the words “divine decree” or “predestination”
“Eats like a pig” - Sophia's indignation at the boy being picked on is easily relatable to anyone. There is a hint here that the fact that he is picked on for the way he eats could strike a personal chord with her as a Muslim. In following the Sunnah, the actions of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims often eat with their hands (specifically their right hand) including foods that European, and certainly anglo, culture would eat with utensils. Thus the eating habits of Muslims has been a point of denigration for Europeans in their analysis of Muslim cultures in the past; using it as an opportunity to cast Muslims as British and primitive. Like many other things Muslims have their own secular justifications for why this is a good idea - https://themuslimvibe.com/western-muslim-culture/food/5-reasons-why-you-should-eat-with-your-hands - However, this can still be found to be a point of patronization from Westerners towards Muslims, as seen in this example from Oprah - http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/you-still-eat-with-your-hands-oprahs-magical-mystery-tour-of-india-385494.html
"some kids called him "The Terrorist'" - there is obviously a lot that can be brought up with his paragraph that deals with bullying and every school has its one context in which those conversations need to take place, having been on the receiving end of some type of direct if not implicit bullying or derogatory experience due to one's identity as a Muslim is not at all uncommon to experience by adolescents. Further, the Muslim youth themselves are of course not free from their own biases and tendencies towards arrogance as any other youth are and pushing students towards demonstrating respect, and communicating differences with respectful language has to be central to the education of Muslim and all youth and the teachings of Islam reinforce this type of respect.
Part of the book's bringing this up in relation to the Indian boy (and later a black slave) is to highlight the enlightened disposition towards racial differences that Islam explicitly inculcates; it is a recurring theme in the book. This article, one written to teach Muslims about their religion, does a good job of showing the extent to which Islamic sources are against racism and bigotry - http://abuaminaelias.com/islam-is-against-racism-and-bigotry/
"...and made istighfar" - making "istighfar" means seeking forgiveness as the text says. It is common that when a Muslim is aggravated they say "Astaghfiurallah" (I seek forgiveness from God), to a degree they may say this compulsively without reflecting on the meaning much as it is built into a Muslim's habitual lexicon. If you have taught Muslim students for a while it is likely something they have said around you before and if you did not notice it before try listening for it now.
19th century terms in PowerPoint - Henry Adams and pat Buchanan colonial reenactment community - creature from the black lagoon, water basin, outhouse, corn cob, soddy, game, (judaic, christian, and muslim female dress), The Herald Tribune.
Summary - Sophia wakes up in the Sampson home finding the confines to be primitively even by her perception of Amish standards. Really starting to wonder what her surroundings are her anxiety increases and she finds a newspaper dated 1857 and puts together enough from the family's talk of wagons and trains to determine that she actually has been transported back in time. We also meet the Sampson family in this chapter including the pivotal characters of Eleanor (Mrs. Sampson) and Abbey, whose character will serve a central literary role as a vehicle for Sophia to express religious reflection. Sophia has to begin sorting out her religious identity with the Sampson family during their first meal together, a part in the book where some deep inter-religious issues are alluded to that are unpacked in the points of connection below.
Points of connection for Muslim students
"La hawla wa la quwwata illa bi lah" - This is a very common invocation used by Muslims and it's meaning is translated in the book. There is certain point during the call to prayer where Muslims who are listening to it are suppose to say this invocation quietly to themselves. It is also commonly used in times of duress, as Sophia is experiencing here, as a reminder that every thing is decreed by God.
“how to decline the bacon without seeming rude” - Pork, of course, is not permissible to consume for Muslims. Most Muslims in the west have had at least one time, most likely numerous, where they have been offered something or to go consume something (such as pork or alcohol) that is forbidden to consume by their religion, but this fact did not enter the realm of consideration of the person making the offer. This type of situation, while ultimately and typically not too difficult to deal with, can leave a person feeling conflicted and uncomfortable internally. As Sophia says in the book, one does not want to seem rude when these situations arise; furthermore, if one has to explain that they cannot do something for a religious reason then what more will that have to entail explaining to the person, will that person now wonder all the time whether or not you can or cannot do something because of your religion? Will the person find in strange because in the 21st century of the Western world people typically restrict themselves from very little for the reasons of religion (at least compared to latter times and I would say compared to Muslims). The reality is that typically when Muslims interact with non-Muslims they keep their Muslim identity under the table and take small measures to avoid externalizing it, such as code-switching as was previously discussed, and they tend to remain silent with people about their Muslim identity so there is much to be brought up and empathized with this in this regard and that could potentially be discussed in classrooms. What other type of people have to deal with similar phenomena like this? What type of people do not? What type of problems does this create for people? What are reasons that Muslims might have more so than other groups of people to feel compelled to generally stay silent about their religious identity? (such as the over association in the media between Muslims and terrorism - consider this article).
“Eeeewww. She had see her grandparents eat pepperoni” - This line further suggests that Sophia’s mother is a native-Kansan convert to Islam, it does not suggest that her grandparents are non-practicing Muslims; even amongst Muslims who stop or do not practice Islam, it is rare for them to eat pork. Her disgust with seeing them eat pork and thought that “she still couldn’t get used to the idea that people actually ate pigs” touches on a narrative that exists amongst Muslims that the pig is a filthy animal that is indulgent and lavishes the sensual experience of its own filth. Pig meat has been scientifically shown to be more susceptible to carry diseases such as trichinosis than other meats, and of all the animal meats that are common staples of diets worldwide pig meat is the only meat that contains a larger percentage of fat than it does protein. Therefore its consumption is unhealthy and in all-advised on numerous levels. So while Muslims ultimately follow the edicts of their religion because they believe they are commandments from God, they also develop within their own internal reasons secular justifications for why the edicts have worldly benefits, and it is not uncommon at all that Muslim youth are introduced or familiar with these narratives to some degree and an internal disgust for things forbidden in Islam is thereby instilled in them. This link demonstrates an example of such a narrative being espoused about the consumption of pork.
“The family took hands, including Sophia’s” - it is not elaborated upon in the book here but this is another uncomfortable situation that Muslims in the West can find themselves in. It was mentioned before that group praying and holding of hands before eating is not an Islamic practice. Further, praying and making invocations is a form of worship in Islam and doing an act of worship that Islam has not prescribed is actually a very major sin in the religion because it is in essence in violation of Islam’s first pillar and it goes against many explicit edicts within the religion. So this type of situation is difficult for Sophia, it is even worse if a Muslim is in this situation and the person saying the prayer insists on invoking Jesus, because praying to or invoking the name of anyone or anything other than Allah or His names is strictly forbidden in Islam, to invoke the name of Jesus and pray to him is an act of idolatry in Islam and, again, is strictly forbidden. Joshua here says, “Dear Father…” and that may not be as bad as saying the name of Jesus, however the idea that God has sons or any offspring is explicitly rebuked in the Qur’an as Islam asserts that the Creator is distinct and not like the creation and to assign paternity or sonship to God is patently false. However, there is some likeness in the Hebrew word abba (אַבָּא) and av (אַב), which mean father but are used for God in the Bible, and the Arabic word Rab which means Lord, and we saw Sophia use that word when she said “Ya Rabbi” when she was in the river. Hebrew and Arabic are both semitic languages and many, if not most, of their words share origins and cognate to one another. It has been an a viewpoint by Muslim analysts of the Bible that the Biblical use of the word Father is misconstrued when it is used by Christian doctrine to assign corporal paternity to God, that the word’s true meaning is one of a paternal-like Lordship over the creation. Now, the part where Joshua says, “bless…our bodies to thy service. Amen” - nothing wrong with that part Islamically as the concept of service to God in Islam is blatant. “Amen” in Arabic is “Ameen” and Muslims say “Ameen” at the end of their invocations also. So you can see how this author has cleverly packed major and complex issues into seemingly small affairs within this book. The more one knows about these matters the more intriguing the book as, and brining them to light can make the book more engaging to all students.
“Miss Sophia…are you Jewish?” - Ah! How clever is this author? Some Muslims in the West have the experience of being asked this question. Those of us who are ethnically of Levantine origin and happen to have the last name Abraham have been asked it our entire lives. If your students are Somali it is much less likely. Nevertheless, some commonalities between Judaism and Islam are on display in the book here. It is not necessarily common knowledge amongst both Muslim and Christian students that Judaism, like Islam, also prohibits the consumption of pork. Eating the pig is explicitly forbidden in the old testament in the book in Leviticus 11:7-8 and the book of Deuteronomy 14:8. Two books of the canonical Torah wherein much, but not all, is in agreement with Islam. It is part of Islamic belief that the Torah was a revelation from God given to Moses, except the books of it were altered by humans after the time of Moses. Moses himself is also the most mentioned Prophet in the Qur’an, and Sophia’s Journal will show some of his Qur’anic story later on. The dress of women that is prescribed by Judaism is another similarity with Islam. This is something that, similar to the dress of Christian women, is not so widely observed by Jewish women in the modern world outside of very orthodox realms. Search “Jewish orthodox women dress” and see what comes up, and there is a slide in the powerpoint that illustrates the point. However not too long ago it was much more commonplace as this book is illustrating to us later on this page when Mrs. Sampson mentions that Sophia’s headscarf made her think she was Jewish. It is also not totally uncommon for Muslim women in the west of paler complexions to be asked if they are nuns.
“tayamum - emergency dry ablution” - “ablution” in Islam is called “wudu” and it refers to the ritual washing that is obligatory to be done before the daily prayers - more on that here if clean water is unable to be found there is an alternate process that can be done which is called “tayamum” where the worshipper rubs their hands in dirt on the ground, then rubs the dirt on their face (a light amount) and then on the hands and wrists. Making taymamum may be generally said to be less commonly done as civilizations and irrigation/plumbing systems have advanced over time making clean water more regularly available generally on earth. This leads to an interesting point about Muslim civilizations which were foremost in the development of irrigation and plumbing technology in the middle ages, which in turn led to many agricultural advances - more on that here and here.
“Mrs. Sampson do you mind if I pray here?” - This is an interesting part. For Muslims in the west trying to get appropriate prayer accommodations - including the space to do it in is a constant struggle and having to ask people for different accommodations in a variety of settings, including the homes of others, all brings an array of anxieties along with it. Muslims of course differ in their discomfort with this type of thing. It could stimulate some conversation to ask Muslims students if they have ever been in a place where they found it difficult or impossible to pray. or if they ever felt that some people (non-Muslims) were easier to ask for places to pray (or to wait on something they were doing together) than other. Another interesting question then is, could it maybe be in easier in the 19th century for Sophia to ask Mrs. Sampson than to ask people in the 20th century for a place to pray? To me, it seems that it may be easier in the 19th century just in the sense that religion and religious practice was less strange back then. On the other hand you might ask, to what extent was religious diversity really respected?
“she found the Qibla” - The “qibla” is the closest direction to the city of Mecca based on aerial trajectory, wherever one is on earth. Thus it is the direction that a Muslim faces to pray. In the continent of North America the qibla is always the direction of northeast.
“Sophia was exhausted by the time she sad ‘Amin’” - here you see Sophia saying “Amen” in the Arabic form, which is said by the Muslim in each prayer after they recite the first seven verses (which is also the first chapter) of the Qur’an.
“She recited from the Qur’an the verses Muslims say before going to bed” - These verses are actually the last three chapters (surahs) of the Qur’an. They are called surat al-iklas, surat al-falaq, and surat an-nas. They amount to only 15 verses total (the Qur’an is loosely organized by the length of the chapters with the exception of the first chapter), and they can be recited in less than a minute. These three verses are typically the first verses and chapters of the Qur’an than children learn how to recite, after the fist chapter (surat al-fatihah) and your Muslim students will almost definitely know them. You could maybe ask them to recite them and demonstrate their multi-lingual skills? Thought it is likely that they would be too shy to do it. I would skip asking them to translate it as they may not be able to and that would make the whole ordeal more cumbersome.
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.
Summary - Sophia wakes up having slept a long time. The signs that she has gone back time become increasingly less subtle. Upon waking up she is greeted by an old farmer who speaks with an old timey accent which can be compared to the speech of characters in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn if students have read that. There is also a connection in this book with the Wizard of Oz in that the main character is from Kansas and whisked away to another world. This demonstrates and interesting aspect of literature in how we can use literature to learn about the real world experience of other times. The author of this book (Najiyah Mayfield) does this creatively. She has clearly read Huckleberry Finn and uses it to write about the world of the 19th century while integrating it with her own unique 21st century experience.
Points of connection for Muslim students
“Sophia prayed the noon and afternoon prayers together, shortening them since she was traveling” - This is refers to something in Islam which is called praying qasr. As is explained here each of the 5 daily prayers has a certain amount of units that are one e it called “rakas.” The noon and afternoon prayer each have 4 rakas, but when a Muslim is traveling on a journey they may combine (meaning pray them at the same time) and shorten these prayers by making each one 2 rakes instead of 4. Students will likely know about this procedure of shortening the prayers, and have likely done it at one time or another in their life. It would not surprise me however if they do not know the term qasr so if you wanted to you could share that with them and they might be impressed that you dropping some Islamic knowledge on them.
"I'm Sophia Ahmed" - The name "Ahmed" is a well know Arabic name that is common in both the Arab and non-Arab world as both a first name for males and family name, and the Islamic naming pattern is such that both girls and boys take their father's name as their middle name. As such many Muslim immigrants end up with their father or grandfather's name as their surname when they immigrate to the West. The name Ahmed is derived from the Arabic word hamd which means "praise" - the name Muhammad is also derived from this word. The name Ahmed means "much praised."
indicators that she has gone back in time. She also assess and makes a litany of the contents of her backpack which is still with her. In it she still has her EpiPen which will serve a crucial purpose later in the book. You will want to explain what the EpiPen is for students who may not know. She also takes note of a photo album that she was brining to her cousin’s house. Sophia dozes off to sleep amidst having to worry about just how far from her family she may be, not yet having it in mind that she has been transported back in time.
Points of connection for Muslim students
“Ya Rabbi” - means “Oh My Lord” - the word Rab means Lord in Arabic - the “i” at the end which is the long vowel “i” sound indicates first person possession in Arabic when attached to a noun.
“prayer rug” - Amidst her evaluation of items in her backpack Sophia has a prayer rug. The association of Muslims and prayer rugs is well known. Religiously there is nothing formal or necessary about the prayer rug, in mosques prayer rugs are not used. Muslims may or may not use them in there home, they serve the purpose of providing a clean piece of soft grounding in case it is not easily available, which is commonly the case when traveling as Sophia is here. The arabic word for the prayer rug is sajada which comes from the verb sujud which means “prostration” because the sajada is a thing to prostrate on.
“the afternoon prayer” - this is the third of the five daily prayers and it is called asr. The book mentions that it comes at the time in the afternoon where the sun has descended as such that the shadows of objects will be the same size as their actual shape, which is roughly halfway from noon to sundown. See her for talk on the time variations since these days the prayer times are all calculated by astrology (and have been for centuries) Muslims, especially younger ones, are not always aware of the reasons for why the prayer times come in when they do, so they might find learning this interesting. This wikipedia article has a cool description about how the prayer times are calculated, though it is probably better served for a math class, but if someone is wondering exactly how the prayer times are calculated it can be referenced.
Summary - In this chapter we see Sophia’s family set off for their bike trip amidst concerns that there may be flash flooding (foreshadowing what will take place on the bike trip). We see Sophia’s common teenage excitement about learning how to drive, which will be harkened to later in the book when she goest back to the 19th century and greatly appreciates the thrill of riding horses even more so than she ever did driving. Sophia also notices an old farmhouse that is marked as former station of the Underground Railroad. This house will have a prominent presence also in the book later on when Sophia goes back in time. Students may or may not know what the underground railroad was, it is worth reminding and explaining when it comes up in the book.This link talks about the history of the Underground Railroad in Kansas, it could act as a supplementary reader. For more advanced or interested readers there is a book by Tom Calarco called Places of the Underground Railroad that could be recommended to interested students. The book is actually available for download in PDF form on the internet (note clicking that link will download the book). Page 327 of that book (357 in the PDF) talks something about the circumstances in Kansas in the side 1850s which Sophia will go back in time to, and page 331 (PDF 362) talks about specific places in Kansas that slaves went to when going to the free territory.
As Sophia’s family gets going on the bike ride the action begins. Sophia has an accident and ends up in a new place. In this sense there is suspense and action through most of this chapter so there are less teaching points below. The Illustrations background knowledge powerpoint is helpful for this chapter for ESL students.
Points of connection for Muslim students
“As soon as they prayed the dawn prayer” - the dawn prayer is called fejr in Arabic and Islam and it is the first prayer done in the day of the 5 obligatory prayers. The time of fejr in North America will range from being done in the time frame of about 3:30am-5:00am in the early summer to 6:00am-7:00am in middle of winter. It is notoriously the most difficult of the 5 obligatory prayers for anyone to get in. You might ask the Muslim students how and if their school schedule can make it difficult to perform fejr.
“safety pins” - The book describes the relevance here and if you teach Muslim females a stash of safety pins is something you ought to have in your teacher desk or a cabinet for when the inevitable need arises. You could certainly ask the students if they can relate to the described scenario were safety pins are commonly needed and lost.
“ya Allah” - “ya” is a general exclamation in Arabic so saying this is the equivalent to saying “Oh God!” or “Oh dear God!” - most Muslims know the Arabic expression “ya la!” which means “Come on!” and is often used to move people along, therefore young people hear a lot. My Somali students know that expression.
“Bismillah” - as mentioned in chapter 1 this means “in the name of God” and is said at the start of performing an action. Generally, it’s not like Muslims say this before absolutely everything that they do, but they tend to remember saying it when there is more gravity to what they are doing beyond the mundane. Here Sophia says it before she kicks her way towards a tree trunk.
“Ya Latif” - we explained the meaning of “ya” before. Latif here is another name for Allah. In Islam Allah has no less than 99 names that He is referred to, and these names describe his attributes as are described in the Qur’an, this is all a matter necessitating much more elaboration that is gone over in our Professional development seminars - but the word Latif means “gentle” or “kind” because Allah is the Most Kind and the source of all kindness. Many Muslim students have names that incorporate these names of Allah after the word “‘abd” or “‘abdi” which means “slave” “servant” or “worshipper” such as the name “Abdullahi” which means “Servant of God” the name “Abdulatif” also means the same thing only the word lah (which means God in Arabic) is replaced by one of Allah’s names “Latin” - there are endless examples of these such as Abdurahman (Servant of the Most Merciful) and Abdurizaq (Servant of the Provider) etc.
“tasbih dhikr” - we talked about the meaning of dhikr in the first chapter guide - the “tasbih dhikr” simply means making remembrance (dhikr) specifically by saying and repeating “subhanallah” “alhamdulilah” and “Allahu Akbar” 33 times.
Summary - We are introduced to Sophia in the 21st century. Indicators of her being an American Muslim and her family dynamics are shown as well as her being a hypochondriac. Hypochondria is not exactly an Islamic disposition for a person to have but also not uncommon for someone of any background, that Sophia carries these fears around with her is something that transforms in her with her character’s development in the book, it is also illuminated that there are omniscient reasons of benefit for it concerning other characters when she goes back in time. So teaching about hypochondria before reading the chapter is smart and will help students answer the 6th and 7th questions on the Ch. 1 questionnaire in a more sophisticated fashion. Here is an article that explains it succinctly that could be used to teach it or the wording used in a presentation.
Points of connection for Muslim students
“their small Islamic school” - we learn Sophia attends an Islamic school (and this relates to question 2 on the Ch. 1 questionnaire). This means a private school. Yes there are several private Islamic K-12 schools through the country, in the Twin Cities Al Amal school is a well know one in the Muslim community. Looking for educational alternatives to the standard public schools is quite commonplace for Muslim families in America for a myriad of reasons not least of which is wanting to have greater protection and control over the social influences of their kids. In the Twin Cities this also manifests itself in the many charter schools that cater to the East African community. It is not unlikely at all that your students may have some experience with these schools, or knowing kids who go to such schools, or having had their families consider sending them to such a school (or perhaps you are teaching them at such a school). Homeschooling is also common amongst higher class Muslim families in the Twin Cities.
"Sr. Azza" - this means "sister azza" it is common for Muslims to refer to one another as brother or sister and sometimes when talking about a Muslim in the third person one might refer to them as sister (sr.) so an so or brother (br.) so and so. Later on in the book a prominent character gets referred to as Br. Ibrahim
“Huda” - the name “Huda” means “guidance” in Arabic it is a common girls name (For somali girls the name is often rendered as “Hodan”) Huda is also one of the honorifics given to the Qur’an. In Minneapolis there is a rather well known mosque names Masjid Al-Huda in the northeast neighborhood on Central Ave. across the street from Holy Land restaurant. Muslim names tend to have deep meanings and it is cool to point that out to people and it makes the Muslim students feel honored.
“making dhikr and du’a” - the word dhikr means “remembrance” in Arabic, in Islam it most often specifically refers to saying the phrases Subhanallah (glory to God) Allahuakbar (God is Great) and Alhamdulilah (Praise be to God) 33 times each. It is a regular practice to “make dhikr” after the Islamic prayers and students will most likely be familiar with this. Du’a means “to call” in Arabic, it refers to making invocation and supplication to God, Islam has formal and specific arabic du’as to be made in specific situations (such as beginning activities, when sick, when waking up in the morning) but du’a can also refer to asking God for whatever is good. A very common du’a that all Muslims know is saying bismillah before eating. If you ask students to share, “what du’a do Muslims make before they eat something?” they ought to know. Bismillah means “In the name of God” and Muslims can say it at the start of anything really.
“His will” - as was also done in Christian writing, when referring to Allah by pronouns the standard practice is to capitalize those pronouns. This talk about all things being by his “will” refers to what is called qadr in Arabic which means “ultimate divine decree” - Qadr is a tenet of belief in Islam, the belief that all things, good and bad, come about by God’s decree and God has ultimate knowledge of everything. However, qadr is NOT a fatalistic belief in Islam as Islam interprets life as a test of ones choices, beliefs, and actions. When I taught this with my Muslim students I found that they knew what qadr was but they did not know how to express it English terms, and they appreciated learning the words “divine decree” and “predestination” which are the best English renderings on the meaning. Providence is another word that means the same thing and this word will be related later in the book when Sophia goes back to the 19th century. Islamic authorship, however, usually does not use the word Providence when translating qadr as it has a more overtly Christian connotation to it than the words “divine decree” or “predestination” - this is a worthwhile point to bring up when Providence is used in Chapters 7 and 8.
“His will involves tests and trials” - this is referring to the term fitnah in Arabic, which means tests or trials and is a well known concept in Islam, again, when teaching this book to students I found that they knew the word fitnah but did not know how to best render it into English.
“Damascus, Syria” - so it appears from Chapter 1 that Sophia is the daughter of an Arab immigrant from Syria and a woman from a small town in Kansas who is likely a convert to Islam, I believe this mirrors the background of the authors actual daughter. If you are in the Twin Cities and have many Somali students Damascus is one of the many places in the Somali diaspora where Somalis have emigrated to, it is not at all unlikely that your students may have family members there and you could ask if anyone has family members or cousins, aunts, uncles, in Damascus - not a given that they will, but likely enough that it is a fair question to ask.
“insha’Allah”- This is of course defined in the glossary in the back of the book, it means “God willing” in Arabic. Of course Muslims say it all the time, it is a littler lesser known and understood that Muslims are actually commanded to say it whenever they speak about what may happen in the future in the 23rd verse of the 18th chapter of the Qur’an where it says: ““AND NEVER SAY OF ANYTHING, ‘I SHALL DO SUCH AND SUCH THING TOMORROW.EXCEPT (WITH THE SAYING): ‘IF ALLAH WILLS!’? AND REMEMBER YOUR LORD WHEN YOU FORGET” A common part of the experience of code-switching for Muslims in their interactions with non-Muslims is having to render commonly used Arabic phrases into secular English terms that do not come off as weird sounding or out of place to their non-Muslim acquaintances. Often times this is a skill are our K-12 Muslim students have not fully developed. For example, when speaking with a non-Muslim and a situation comes up that would trigger my mind to say “insha’Allah” I will instead say “hopefully” or “hopefully it works out that way.”
The linked to article above on code-switching may be something to share with your Muslim students, or some education not the concept, as it is something they pretty much all do but are unaware of the academic categorization of it as a psychological phenomenon.
“AsSalaamu Alaikum. Wa Alaikum AsSalaam” - This is of course an exchange of the Islamic greeting which means “Peace be upon you” and the reply is “and upon you be peace” - Muslim students will know this, it is a nice thing to bring up and translate as it illuminates something nice about Islam and it can also be connected to Christian Sunday mass/services which involve a specific moment in which congregates turn to one another and say “Peace be with you” or in a Spanish mass they say “La Paz” to one another- this connection with the Christian Sunday services is something the Muslim students will likely not know about and if you are in a religiously heterogenous classroom this in an entry point for sharing and identifying inter-religious commonalities - of which there are many of course. A note here, I have come across some reading that indicates the Catholic liturgy has recently changed the respondent’s phrase from “and also with you” to “and also with your spirit” deeming that this is a more authentic translation of the original latin liturgy.
“Now he thought Subhanallah was a greeting…” - that Sophia’s parrot thinks and treats saying Subhanallah as greeting is basically funny, you could maybe ask the Muslim students if they would think it is funny if someone greeted them saying it. Towards the very end of the book Sophia refers back to this so it is not a bad point to highlight in the beginning as it will help the students remember when they are reading the final chapter.