When Tughra Books approached me about a new children’s book about animals in the Quran, I was excited by the concept. They were kind enough to send me a copy of Living Creatures in the Holy Qur’an, which is both written and illustrated by Shahada Abdul Haqq. It is essentially a book of stories of the prophets and other stories, but organized by creature. I was pleased to open the table of contents and see how many creatures are mentioned in the Quran: a lot more than I thought.
When you open up to each animal or insect, it has the name of the animal that’s mentioned, the name of the story (if applicable), and then a reference to the ayahs in the Quran where you can find the animal or creature. (For example, bees are mentioned in 16:68–69.) These references are my favorite part of this book. I can see how the ability to find these creatures in the Quran would be super helpful to homeschooling parents and/or teachers.
With the table of contents open in front of us, I asked my son which animal he wanted to begin with. He chose “Wolves,” and we opened up to that section, which is a summarized version of the story of Joseph, focusing on the part of the story that has a wolf. But as my six-year-old son pointed out—the story doesn’t actually have a wolf. The brothers of Joseph blame a wolf for Joseph’s disappearance, but an actual wolf never makes an appearance. For me, that was a technicality, but I think my son was disappointed (he likes wolves).
The illustrations are nice, but the language is sometimes awkward. An example of such language from the story of Joseph is “His father was afraid by the dream.”
I think the details that were included in the stories could have been thought through a little more carefully. For example, in the early part of the story of Joseph, it’s mentioned that there are twelve sons and one daughter in the family. (This is the first I’m hearing of a daughter. Is she mentioned in Israeeliyyat?) But then later in the story, when the Quran is quoted about the interpretation of Joseph’s dream, the sun is interpreted as the father, the moon is interpreted as the mother, and the eleven stars as the brothers. Since there is no mention of the sister, it probably would have been better to leave her out altogether. Children notice details like these, and stories for them should be carefully balanced.
At the end of every story, there’s a sentence that tells the moral of the story. In the story of Joseph, it says “Avoid seeking revenge and be patient, for God is the best Avenger.” Telling children the moral at the end of the story feels outdated and unnecessary to me, and to be honest, I was a little embarrassed to read it out loud to my son. In a story with a moral, the story itself should illustrate the moral. Children are smart enough that they don’t need the moral spelled out to them, and if they do, then the story hasn’t done its job. I also found the message that God is the best Avenger a little harsh and the language is a little strange for children. I would have focused instead on God’s justice and his support of Joseph.