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Archive for the ‘Story telling’ Category

The Story of Salah by Luqman Ali

In Story telling on November 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

The Salah of Seasons

The goodly tree within us begins as the seed of intention that is watered by wudu and then sprouts at the command of the adhan to become a shoot with the iqamah and then grows strong and lofty with deep roots nurtured by the Qur’anic springtime of the hearts. It then wilts in the summer time of glorifying Allah’s tremendum before falling prostrate to shed its attachments in the autumn. It is then blessed with a moment of self reflection before returning to the wintry earth.

The Story of Salah for Children

We would lead the children to mime the actions of wudu and salah while speaking in first person the story of salat as follows:

Performing wudu:  ‘I was created from clay and water – pure and worshipful was I made.’

Standing in qiyam:  ‘I was taught the names and purpose of all things as I recite the Qur’an.’

In ruku’: ‘I remember my parents Adam and Hawa (a) being given a preview of the world through the forbidden tree.’

Returning to qiyam: ‘I remember my parents’ repentance.’

Descent to 1st sajdah:  ‘I descended to the earth …’

1st Sajdah:     ‘ … through my mother’s womb …’

Interim julus:   ‘I am spending a brief time Read the rest of this entry »


Is He a Muslim?

In Education, Story telling on August 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Abu_HanifahCan Islamic philosophy be introduced to children to encourage debate, discussion, critical thinking etc as well learning some Islamic history? A question I hold. Maybe the following story cited by Dr Kamran Riaz on his blog* concerning Imam Abu Hanifa and his students, can offer some ideas.

“A man once came to the learning-circle of Imām Abū Hanīfah (may God have mercy on his soul) and asked the great Imam whether or not his neighbour was a Muslim. He asked the Imam that if his neighbour died, if he had to wash his body, bury him, and pray the janāzah prayer over him.

Imam Abu Hanīfah asked him, “Why do you think that he is not a Muslim?”

The man replied, “My neighbor says the following seven things, and because of this, I do not know whether or not he is still a Muslim. The first thing is that he says he has no imān (faith) in the signs of Allah that he sees. The second is that he says that he does not fear Allah. The third is that he says he does not have any hope for Paradise. The fourth is that he says he does not fear the Hell-Fire. The fifth is that when he prays, we see him praying without any bowing (rukū`) or prostration (sajdah). The sixth is that he says he eats meat that he already finds dead. The seventh, and last statement, is that he says that he doesn’t like truth (haqq) and he loves corruption/chaos (fitnah).”

The Imam smiled and looked around his circle of students and fellow scholars. He asked them, “What do you say after listening to this account? Is this man’s neighbor a Muslim?”… Read the rest of this entry »

A Short Story

In parenting, poetry, Story telling on August 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

693523-yellow-and-pink-flowers-against-blue-skyI ran into a stranger as he passed by,

“Oh, excuse me, please” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too;

I wasn’t watching for you”.

We were polite, this stranger and I,

We went our way saying goodbye.

But at home a different story is told,

How we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

My son stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked him down.

“Move out of the way,” I said with a frown.

He walked away, his little heart broken.

I didn’t realise how harshly I’d spoken.

While I lay awake in bed,

A small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger,

Common courtesy you use,

But the family you love, you seem to abuse.

Go and look on the kitchen floor,

You’ll find Read the rest of this entry »

The Mother by Omid Safi

In Story telling on December 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

mother-and-child2A Sufi story on serving your mother, from the 11th century Sufi master Shaykh Abu ‘l-Hasan Kharaqani:
Once there were two brothers, who lived with their mother. Every night one brother would devote himself to serving the mother, whereas the other brother occupied himself with worshipping God.
One night the brother who worshiped God had a dream, in which he heard a voice from Beyond telling him: “We have forgiven your brother, and for his sake, have forgiven you as well.”
The brother said: “But I have occupied myself with worshipping God, whereas he has occupied himself with serving our mother. You are forgiving me for his sake?”
He heard the voice of God say:
“That which you do for me, I have no need for. But your mother needs the service your brother provides.”
Thank you to my dear mother, Pouran Safi, my wife Holly Frigon Safi, and to all the mothers and fathers who provide compassion and care for their children, and all those who serve their parents. Blessings for all the ones who in serving others, serve God.

“My Best Friend is a Tree” by Uzma Taj

In Story telling on November 25, 2012 at 9:01 pm

The Soul Garden

Just as the Heart becomes carefree

in a place of green, growing plants,

goodwill and kindness are born

when our souls enter happiness.

Mathnawi II, 1095-96

“My Best Friend is a Tree” by Uzma Taj

Isaac had an unusual best friend.  Isaac’s best friend was a tree.  Wherever Isaac went, so did the tree.  They would play games like catch the ball and hide-and-seek.  Isaac was ever so happy with his friend the tree.

Unfortunately for Isaac no one else agreed.  The other children at school would point and laugh and say, “How silly to have a tree as a friend!”  Sadly it was not only his friends at school who thought he was strange, so did all the other people in the village.  They would say, “Who is that strange boy whose best friend is a tree?” and, “It’s no good to have a tree as a friend!” Sometimes they would say even more not so very nice things like, “We shouldn’t talk to the boy whose friend is a tree – he’s far too strange.”

But, you see, Isaac was happy and Read the rest of this entry »

Chickpea Press presents ‘Quietness’ by Debra Kaatz

In Story telling on November 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Below is a short story from a collection called Sufi Tales by author Debra Kaatz. Sufi Tales is the first book that Chickpea Press have published. The stories in it beautifully illustrate how wisdom can be shared between the generations, and how important storytelling itself is.

We invite you to enjoy…


It was evening and Abdal and his grandfather were sitting by the fire.

‘Tell me about quietness,’ said Abdal. He knew he would get a story.

Grandfather relaxed back into his chair and Read the rest of this entry »

The Hospital

In Story telling on November 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm

The hospital is an amazing place. Each person has a story to share. Somehow there is a common thread where there may not have been any and people open up. A few months ago I had two operations on my leg. This lead me to meet countless people who Read the rest of this entry »

Theme of the Month: Story Telling

In Story telling on November 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Story telling is an ancient practice and an effective tool for tarbeyah. The Qur’an and sunnah are filled with stories which guide us, open our hearts and offer us wisdom which we can return to again and again. Stories are also instrumental in building character. A corpus of stories such as those found in the exploits of Mulla Nasrudin also have a teaching function in the way they use humour to bypass conditioning. Superficially, most of these stories can be told as jokes, or, like Aesop’s Fables, as moral points, but they can be understood on deeper levels, offering opportunities for the development of consciousness in the way they momentarily highlight certain states of mind, often in a startling way.  Some spiritual teachers have also used stories to introduce children to spiritual principles. Stories also contain ancient mythology and symbolism which hold lessons for our collective consciousness.

We each remember a story, either told to us or experienced by ourselves (in dreams or waking consciousness), which to this day may have influenced us. Which stories do you remember and how have they helped you? Do you use stories with your child/children? If so, what type of stories do you work with and how do they help? Please contribute your stories to

Teaching Stories by Cemal Nur Sergat

In Story telling on May 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Cemal Nur Sergat at the Ibn Arabi Symposium at Oxford. She is said to be one of Turkey’s deepest and inspiring spiritual teachers who brings a lot of creativity into her teaching. I had always wondered what happened to the Islamic tradition of the female scholar. Read the rest of this entry »

Blog Project: Seven Habits of Happy Kids

In parenting, Religion, Story telling on March 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm

“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

Dear Readers,

I’ve been wanting to start a project and feel there is enough momentum on this blog to may be try one in the weeks to come. Recently I came across The Seven Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey.

1. Be Proactive. You’re in Charge
2. Begin with the end in mind. Have a Plan
3. Put first things first. Work First, Then Play
Read the rest of this entry »

Smiling in Love’s Universe

In Healing, Story telling on January 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Everyone knows that all but one chapter of the Qur’an starts with “Bism Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim”, in the name of God, Infinite Tenderness, Eternal Kindness. But what do we know about this? My students tell me that the terms “Merciful” and “Compassionate” don’t mean much to them. Maybe it’s helpful to look at them through the eye/heart of the friends of God. Ibn ‘Arabi says that Rahman and Rahim are connected to Rahem, the womb of an expecting mother. He says it’s “as if” the whole cosmos, all of us, each and every single being and all of the beings, are contained inside God’s womb. It’s “as if” we are being nurtured, protected, guided, loved, and provided for every instant from That Beloved. May God open our hearts and souls and mind to the beauties. Omid Safi

For the past week, Read the rest of this entry »

A cracked pot

In Story telling on January 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.
One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course , the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream

‘I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. ‘

The old woman smiled, ‘ Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot ‘ s side? ‘
‘That ‘ s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. ‘

‘For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.

Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house. ‘

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it ‘ s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

You ‘ ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

SO, to all of my crackpot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!

Feel free to share any reflections…

Reading with curiosity and imagination

In Education, parenting, Story telling on January 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm

A few days ago, I was reading ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a fly’ with my daughter. Her first question was why did she swallow the fly? I didn’t have a straight answer. As the story progressed, I realised how meaningless it became for her. So we decided to take a trip to the library and borrowed a dozen books this weekend. The more I read with her, the more I realise the importance of  pictures and how each page serves for some potential discussion. Today, she was able to turn the pages back and link two different parts of the story together which I thought was impressive. Read the rest of this entry »

Little tigers: dealing with doubts and fears

In Healing, parenting, Story telling on January 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

“Our doubts are traitors and we lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt” Shakespeare.

The above is my favorite line from Shakespeare. I’ve used it a number of times to put my doubts into perspective. Currently, I’m exploring children’s stories which contain wisdom, teachings for character building and spiritual principles. I realise everything I want to teach my children has to be lived through example for it to be meaningful for them.

Last night we read ‘Tiger-Tiger, Is it true?: Four questions that make you smile again’ by Byron Katie and and Hans Wilhelm. The four essential questions which are the basis of Katie’s work are explored from a child’s perspective on a bad day; ignored by parents at breakfast, no friends to play with at play time & not liked by anybody. The four questions and turn around show Tiger-Tiger that it was his thinking all along that gave him this perspective and in fact the opposite was true in reality– so they investigate: a paradigm shift is created.  The four questions Katie suggests we ask, are

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without that thought?

Followed by the turn around with examples.

These are not questions addressed to our intellectual minds (intellectual as in our rational minds and not in the higher sense of the word) – there is little point in asking the questions unless you can sit with them in honest inquiry and allow the answers to surface. In a reply to a question on why the person doesn’t feel a shift Katie wrote: “To simply turn thoughts around keeps the process intellectual and is of little value. The invitation is to go beyond the intellect. The questions are like probes that dive into the mind, bringing deeper knowledge to the surface. Ask the questions first, and then wait. Once the answers have risen, then do the turnarounds. The surface mind and the deeper mind (I call it the heart) meet, and the turnarounds feel like true discoveries.” They offer a sort of Socratic reasoning which cuts through our defensiveness and conditioning to penetrate to our essence.

Maybe children with their open minds and hearts find the work easier than adults (who often find it difficult to get out of their heads) ? Katie has done this work with children and teenagers.  Here is an example of the type of dialogue that can cut through layer of mind and allow us too see, with clarity, what IS as it IS.

I see a ‘spiritual’ education providing children the space to explore awareness (through breath for example), presence  and the development of their higher cognitive faculties through introspective work such as Katie’s.  In one school I know of, set up by a spiritual community, student would start the day with a minute of silence through the monitoring of their pulses by touching their wrists – counting 60 beats. How we can use of imagery and symbolism of wisdom stories our tradition is filled with, leading to introspective work, remains to be explored. – And it may mean parent and child working together with each other as mirrors for each other.

If your thoughts are a rose,
You are a Rose Garden;
If your thoughts are a thorn,
You are fuel for the fire.