Fatimah Agha’s new venture Quran for Kids aims to instil the love of the Quran into children who usually run away from it, through a creative series of podcasts and videos.
She recalls her own childhood where the Quran plunged her into a “world of wonders”, as she searched for answers to intriguing questions, such as the fascinating stories of past Prophets and personalities, or amazing facts about the animal kingdom. Yet the Quran lessons she received were not at all engaging causing her to resent it.
Triggered by her own childhood experiences, and her two young daughters Zainab and Zahra, Fatimah began Quran for Kids. This is a series of ten minute podcasts almost everyday, where Fatimah and her two daughters explore different verses and extract lessons from the Quran.
Read my interview with Fatimah as she shares her top tips in producing compelling audio and visual content, her ideas for podcasts and videos, and the challenges in her work and how she overcomes them.
Why did you start Quran for Kids? What and/or who inspired you?
I wanted to inspire my children to be fascinated by the Quran, and it would be a mistake on our part to not introduce the Quran to our children in a good way. We as parents, teachers and mentors have a great responsibility to instil the love of truth in our children. Quran is a manifestation of the truth and as modern day educationists and scientist would agree, that first impressions need to be curated with great deliberation.
“Whatever touches my heart in my everyday routine and through my personal interaction with my children is what inspires me to prepare each podcast.”
Quran for kids is an effort to not only create a beautiful bond between children and the Quran but also the point where we can unite as Muslims. We need to instil love of humanity and unity in the coming generations and I use this forum to make sure that all of our children can unite through the Quran.
How do you come up with ideas for your videos?
I like to pick out Quran ayats (verses) that are relevant to children’s everyday practices of good manners mostly, but now for example we are exploring the lives of the Prophets. Whatever touches my heart in my everyday routine and through my personal interaction with my children is what inspires me to prepare each podcast. We look forward to doing more videos in the future.
What are the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge while preparing a 10-minute, talk that includes my 9 and 6 years old daughters is to do it in a way that we don’t need to edit it. This is because this way the conversation stays natural and not artificially planned.
“We need to instil love of humanity and unity in the coming generations and I use this forum to make sure that all of our children can unite through the Quran.”
At the same time my aim is for my own kids to enjoy it and that wouldn’t happen if we keep rehearsing or keep on redoing it. I don’t want my kids to get affected by some sort of “fame fever” or lose their focus from their own lesson and worry too much about creating a perfect show.
The best way to juggle all of that is to make sure that we plan the lesson a little bit before the recording and also that I’m well rested and fresh to take on each podcast, because siblings are siblings and some days are good and some days not so good. You know what I mean.
What advice would you give to others creating similar videos?
Although my current focus is on podcasts, the most important thing with kids is to keep the duration short and sweet, and include information and material, which keeps the children hooked.
Words, expressions, even examples should be pertaining to the things that children can associate themselves with. For instance names of cartoons, fashion trends or activities that most kids can relate to in their everyday routine can help keep their attention.
“There is nothing correct or incorrect with art. Passion and dedication can be enough sometimes!”
Monologue can be a real turn off, so more interactive the show the better with lots of lows and highs in voice to break the monotony that can sound like a lecture. Even psychologists have shown it scientifically that our system of attention adapts to monotones and switches off.
What inspired in you the love of painting and what do you need to be a good artist?
I’ve loved painting since I was a kid. I’ve never really took special classes but I was a keen student and I observed my art teachers closely. I remember trying to replicate great paintings or works of mentors. I would keep trying until I would perfect that technique. Nowadays YouTube and Google can help one enhance and learn from scratch. Passion and dedication can be enough sometimes!
I always tell my children there is nothing correct or incorrect with art. However taking art classes where they teach various techniques with use of brushes, papers and even special chemicals can really help to enhance painting skills.
Can you share an image of your favourite painting?
I love this painting the most because nature has always inspired me. I want my work to expand the imagination, and include the love of God in everything and everywhere. I believe that art and Islam should help to unite us and broaden our view of the world.
… And your favourite or most popular podcast/video and why?
I really enjoyed this podcast Quran For Kids #3 Lets Understand Others because this is what I mainly feel passionate about and want to spread to the world: a message of peace love and unity which comes from the Quran.
Last but not least, what do you think of Sufi Comics?
Sufi Comics was like a dream project coming alive. It really gave me this hope that this world is full of new ideas and opportunities. Ideas can be made to come to life. I am in awe of Sufi comics and a die-hard fan. Even though my daughters are young they too love Sufi comics and read them no matter how deep. So far the Wise Fool of Baghdad is their favourite. We really look forward to more from Sufi comics.
Passionate and involved in creative arts and religious studies from a young age, Fatimah is always seeking new ideas and opportunities to implement her creativity. She is an artist and painter, having sold over 200 paintings for kids around the world. She has also been a fashion designer for the past six years, designing a wide range of modest clothing. At the moment she is pursuing a degree in Psychology online from California Southern University.
The Prophet Muhammad (‘s) said:
“Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before your preoccupation,
and your life before your death.”
Philosophers have for long meditated on the nature of loss and concluded that the world around us is ever changing!
In fact change is the only permanent element of the physical realm. Everything else is transient. And loss is just another aspect of this constant change.
But we humans are emotional beings. Dry logic doesn’t appeal to us in time of need. And thus we are left grappling with the question of the aftermath of ‘loss’ and ‘change’ – grief!
Have you ever lost somebody or something you love? How did it feel?
For me losing a cherished object or relationship is all consuming. I tend to forget my surroundings and can think only of the severance. A drama plays out in my heads, about the joy I had derived from the object (or relationship), how empty my life will be without the source of happiness and obviously the ever-green and popular ‘The world is unfair and everything nasty happens to me’.
I am sure most of you have your own version of this litany and can identify with what I go through.
We can find comfort in knowing that this is only natural. As a part of our ‘human’ legacy we have been blessed with the ability to hold on to things and even intangibles like opinions, concepts and relationships and give them a special kind of meaning only we can relate to. In fact we make sense of the world around us through these objects and precepts.
It doesn’t really matter if the loss pertains to something replaceable like a phone or something far more valuable – like an idea or a relationship, our instinct is to focus on what it meant to us and our life and lament its loss.
With each little something we lose, we lose a part of our identity and existence and yes, that is bound to hurt.
Doomed To Grieve? Why You Should Make An Effort To Let Go!
Grieving is a natural process we go through when we lose something. And it is okay to mourn.
For a while!
But it is definitely not natural or healthy to fall victim to the ‘rut’ of unhappiness and distress and taint everything in your life with its effect.
I have frequently crossed paths with individuals who never recover from the loss of an idea, an object or a relationship. They walk through life unaware of the several hundred other blessings God has showered on them. As a result they:
Lose touch with reality and can’t successfully get on with their daily life.
Allow their healthy relationships to degenerate into loveless, compassionless interactions.
Invite into their lives hundreds of diseases like cancer, immunological dysfunction and hypertension. Without good health, coping with grief becomes even more of a challenge.
None of the scenarios are appealing and prolonged grief is now officially treated as a disorder.
There is a simple way using which you can take a more rational and ‘god-centric’ approach to the whole concept of loss and mourning. Let me share this with you!
Surely We Belong To God And To Him Shall We Return:
In Muslim culture, when someone hears the news of a person passing away, the first words to utter are:
“Inna lilahe wa inna ilayhe rajaoon” (Quran 2:156)
For a long time I didn’t understand the meaning of this line and thought it’s something people said just to console the bereaved.
But when I took time to look up its meaning, I felt it had a very profound message; a message that can help people overcome their grief by pointing them to a universal and divine truth! “Inna lilahe wa inna ilayhe rajaoon” literally translates into “Surely we belong to God, and to Him shall we return”
I found that by meditating on the meaning of this verse, I could think of all the objects in my life as transient. I understood (or rather re-realized) the fact that no matter what I did, how well I performed, how much I loved or how hard I held on to something, I was not its rightful ‘owner’ and I would not be able to stake permanent claim on it!
In the end everything, including I myself, will leave the physical plane and begin the journey to reach and become one with His divine light.
As soon as I stepped into this mind-set, I could let go of the scarcity mentality. Even something as pragmatic and mundane as a goofed presentation no longer mattered because it was just one opportunity out of a thousand and since nothing was permanent, something better would come along eventually. The important thing was to praise my courage for taking action!
Every day through the magic of “Surely we belong to God, and to Him shall we return” I focus my attention on the lessons I can learn from my loss and the whole experience.
Putting Wisdom Into Action:
My advice is: Whenever you’re suffering from grief, meditate on the verse “Surely we belong to God, and to Him shall we return”
Through this gem of a thought you can perceive things around you for what they truly are – a form of trust, given to you for safe-keeping, which will ultimately change hands or revert to their ultimate owner, God our Lord.
Once you make this reality a part of your life, you will no longer feel a sense of debilitating grief when you lose or have to give up on something (or someone) precious to you. Instead you will be able to dissect the experience and ‘introspect’ to gain insights like:
What can I learn from this?
What can I do to change my situation?
How can I grow?
What area do I need to improve on?
This exercise will leave you enriched after every loss or severance. You will be full with the knowledge of how the world functions and what you can do to elevate yourself and your skills to make the most of your life and opportunities.
Loss is inevitable! Grief is natural! But it shouldn’t be protracted and all consuming. Grieving for something makes you a gentle human being capable of appreciating value but letting go makes you someone with courage and fortitude.
Remember God owns every grain of sand and every puff of wind on this earth and by entrusting your cherished possessions to his care; you can relax and move on with your life.
In today’s world we are bombarded with content from all sides. Email, Facebook, Phonecalls, SMS, Whatsapp and the list goes on and on!
Isn’t it overwhelming? It’s almost as if we are being drenched by a torrential downpour of information.
Even if we set aside the ‘unessential’ social media posts and tweets, there is an over-abundance of potentially useful insights, impressions and take-aways from Online Lectures, TED Talks, e-books and podcasts.
It forces us to ask: How we can translate all this information into knowledge that we & others can benefit from?
We often think that reading books & hearing lectures will make us a “knowledgeable” person.
But that is not sufficient.
Reading & hearing constitute step one of the journey of acquiring knowledge. If we only consume & do not implement or internalize, we’ll end up becoming an arm-chair intellectual, someone who can talk, but can’t generate results by taking appropriate action!
Infact God says in the Qur’an “It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do.” (61:3)
5 Steps to Acquire True Knowledge
So how does one go about acquiring ‘true’ knowledge?
Someone once asked the Prophet, “What is Knowledge?”
And He broke down the process of understanding & acquiring it into 5 simple steps. You can enjoy the pearls of his wisdom through this comic:
We would love for you to enter the giveaway to get a chance to win. All that is required is to pop in your email address on the giveaway page, and share the giveaway link with as many people as you can to increase your chance of winning.
We’re pleased to announce that we’re working on the second volume!
And guess what? We’re now nearly halfway in its completion. The stories have been shortlisted, the storyboards completed, and we are well underway with completing the penciling, inking and coloring of the comics.
We’ll be launching Rumi volume 2 at Comic Con Delhi 2015.
New techniques and art styles
These are the titles of some of the stories we’re covering.
Moses & the shepherd
Keep your heart awake
All through the night God is calling us
Our artist Rahil is really pouring his heart out to make this book even better and more exquisite than before.
His designs are so much more intricate and his art even more detailed in this volume. I really look forward to share Rahil’s art work & process in future posts.
Watch this space for sneak peeks and updates!
Photos from Comic Con Bangalore 2015
We were at Comic Con Bangalore 2015, where we got a chance to share the books with a whole lot of new people! Take a look at the photos below:
Creating a book can be a very isolating experience. That’s why we always look forward to Comic Cons. We get to meet so many people who love comics, and they bring in so much energy! It gives everyone on the team a boost to continue working on the comics.
So do drop by to say “Hello”. Meet the team (Myself along with Arif, Rahil & Gafur) and pick up signed copies of the Sufi Comics books.
In 2005, Katie left California for Palestine where she lived in the West Bank for three years dividing her time between being a human rights worker, political cartoonist, and an art teacher for kids. During this time she also studied Arabic calligraphy in Ramallah, with master calligrapher Ehab Thabet. Later in 2010 she started her own Arabic calligraphy jewelry business, and founded Katie Miranda Studios.
Read on as Katie reveals how she became a jewelry designer and political cartoonist, the issues she is passionate about, and her top tip to artists.
Please share a bit about your background, work and passions.
I came from a secular family with one parent of a Christian background and one parent of a Jewish background. I always self-identified as Jewish although I wasn’t religious. In 2010 I converted to Islam.
I’m a painter, cartoonist and a jewelry designer. I have a BFA and an MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where I studied illustration and graphic novels. I also studied with master calligrapher Ehab Thabet in Palestine in 2007 and 2008.
I love great design, comics, color theory, sacred geometry and of course jewelry !
How did you become a jewelry designer and a political cartoonist? What qualities and skills do you need to pursue these respectively?
I became a jewelry designer by accident. I took a metal smithing class at the Academy of Art and I loved it. I decided to combine those skills with calligraphy to produce my Arabic calligraphy jewelry line.
I got into cartoons because I was trained as an illustrator and I had strong opinions so political cartoons was a natural outlet for those two interests.
“Those who stand in the fire, who don’t quit, who ignore rejection are the ones who actually do become artists.”
If someone is interested in pursuing any artistic discipline seriously and successfully you have to have passion for it and drive. Anyone can learn to be an artist through practice, dedication, and repetition. Those who actually do, who stand in the fire, who don’t quit, who ignore rejection are the ones who actually do become artists.
People often tell me “I have no natural talent, I could never be an artist.” This way of thinking is misguided. The people who actually become artists aren’t necessarily those with natural talent. They’re the ones who don’t quit even if they have to draw stick figures for a year before being able to draw anything that looks remotely like a human figure.