Islamic Edutainment… My thoughts on ‘Zaky & Friends’

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

With Eid around the corner, I’ve noticed a number of ads for the Zaky & Friends Series of Videos and I thought I’d share my thoughts on these.

Zaky Range of Movies

I remember buying one of the ‘Zaky Movies’ for my little sister a few years ago. As a teenager (at the time), I didn’t care much about the movie itself but I thought it would be a nice gift for my baby sister. My sister was known for her endless questioning and so I was bombarded with questions about the movies which gave me some insight into how a child might absorb such stories.

Fast forward a few years and my little sis gave me these very movies for my son who was only a year old at the time but I decided to hang on to them and keep them safe for him. As he grew older and took a keener interest in the colours eminating from the tv screen, we began watching some of these movies with him and would often use them to keep him occupied while we were busy.

As first time parents we were concerned about some of the effects television and movies could have on our son and found comfort in re-running these movies from time to time as a little distraction for him. He watched the movies over and over for several months and eventually tired of them and asked us not to put any ‘Zaky Movies’ on for him. I must admit, at this point I had memorised the scripts and soundtracks of all the movies so I didn’t mind the change up.

By 2 years of age he had tasted the sweetness of television and started watching ABC for Kids. We were very mindful of his television habits and kept a close eye on the content. In my 12 weeks as a stay at home dad, I found a number of supposedly children’s television shows to be completely inappropriate for kids and with the help of my wife was able to filter through the tv guide and only allow him to watch a select few shows that we were comfortable with.

A few months passed by and though he was enjoying watching Sesame Street and one of my favourites, Fireman Sam, he began asking questions about some of the stories he had learnt in the Zaky videos. I was amazed at this since he hadn’t watched any of the movies in a while and you usually don’t expect a toddler to retain such information for such a long time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed our little conversations and to be honest, it was an amazing feeling as a parent.

His questions and curiosity got us back into the movies, I bought the entire set and for Eid that year, we got him the accessories and toys to go with the movies.

His favourite movie was Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) which I watched with him a few more times so I could correctly address his questions and concerns. It was only then that I realised the power of these movies and the extent of their impact on a child’s mind. The questions he was asking related to matters of Faith including the concept of God and Good vs Evil which can sometimes get tricky when you’re dealing with a toddler. By taking the time to answer hes questions, unbeknownst to us, we had given him what I believe is the best Madrassah lesson you could possibly give a 2 and a half year old kid.

While the concept of God, particularly as The Creator was something he was already familiar with, the movie gave him an understanding of God as The Care-taker, The Protector, The Loving and Powerful as evidenced in the story of Prophet Ibrahim. He grasped the idea of idol worship being contrary to God’s teachings which also gave him a foundation for the criteria of what is right and what is wrong. He was also able to understand the concept of Prophethood and related it back to God.

The incident of the Fire in the story of Prophet Ibrahim introduced him to the power of God over all things as well as the concept of miracles. He even acknowledged the existence of the Angels which was something I was slightly concerned about due to the complexities of the unseen world.

I didn’t realise that he had understood and absorbed so much of this story until a few months later when I began reading the series of kids books titled ‘Stories of the Prophets’ to him.While I had prepared myself for the questions that might have ensued, to my astonishment, he had a firm understanding of the core concepts which facilitated his understanding and appreciation of the stories of all the Prophets – This is when I truly appreciated and understood the value of these movies.

I’ve also seen kids watch some of these videos without benefitting at all from them so it’s important not to force it on to young kids and to ensure you have the time and patience to address their questions and concerns. Parents should be watching these videos with their kids so it becomes more than just entertainment. I believe this applies to all types of entertainment, if you’re comfortable exposing your kids to something, the least you can do is expose yourself to it so you know exactly what your child is being subjected to.

The Zaky and Friends brand has grown substantially over the last few years and as a Muslim Parent in Australia, I am proud of their success and grateful for their efforts. May Allah increase them, I look forward to many more videos In Sha Allah and I’m hoping my daughter also enjoys their works.

The DVD’s and merchandise are available on the One4Kids website as well as a number of other Online Stores. Click here for a preview of Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)

In the words of Merril J Fernando… ‘Do Try It’ 😉 – Your kids will thank you one day!

I hope many more kids can benefit from these videos In Sha Allah!

Assalaamu Alaikum!

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Islamic College Fete…

In the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful.

I attended the annual Fete at the Islamic College of Brisbane this weekend for my weekend dose of Halal-ness and inspiration. Due to an ever-growing Muslim population virtually everywhere in the world, our functions and gatherings always come with traffic congestions, parking issues and crowd control problems which we’ve grown accustomed to. Despite the massive turnout yesterday, I was impressed at the orderly manner in which we, as a community conducted ourselves. While I can’t comment on the success of the fund-raising initiative, from a social perspective, it was a success.

Despite the anti-Muslim media frenzy over the paste decade, the broader community have learnt the secrets of our gatherings and functions… The FOOD! It’s always a pleasure to see Muslims and Non-muslims coming together to celebrate and enjoy the many diversities our cultures have to offer. A true sense of community, family and brotherhood was on display which is a real display of what we, as Muslim’s mean when we claim that Islam means peace.

Nothing is more Peaceful than a group of Muslims from all over the world, living in a Western Land, coming together to raise funds for the growth of an Islamic School. The organisation of the event has been improving each year, the school itself has grown at an amazing rate over the last 5 years which is a positive sign for the Muslim community in this area. Support came from the muslim community, non-Muslim community as well as local government representatives and officials who understand the major role the Muslim community plays in the area.

There is distinct benefit in promoting and facilitating a single, united Ummah or community, particularly when residing as minorities in Western countries. The unity, discipline and strength displayed when the community stands and works together is precisely what we need amidst the global onslaught on our Religion.

Events that are hosted, supported or held at Islamic institutions have a special significance in promoting a true impression of both Islam and Muslims in the context of social integration. When you have Muslims from a range of ethnicities including so many reverts, Islam becomes more than just a brown religion. When people of different races, cultures and ethnicities unite for the sake of faith, it makes it easier for the broader community to understand and accept that Islam is not a brown religion, not an Arab religion but a world religion. This display of unity can dispel arguments that question our ability to work together and integrate with the rest of society.

The social, yet Islamic environment also displays the simplicity of our faith and the ease with which our religious obligations can be met alongside our social and personal lives. It doesn’t take much for a gathering to be Islamic, it usually starts with a prayer or recitation, music is kept to minimum if any, entertainment is usually provided by kids in the form of song or art and when the time of prayer arrives, Muslims answer it by getting together in a designated place and praying together which usually takes no more than 5 minutes. Thereafter, the eating, drinking and socialising resumes. As Muslims, this is something we take for granted but for a non-Muslim observer, this informal display of our religion can make a massive difference to their views and perspective on what is portrayed to be a strict and heavily regulated set of restrictions.

I believe our functions should remain Islamic at the core as a point of difference rather than simply being events organised by Muslims. The Fete was truly Islamic and provided a platform for social interaction, religious integrations and most of all… the best Da’wah or propagation of Islam which is through action and behaviour rather than simply words.

The Islamic College of Brisbane is very special to me and I hope one day, to send my kids there too. I pray that Allah grant them success and protect their reputation. As Muslims, it is OUR responsibility to support OUR institutions.

Mid-day reflections…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful. 

There’s something very fulfilling about praying Dhur at the Mosque, something I missed when I worked in an office and something I took for granted when I started working from home. Today was a wet, blue day and the congregation was small, I’ve found that rainy days and a the silence of the mosque are quite soothing and thought provoking. 

I thought about how satisfying it feels when you simply drop anything and everything you’re doing to answer the call to prayer… an indescribable feeling that unfortunately  the modern lifestyle often deprives us off.  It’s a sad reality but for most of us, it’s something we can overcome with a slight change in mindset. 

When prayer is a chore or something we have to do at a certain time and certain place, it’ll always feel like a chore, something we do without too much thought or reflection with a goal of simply doing it. I’ve had Salaah on my chore list at times, though I’m grateful for the awareness and consciousness of prayer embedded in my upbringing, the attitude towards it makes a huge difference and can be the difference between ritual and spiritual. 

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Let prayer be a break from work or routine, not because you have to do it, but because it makes for a good break. The mistake we make is that we work, briefly stop to pray so we get it done and then take the break… which often involves some sort of mainstream leisure activity like watching tv or going for coffee. 

A small change in mindset can make all the difference. Work hard, have fun, set priorities, develop efficiencies but let cleaning, banking, changing light bulbs and gardening be chores… Salaah is the break you need from a busy schedule and a hectic lifestyle. 

For me personally, it means the difference between a 5 minute break in my office to pray and a 20 minute break to pray at the mosque, in congregation with a change in environment, some fresh air and an opportunity for reflection. 

The reward is greater, the break is better and what you may lose in time, you make up for in contentment, piece of mind and a greater sense of purpose. 

Start with one, Dhur is a perfect mid-day break to try out… then move on. Take a break 5 times a day and you’ll work better, feel better and live better.