Where do I start? Ok, so if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve been preparing for a workshop on the life and birth of Eesa (as) for primary school aged children. Why?
The emergence of this idea took place in my kitchen, after telling my daughter for what felt like a trillion times, that NO, Jesus, was not born in a stable, a forgetful angel didn’t bring the news to Mary and we cannot call any human, our Lord. I instead told her, that he (as) was born under a date palm, and the best of angels brought the news to his most pious mother and Allah has no need for children or any other family member. I found her repeating after me, only to come back the next day to tell me about the three wise men and their gifts to (Allah forgive me for writing this) Lord Jesus. I sat in my kitchen and in a normal-crazy-mother-who-talks-to-herself kinda way said: “this girls needs to be told the story of Eesa (as) in a fun way, just as the nativity is shared in school in a fun way!” And that was it, I found myself preparing for a workshop that I realised many wanted.
Our very kind Masjid allowed me to deliver it there. We had over 70 registrations in less than 24 hours, which highlighted to me, that there really was a need for such a workshop! I also have had several sisters contact me on social media asking me to share what it is I did.
Below is a set up of the workshop, bearing in mind I changed this to suit a very large group of children, smaller groups can easily do more, with focus on lots of conversations. Ours was very interactive even with 80 children.
Conversation about Eesa (as) – I asked the kids who he was, what they knew about him and we kicked started the workshop talking about some of the usual misconceptions we hear about Eesa (as).
Story reading from ‘Migo and Ali: Love for the Prophets’ – I feel this book made my life so much easier (may Allah reward you Zanib Mian). I read it with so much ease, the kids loved it and it was just the perfect addition to my workshop. I couldn’t have done without it. Some of the ideas for my crafts were also from the illustrations in the book. If you’re familiar with the book, you’ll know that each Prophets story ends with a little Q and A by Migo and Ali – to make this part interesting for the children, I made face masks of Migo and Ali and used them to read that section out. I don’t know about the kids, but I loved it. I’m now leaving the masks for my kids to use at home.
Date palm shaking – by some five year olds and a few dates being dropped to them – this initially was to be my main activity but because of how big the group was, I used the inflatable palm tree more as piece of prop in the background. We spoke about the benefit of eating dates and how Allah helped Maryam (as) by telling her to eat dates.
True or false game – where children were asked to run to the ‘True’ wall or ‘False’ wall according to the statements I read out, eg: Eesa (as) was born in a stable. Because they got to run, the kids really enjoyed it. This activity could be done in any setting, even at home over dinner. My initial idea was to give the kids a green card to hold up for the true statements and a red one for the false ones, I changed this to have a more physically involved activity.
We then moved onto the following crafts/activities.
Four crafts/activities: –
Tawheed hand Made by cutting out shape of own hand, putting all fingers and thumb together bar the index finger. We stuck “Allah is One” on and decorated the hand. This craft signified our belief in One Allah and that he has no partners, the index finger reminding us of our shahadah.
Decorate a plain bird with tissue paper to make it colourful. This was to remind the children that Eesa (as) was able to perform many miracles with Allah’s help, like blowing life into a clay bird. You can print the activity sheet from here: Eesa ws bird activity
Date palm tree made out of two different coloured papers, rolling them into a tube, pushing the tube up out a little, cutting four slits a third way in, after taping the tube, we pulled out the cut slits, revealing a palm style effect. They then stuck “Eesa (as) was born under a date palm tree” onto their craft. This was our most popular craft at the workshop. –
Al Maidah drawing exercise, where children were asked to draw on the printed table, the fruits of Jannah that Allah sent for Eesa (as) and his people. This simple activity sheet can be printed from here: Al Maidah worksheet
I wanted crafts that help re tell the story, so I specifically chose the above hoping that the crafts would re spark conversations at home for the kids.
After the crafts were done, we all came back together as a big group again and discussed the relevance of each craft. Some very good questions were asked, which I think is a sign of engaged children.
My last activity was using the picture cards I made. I made eight of them (one is missing from above picture as I printed it off later), asked eight kids to stand in front, holding them out for the group to put them in order. I specifically added the last three; a cross with word “NO” on it, a cloud with an arrow pointing up and lastly a arrow pointing down to Earth. This was to make sure children understood that the birth of Eesa (as) isn’t the only part of his life believed to be different by Muslims, but also his ascension and his return to Dunya. If you would like to print these, then you can do so by clicking here:Eesa workshop picture story
Just like with most things, when you try and tell others about something, you yourself learn the most – thats exactly what happened to me. I found myself reading from Ibn Kathir’s ‘Stories of the Prophets’* book almost every night for a whole week. I re read the tafsir of Surah Maryam and parts of Al Ma’idah. If there is one thing I’ve taken away from this workshop, then it is, to know that there is no fear in speaking about what Allah says in the Quran and no fear in lovingly talking about it. I read one night, Ibn Kathir wrote, that Allah Himself refutes the story of Maryam and Eesa (as) – giving their story a special status, a story we can’t even think about not knowing.
With my daughter starting school, I’m learning so much more about us, us as a family, and as individuals, because for the first time my daughter has been representing herself, on her own, to others. For me, it is so, so important to ensure I equip her with what Allah tells us. This workshop doesn’t guarantee that these children went away knowing every truth about Eesa (as) – but what it does do is, provides me, other parents and the children to openly, in a fun manner talk about a prophet who is so widely discussed at this time of year. I feel we as the adults, who recite from the Quran every single day, need to make sure, that we bring out what we recite, for our children and let them know that there is Allah’s version of events too. Do this for the kids, with the kids, using language they like, using different teaching styles – then inshaAllah we’re taking steps to make the Quran and its words mean something for them.
I pray this post is helpful for others, I pray that we are all able to relay the message of the Quran to our children in a way that stays with them until they are ready to take from it.
Duas and love.