Book Review : A Qur’aanic Odyssey by Umm Muhemmed
by Juli Herman
I have always been intrigued by families who raise huffaadh. I always wondered how their daily schedule and lifestyle is. In the book, A Qur’aanic Odyssey, Umm Muhemmed does just that. She gives a beautiful peek into the family life of a mother who sacrificed her own career pursuit by taking a break, in order to focus on Quran memorization of her two children and herself.
Ibrahim, a typical five year old boy who is also imaginative, active, and curious, embarks on the journey of Quran memorization. As is the norm with most young children who start to memorize, his journey begins with the memorization of the last Juz in the Quran, Juz Amma (Juz 30). What makes this book unique is that it shows how Ibrahim’s hifdh experience becomes an experience in living the Quran on a daily basis, along with his two grandmothers Nonna and Nani. To make it even more interesting, Nonna is not a Muslim and so Ibrahim gets a lot of exposure to Christianity and its festivities.
Khadija, his mother, along with his father Abdurrahman, beautifully relates the teachings in the Quran to Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas that their non-Muslim family celebrates. A curious question about Thanksgiving brings into the conversation, Surah Al Kaafiroon, and questions about Easter and Good Friday lead to the mention and revision of Surah Al Ikhlaas.
When they visit the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Ibrahim declares himself Captain Kashif on a mission to help the whooping cranes with their migration. How so? By reciting Surah Quraysh. Ibrahim engages with hifdh in a way that connects his daily life happenings to the meaning of the surah he has or is currently working on. Even when his father recites a poem, Ibrahim connects it to the current surah that he is working on, surah Taariq. Conversation between Ibrahim and his father further aids Ibrahim to think analytically about some concepts in the surah.
From physically burying their anger in the park to connecting the movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull to the word A’laa in surah Al A’laa, Umm Muhemmed has written an endearing narrative of living the Quran through a child’s hifdh journey. From this narrative, you come to realize that hifdh is not just rote memorization, but it can transcend beyond that and be a family lifestyle that caters to the child’s natural curiosity about his world, forms of entertainment, even simple family routines. It requires one to think outside the box when one thinks of hifdh for a child.
A generous peppering of dialogues between Ibrahim, Amna and his parents and relatives gives you vivid visual imagery that bring the characters to life. What I personally also love about this book is that at the end of each chapter, Umm Muhemmed includes a section called Hifdh Teaching Note that explains in a more explanatory style how hifdh can accommodate and be incorporated into daily life.
Reading this book broadened my mind as to how the tedious part of hifdh can be balanced with fun and creative wisdom so that a young child not only memorizes the Quran, but also understands and lives it according to his level of understanding. This book is a definite must for parents who wish to raise huffaadh.