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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Dead Sea Seacret… Religious Perspective!

The Dead Sea

I was quite impressed after sampling a treatment from a “Seacret” store in the mall the other day and found that the source of these treatments was the Dead Sea. I could recall a few childhood stories about the Dead Sea which made me question the permissibility and appropriateness of using such treatments. This is what I found:

According to Islamic and Biblical traditions, the Dead Sea is the site of the ancient city of Sodom, home of the Prophet Lut (Lot), peace be upon him.

Prophet Lut (A.S.), after consulting with Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (A.S.) left Misr and traversed towards the eastern part of Urdun (Jordan), a place called Sodom or Sadoom. The purpose of his migration was to propagate the teachings of Ibrahim (A.S.) amongst the inhabitants of Sodom, a village situated in the area where the Dead Sea is presently located.

The people of surrounding areas firmly believe that the region in which the Dead Sea is found was once occupied by the people of Sodom. This nation directly rejected the message which Prophet Lut (A.S.) presented to them, due to which they were punished most severely, as described by Allah, “So at day break a mighty cry seized them. Then We turned the localities upside down and We showered upon them rocks of baked clay. In this (incident) there are indeed multiple signs for the people who discern.” (Surah Hijr, Verse 73)

The earth on which they lived was lifted into the sky and then caused to come crashing down approximately 400 meters below the earth. As a result, this area was submerged, and is now known as the Dead Sea. (Qasas ul Qur’an, Vol. 1, Page 257, Mukhtasar Tafseer Ibn Katheer, Vol. 2, Page 312) According to scientists, the area is covered in large deposits of sulphur. For this reason, no life in the form of animals or plants is to be found there and the region stands as a symbol of destruction.

It has been reported by Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.), that when Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) descended at the place of Hijr (the region where the nations of ‘Aad and Thamud once resided) during the battle of Tabuk, he (S.A.W.) commanded the Sahabah (companions) not to drink from the accursed place. The Sahabah informed the Prophet (S.A.W.) that they had already utilized the water for making dough and drinking. The Prophet (S.A.W.) instructed them to discard the dough and water.

While commenting on this Hadith, Imam Hajar Al-Asqalani (R.H.) outlines that the Hadith clearly teaches us that, it is Makrooh (impermissible) to use the water found in the area of Hijr. He further states, that the same ruling will apply to other accursed places.

The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W), reportedly tried to dissuade people from visiting the sites of God’s punishment: “Do not enter the place of those who were unjust to themselves, unless you are weeping, lest you should suffer the same punishment as was inflicted upon them.”

The Qur’an describes that the site of this punishment has been left as a sign for those who follow: “Surely! In this are signs for those who understand. And verily, they (the cities) are right on the high-road. Surely! Therein is indeed a sign for the believers.” (Qur’an 15:75-77)

In light of the above narrations, revelations and explanations, we can conclude that the use of products derived from the Dead Sea is inappropriate and should be avoided. I hope we can all benefit from this Insha Allah. May Allah strengthen our faith and make us among those who guide and whom are guided.

Ameen.

Assalaamu Alaikum!