One night as Sam’n (pronounced “Summun”) Iqbal was watching her daughter look through pictures in her alphabet books before bedtime, a thought crossed her mind: why not incorporate basic Islamic concepts and ideas into everyday children’s alphabet books.
And that is exactly what she did.
Now two years later, her first book, Allah to Z: An Islamic Alphabet Book, from Broyhill Publications, LLC, will debut during the month of Ramdan, July 2012.
Sam’n Iqbal born to Pakistani immigrant parents, now living in McLean, Va., remembers learning a lot about the Quran and Islam at a young age but never recalls it ever being “fun”. And so when she had her daughter, she decided to make it her goal to make learning interesting and engaging especially for 2nd and 3rd generation kids, but it was difficult, she said, to find books for a preschooler that taught Islam in a fun way; “either the language was too hard or the illustrations too boring…and so I began writing this book to fill this hole.”
“I am American, my children are American, but we are Muslims. I know I would not be able to teach my children the way my mother taught me,” said Iqbal. “I was hoping to come up with a way to provide a service, a product, to other American-born Muslim parents so they may find a way to teach their children about Islam in a fun, contemporary way, similar to the way they would be learning in school.”
The book includes 26 mini-Islamic lessons aimed for preschool and elementary children. It looks at basic Islamic elements such as: Allah, Kaaba, Eid and Wudu. Iqbal explains that choosing the words was a big process. By making a list of possibilities for all the letters of the alphabet, she narrowed it down to words that had “a positive connotation and were common.”
An inside spread of locally authored “Allah to Z”. Photo from www.AllahtoZ.com
“I also chose words based on it being an AMERICAN Muslim book - so for “I”, I chose Isa since I wanted non-Muslims to relate and N for Noah because it is such a common story that most faiths believe in. But mostly [I choose] words that I would want my children to learn.”
Reem Saadeh, a Greek Orthodox Christian living in McLean, Va., and a friend of Iqbal’s believes this book could become “an invaluable asset” to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. “It is exactly what was needed and what was missing in the teachings of young children about religion,” she said. “I am not just talking about Islam; it gives even us non-Muslims the ability to understand Islam and a method by which to teach our own children about our own religion. It gives us the avenue to talk about religion in general and in specific terms.”
Following a similar path but with a different goal in mind, Wendy Diaz and her husband Hernán Guadalupe, Spanish-speaking Latino converts from New Jersey, did not learn about Islam until later in life, and so it was important to them that their children learn about Islam at a young age while retaining their Spanish language. After a search for Spanish Islamic books in New Jersey, New York, online, South America and even in Spain, they were surprised to only find two books. Realizing the need for such books, they created their own website- Hablamos Islam Niños (We Speak Islam, Kids) and began writing and publishing their own books after several publishing companies turned them down or didn’t respond at all.
A display of the different books by Hablamos Islam Ninos. Photo fromwww.facebook.com/hablamosislam
“I wanted to offer my own children a chance to learn Islam from an early age, something that as a convert, I was not able to do,” said Diaz. “And I wanted to give them the opportunity to do so in their own language... Of course, we didn’t stop at just our own kids, we began printing our books and offering them to other parents like us so that their children can also benefit.”
Because Hablamos Islam Niños is a small family-run operation, their biggest challenge has been lack of funding, whatever money Diaz and her husband make goes straight into printing more books. However, they pride themselves on being the only “bilingual English/Spanish publisher of Islamic children’s books in the world.”
Unlike Diaz, Iqbal found it easier to find publishing companies, since many began reaching out to her instead. However, she said that because she wanted to control how the book was represented and sold, she decided to start her own company- made easier with her background in Public Relations.
She has shared her book with friends and family and made a few sales this month. “It has only been a few weeks but I already see how powerful this book is and how much it was needed.”
Saira Sheikh, a mother of 2 from Ashburn, Va., thinks Allah to Z is a wonderful book and, with her six-year-old son read “one letter a day as an introduction to a vital Islamic concept.” She hopes this book and others are one day incorporated into public libraries so that children “can grow up being proud and confident of Islam.”
Iqbal has had schools contact her to incorporate this book into their curriculum. She is currently focusing on marketing this book as much as she can all across the country, hoping it will make it into every Muslim home.
“We are going to have more and more American-born Muslim generations in this country - so if we want to keep the spread of Islam strong, we need to adapt to teaching the new generations in a way they will understand and most importantly, enjoy.”
to purchase the books visit, www.allahtoz.com & www.hablamosislamninos.com