Teaching Kids the Holy Quran…with Legos!

I’ve blogged on occasion about Legos. You might remember me mentioning The Brick Testament,which retells a number of famous (and in some cases shocking) stories from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Well, I appear to be the last person in the Islamophere to notice the wonderful blog Teaching Kids the Holy Quran, which aims to do the same for the Quran, but with some innovative twists.

I love this glimpse of a Lego Jahannam (Hell) from Chapter 72/Surah Al-Jinn:

LegoHell

The emphasis is on lessons as opposed to stories, and these lessons drawn from the Quran are often embedded in a real world settings (e.g., an imam giving a sermon, a father and son discussing a doctrinal matter over a barbeque), an approach that sounds strange but actually works quite well for these purposes. It’s a great explanatory device and one that’s particularly well suited to the Quran, I think.

Due to its complex and often iterative narrative structure and interweaving of genres—a fact that leads some observers to mistakenly claim it to be random or incomprehensible a la Thomas Carlye; were these critics to read a scholarly treatment of the aesthetics of the Quran, like  Michael Sell’s very insightful Approaching the Qur’an, they’d realize that the Quran’s rich language and subtle deployment of themes operate simultaneously on multiple aesthetic and intellectual registers; to judge it simply by whether or not it is linear in narrative is to really utterly miss the point, however understandable that instinct may be for the uninitiated—to try to portray it in a single, seamless narrative would be confusing. Its structure lends itself well to shorter stories and lessons. And there are, of course, a number of “controversial” verses that are often misunderstood and/or misrepresented that these short takes are perfect for glossing in a highly accessible and unintimidating manner.

I wonder if this innovative use of both Legos, scriptural exposition and web technology has indeed succeeded in reaching children who otherwise might not learn about the Quran. On the one hand, Legos are presumably an appealing and unintimidating medium for instruction to children; on the other, I wonder how many kids young enough to be swayed by the choice of Legos for the medium would sit still and scroll down a web page to read these stories. Or is this perhaps really targeting adolescents? In any case, it’s an intriguing formula.

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  • Waqas

    Salam
    In our digital age the young ones might indeed require more than still images and written words to engage them. Perhaps one could combine Lego and animation to bring the point home even better.
    Here’s an example of what happens when CGI meets Lego: http://vimeo.com/36768371

  • http://readwithmeaning.wordpress.com Mezba

    Salaams. Thanks for linking to my site.
    I used to read the Brick Testament and think, do my Christian friends read their own book? How could they remain believers in peace and justice after reading the Old Testament. Then I thought the Quran could be so much better understood if people saw it in a similar form.
    Doing the site takes time. You can check out the “Making of” album in facebook and see how long it takes to do one verse. So stop-motion animation is out of the question unless someone pays me for what is essentially a hobby.

  • http://akramsrazor.typepad.com svend

    Thanks for the link, Waqas.
    Great work, Mezba, though I don’t entirely follow your reasoning vis-a-vis Christians and the Jewish Bible. I think that observation holds for some (often evangelical and North American) Christians today because of the literalistic way they approach scripture, but I don’t see a paradox for most other Christians, who take a more nuanced approach, for better or worse. Also, they could turn the tables in a way by pointing particular hadith that seem to raise comparable issues for peace-loving Muslims.


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