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.