Children Column Content for YMD September 2014

The Qur’an for Young Hearts – 53

Important Notes

1:The translation of the Qur’an being presented here is interpretative. It is meant for children. Those who can understand other translations should better consult them.

2. Parents are advised to hold sessions at home and teach the verses and explanation as given here, and, if they can, add more from Qur’anic commentaries.

3. Answers to exercise below may be attempted. Parents may evaluate them and reward the children suitably.

4. Schools could also include this in their Islamic curriculum.

5. The underlined words have been explained in the Dictionary given below.

Verses from Surah No. 2, al-Baqarah

[189] They ask you about the new moons. Tell them, they are for the people (a means of) calculating time and (for knowing dates of) Pilgrimage.There is no piety in that you should enter houses (during Hajj) from the rear. Piety is (in him) who fears Allah. Therefore, come to the houses by their doors, and fear Allah so that you succeed.

Understanding the above Verse

The Arabs asked the Prophet about why the new moon is so thin, and then, as days pass by it becomes bigger and bigger for fifteen days after which it starts to shrink again. That was not a difficult question for the Prophet to answer, because he received revelations, but the answer was difficult for the people of those times to understand. Even in modern times, 500 years after the discovery about why the moon appears different every new night, much of mankind does not understand how it happens.

Therefore, instead of giving a scientific answer, the Qur’an told them that, whatever the scientific reasons, so far as they were concerned, the new moon helped them calculate the dates.

Calculating dates by the Sun is quite difficult, even in our times, because the Sun is just the same Sun throughout the year. So, where to start for counting a month?

But moon has a start, a full moon, decline, and an end. So, there is a starting point, from which calculation of the dates can start to end when the new moon re-appears. That is simple for the simplest of people.

That is why, where there are no calendars, like in thousands and thousands of villages in our times too, the people’s calendar is by the moon. It is reasonable therefore, for everyone to use the moon for calendar. A moon-based calendar is called “Lunar calendar,” and a full year is called “Lunar Year.”

Also, Lunar year is not at all confusing. Twelve new moons, and the year has ended with the thirteenth new moon. But solar year, that is calendar by the Sun, is quite confusing. This is because a Solar year is not 365 days. It is 356 days and a few hours (365.24 days) and the exact length of a day is not 24 hours but 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. But clocks are designed to show exactly 24 hours. To adjust this, they have a leap year every four years, in which one month is made up of 29 days.

So, you see, there is some confusion. But in the Lunar calendar, there is no such confusion. Yet, there is nothing holy about the Lunar calendar.

After stating that the moon’s purpose for the human beings is that they can make a calendar, the Qur’an added, “and a means of (for knowing the dates of) Hajj. If you think a little, it appears that there was no need for these words. If the moon is used as a calendar, Hajj is automatically by the moon. But, Allah added these words to impress on Muslims that at no time should they start doing Hajj by the Solar calendar. They must do it by the Lunar calendar alone.

All pagan religions are based in superstitions. The religion of the Arabs before the time of the Prophet was also filled with superstitions. With reference to Hajj, some of them believed that if they have once made up their mind for Hajj, they should not enter their houses by the main door, but by the back-door. Allah pointed out that there is no piety or godliness, in these kinds of foolish practices. Piety is in him who fears Allah.

The message that is hidden is that in your life be straightforward. Do not move like a snake, as many pagans do. Even in ordinary affairs, they are very tricky. They are both yes and no, at the same time. Many Muslims have also learnt this from them. There is nothing illogical or crooked in Islam. So, be frank, and be open. Go by the front door. Do not go by the back-door.

The important thing is that you fear Allah, and not the people. Do not change your behavior because of the people. Live by Islam, fearlessly, and see how Allah protects you here and will reward you in the Hereafter.

Exercise:

  1. What exactly was the question about the new moon?
  2. Can you answer why the moon changes its size in different nights?
  3. What is the confusion in taking Sun for making a calendar?
  4. Why is the length of the Solar year 365.24 days?
  5. Why do we have a leap year?
  6. Explain, as if you are talking to a villager, why we need a leap year.
  7. Can we follow the Solar year to fix the dates of Hajj?
  8. Do you see in people around you superstitions?
  9. What is the key to piety?
  10. What other things it means when it was said, ‘go by the front door’?

 

 (To be continued)

Asad and the Colorful Butterflies

At the weekend, Asad went to visit his grandfather. The two days passed very quickly, and before Asad knew it, his father had arrived to take him home. Asad said goodbye to his grandfather and went to sit in the car. He was looking out of the window as he waited for his father to collect his things. A butterfly sitting on a flower a short distance away fluttered its wings and flew to the car window.

“You’re going home, aren’t you, Asad?” asked the butterfly in a tiny voice.

Asad was astonished “Do you know me?” he asked.

“Of course I do,” smiled the butterfly. “I’ve heard your grandfather telling the neighbors about you.”

“Why didn’t you come and talk to me before?” Asad inquired.

“I couldn’t, because I was in a cocoon up a tree in the garden,” explained the butterfly.

“A cocoon? What’s that?” asked Asad, who was always a curious boy.

“Let me explain from the beginning,” said the butterfly as it took a deep breath. “We butterflies hatch out of the egg as tiny caterpillars. We feed ourselves by nibbling leaves. Later we use a liquid which comes out of our bodies like thread and wrap ourselves up in it. That little package we weave is called a cocoon. We spend a while inside that package as we wait to grow. When we wake up and come out of the cocoon we have brightly colored wings. We spend the rest of our lives flying and feeding ourselves from flowers.”

Asad nodded thoughtfully “You mean all those colorful butterflies were once caterpillars before they grew wings?”

“Can you see the green caterpillar on that branch?” asked the butterfly.

“Yes, I see it. It’s nibbling away hungrily at a leaf.”

“That’s my little brother,” smiled the caterpillar. “In a while he’ll weave a cocoon too, and one day he’ll be a butterfly like me.”

Asad had lots of questions to ask his new friend. “How do you plan this change? I mean, when do you come out of the egg, how long do you stay as a caterpillar and how do you make the thread to weave your cocoons?”

“I don’t plan any of it at all,” explained the butterfly patiently. “Allah has taught us what we need to do and when we need to do it. We just act in the way our Lord wills.”

Asad was really impressed. “The patterns on your wings are wonderful. And all butterflies have different patterns, don’t they? They are really colorful and eye-catching!”

“That’s a proof of Allah’s incomparable artistry. He created us one by one in the most beautiful way possible,” explained his friend.

Asad agreed enthusiastically: “It’s impossible not to see the beautiful things Allah has created. There are hundreds of examples all round us!”

The butterfly agreed: “You’re right, Asad! We need to give thanks to Allah for all these blessings.”

Asad looked over his shoulder: “My father’s coming. It looks like we’re about to set off. It was really great to meet you. Can we talk again when I come next week?”

“Of course,” nodded the butterfly. “Have a safe journey home.”

Amazing Facts about Butterflies

  • Butterflies range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge almost 12 inches.
  • Butterflies can see red, green, and yellow.
  • Some people say that when the black bands on the Woolybear caterpillar are wide, a cold winter is coming.
  • The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour. Some moths can fly 25 miles per hour!
  • Monarch butterflies journey from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of about 2,000 miles, and return to the north again in the spring.
  • Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees.
  • Representations of butterflies are seen in Egyptian frescoes at Thebes, which are 3,500 years old.
  • Antarctica is the only continent on which no Lepidoptera have been found.
  • There are about 24,000 species of butterflies. The moths are even more numerous: about 140,000 species of them were counted all over the world.
  • The Brimstone butterfly (Gonepterix Rhamni) has the longest lifetime of the adult butterflies: 9-10 months.
  • The females of some moth species lack wings, all they can do to move is crawl.
  • The Morgan’s Sphinx Moth from Madagascar has a proboscis (tube mouth) that is 12 to 14 inches long to get the nectar from the bottom of a 12 inch deep orchid discovered by Charles Darwin.
  • Some moths never eat anything as adults because they don’t have mouths. They must live on the energy they stored as caterpillars.
  • Many butterflies can taste with their feet to find out whether the leaf they sit on is good to lay eggs on to be their caterpillars’ food or not.

The Sword of Wood

This is a tale from Afghanistan.

Once, on a summer night in the country Afghanistan, the ruler, Shah Abbas, changed out of his fancy robes and left his palace dressed as a peasant to enjoy the evening air and to wander through the streets unnoticed. He walked and walked until he reached the poorest section at the edge of the town. He soon heard joyful singing coming from a dimly lit cottage. As he peered in the window he saw a man sitting at a table. He was eating happily and giving thanks to God. The Shah was astonished to see such a poor man in such good spirits and so he asked if he might come in as a guest.

After accepting food and drink the Shah asked the man how he earned his living. “I am a poor peasant,” he said. “I wander the streets and fix shoes, and in this way I earn enough money to buy all the food I need for one day.”

“But what will happen to you when you are too old to work?” asked the Shah.

“Oh, I do not have to worry about that,” the man said happily. “God blesses me day by day, and I know that somehow there will always be enough.”

The Shah returned to his palace and took off his peasant disguise. He was determined to test the faith of this man. The next day he proclaimed: “No one is allowed to fix shoes for pay!”

When the Peasant went to work, he was astonished to learn of the new law. “What is he going to do if he can’t fix shoes and earn money?”

Here’s what he did. He lifted his eyes to heaven and he prayed, “God, the Shah has made it against the law for me to fix shoes. But I know you will help me to find a new job.” He looked around and saw some people carrying water. He decided that he too would become a water carrier.

The Peasant carried water to and from the town well and sold it to people, for the rest of the day. And in that way he earned just enough money to buy food … for one day. The Shah again disguised himself and returned to the man’s house. He was very surprised to find the man again praising God and eating happily. “How are you?” he asked upon entering. “I heard of the law and had to see how you had survived the day.”

“God did not abandon me today,” the Peasant answered happily. “The Shah closed one door, but God opened another to take its place. I am now a water carrier.”

The Shah took his leave again. He issued another proclamation: no one was to carry water for pay. Again the Peasant wondered how he could earn money if it was against the law to carry water. But again he prayed and this time he saw that men were going into the forest to cut trees to sell for firewood. So he decided to cut trees and sell firewood also, and that’s just what he did. And in that way he earned just enough money to buy food for one day.”

Again the Shah came in disguise and learned of the man’s continued faith and good fortune. The next day, he issued a command that his soldiers stop all the woodcutters coming from the forests and bring them to the palace to work. He dressed them all as guards and gave them swords. He told them that they would not be paid until the end of the month.

The Peasant was perplexed indeed, for he had no money for dinner that evening, and it would certainly be difficult to wait a whole month for his pay. But he trusted God. So he prayed and he prayed for an answer to his problem. How would he be able to buy food tomorrow, if he wouldn’t be paid for a full month?

On the way home from the palace, while examining his sword and sheath, the Peasant had a clever idea. He would make a sword out of wood, the same size as the Shah’s metal sword that would look just like it. Then he could sell the Shah’s sword. So he made a wooden sword and sold the real one and he had just enough money for food for a month!

The Shah, in his peasant disguise again, was much surprised to find the Peasant eating happily and praising God that night again. When he heard the Peasant’s story about the sword, he asked him, “What will you do if the Shah finds out what you have done?”

“Oh, I do not worry about such things,” the Peasant replied. “Every day my life is filled with blessings from God. I know that somehow everything will come out all right.”

The next day the Shah ordered all the guards to report to the center of the city where there was to be an execution of a man who had stolen from the royal palace. All the guards came, including the ones who used to be woodcutters, and including the Peasant. All the townspeople came to see.

The Shah ordered his officer to call the Peasant to come forth to cut off the man’s head. “Do not ask this of me,” the Peasant cried. “I have never even killed a fly.” The officer said that it was the order of the Shah and he must obey or risk his own life.

The Peasant asked for a few minutes to pray to God. Then he stood in front of all of the townspeople and said out loud, “God, you know that I have never killed anyone in my whole life. Please, God, if this man is guilty, let my sword be so sharp as to kill him in a single blow. But if he is not guilty, let my sword turn to wood, as a sign of his innocence.” With all eyes on him, the Peasant reached for his sword. He pulled it out of its sheath, and held it high. The crowd gasped, then clapped and cheered when they saw the wooden sword, for they thought a miracle had taken place.

The Shah was delighted when he saw the wisdom of the Peasant. He called him near. He told him that he had been the visitor those four preceding nights. “And now,” he said, “I hope that you will come and stay with me in my palace and be my advisor, for I see that you are a man of wisdom and unwavering faith, and I have much to learn from you.”

So the Peasant went to live in the palace with the Shah. If you went by there in the evenings, you would hear them singing.