About a year ago I came across the coolest looking book, Teaching Kids the Holy Quran – Surah 71: Nuh, on the Read With Meaning Blog and was intrigued. The picture of LEGO figures depicting narratives from the Quran immediately captured my attention and brought me back to afternoons spent with my son when he was small, building with colorful LEGO blocks – we once even tried to build the Kaba.
Teaching Kids the Holy Quran – Surah 71: Nuh, however, has far surpassed anything that my son and I had ever endeavored.
I was fortunate to have correspondence with the author, brother Mezba Mahtab, and he was kind enough to respond to a few interview questions about his very interesting perspective about writing and teaching the Quran to children.
1. What inspired you to write these books?
I think it was a natural progression that combined my hobbies of blogging, photography and LEGO. I have a personal blog (a Bengali in T.O.) where many times I have discussed (sometimes controversial) topics related to Islam and Muslims. I often find that the Quran is being quoted out of context to make a point, even by Muslims.
I had always been amazed at how little the average Muslim knows of the Quran. We teach our children to read it so they can say their prayers; some of us memorize a small portion of it – and there ends our relation with God’s Word.
Just to give you an example, most sane people would say that Muslims and non-Muslims should live together in harmony and in friendship. Yet there are some people who claim the two groups cannot be friends, and they point to verse 1 from chapter 60 in the Quran. In there, God is telling the Muslims, “Do not take My enemy and your enemy as friends (or protectors)”.
Yet, as my rendering shows ( http://readwithmeaning.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/chapter-60-al-mumtahina-she-that-is-to-be-examined-verses-1-2/), the context of how the verse was revealed, the application of it, and the VERY NEXT VERSE (verse 8) immediately clarifies it, leading to a much more practical, moderate, and sane conclusion.
I therefore thought, and thought hard, of how I could use an interesting medium to preach the Quran and its moderate message, and this led me to toys, and LEGO.
2. For how long have you been writing?
My first book on Surah Kahf was published in 2013, but I had started working on this material on the blog much earlier, with the first rendering of Surah Al Maun (Almsgiving) published in 2010. For some time this was a hobby, until I felt I should raise the quality of my work, devote some time to it and compile one Surah into a book. I learned a lot from my first book and used that experience to make each subsequent book better than the one before in terms of photography, quality of pictures, research into the material, and presentation. The link to all three of my books can be found here: https://readwithmeaning.wordpress.com/buy-the-book/
3. Do you have a personal website outside of the purchase links for your books?
I maintain a personal blog (A Bengali in TO) with my own thoughts, reflections on current events, religion, movies and other random rants. My work on the Quran, however, is maintained on the Read With Meaning site, Twitter, and Facebook page separately from my personal content.