Session # 7 Islam - Sitti’s Secrets
“Sitti’s Secrets” by Naomi Shihab Nye. An American Muslim girl misses her "sitti," or Palestinian grandmother, who lives across the ocean. Explore Islamic culture with geometrical designs.
Copies of Take Home Page
Copies of the Geometrical Design Coloring Page
Arab décor for room set up
Supplies for chosen Activities
Decorate the room with Arab décor – a turkish rug, furniture removed, brass lamps, mirrors, Arabian horse posters, camel pictures, desert pictures and posters, Sinbad themes, etc.
Color the geometric design, enclosed, or use any geometrical design coloring page.
After the children have arrived, ask them to gather in a circle for the story. Tell them that this session is devoted to a religion called “Islam.” People who practice the religion of Islam are called “Muslims.”
Read “Sitti’s Secrets.”
1) Getting Ready to Pray – When Muslims go into a mosque, they take off their shoes to show their respect. They think of Allah. Then they wash themselves carefully. The washing is called “wudu.” It is done in a certain order. Bring basins of water into the classroom and perform the washing in this order:
2) Make a prayer rug – Use a paper bag that has been cut to lay flat and open. Crinkle it up to create a “fabric” like feel. Have the children cut a fringe on each end, then decorate it. Children may wish to glue their previously colored geometrical design page onto their prayer rug, or make other geometrical designs.
3) Continue coloring the geometric design coloring page and introduce the idea that Muslims do not generally draw human figures or animals. Their art work is made up of flowers and richly patterned shapes based on geometrical design.
One way in which Muslims use this beautiful patterning is to decorate their books.
One of the ways that Muslims decorate their buildings is by writing the words from the Qur'an or the sayings of Muhammad (Pbuh) in beautiful calligraphy on the tiles.
Rugs, cushions and bags would all be decorated in this style. The rugs and cushions are often used as furniture, especially in the desert regions where there is little wood available.
Head dresses which are worn traditionally by men to protect them from the hot sun, were often beautifully patterned. From: www.atschool.eduweb.co.uk/carolrb/islam/art
4) Write a letter or make a card for their grandparent. Where do their grandparents live? Do the children miss them?
5) Play marbles, as the little girl’s cousins and she play in the courtyard. Create a circle and try to knock marbles out of the circle. Or play another classic children’s game which children around the world can play together, such as tag, or jump rope, or hopscotch.
6) Balancing on their head, as the women balance the jugs of water that they bring home from the spring. Use bean bags to start, and progress to bigger pillows, and even a milk jug of water.
Closing: We all want to learn from our elders and love our family members. We miss them when we can’t see them often.
Snack: Pita bread, similar to the most common form of Arabic bread, optional. Add a spread, like peanut butter and jelly, hummus, or other favorite. Lemonade is mentioned in the story, as made by Mona’s “sitti.” Cucumbers and yogurt are also mentioned.
Geometrical Design Coloring Page
Background for Teachers:
About Geometric Patterns in Islamic Art
“Geometric motifs are popular with Muslim artists and designers in all parts of the world, at all times, and for decorating every surface, whether walls or floors, pots or lamps, book covers or textiles. As Islam spread from nation to nation and region to region, artists combined their penchant for geometry with pre-existing traditions, creating a new and distinctive Islamic art. This art expressed the logic and order inherent in the Islamic vision of the universe.
Although the shapes and structures are based on the geometry of Euclid and other Greek mathematicians, Islamic artists used them to create visual statements about religious ideas. One explanation of this practice was that Mohammad had warned against the worship of idols; this prohibition was understood as a commandment against representation of human or animal forms. Geometric forms were an acceptable substitute for the proscribed forms.
An even more important reason is that geometric systems and Islamic religious values, though expressed in different forms, say similar things about universal values. In Islamic art, infinitely repeating patterns represent the unchanging laws of God. Muslims are expected to observe strict rules of behavior exactly as they were originally set forth by Mohammad in the seventh century. These rules are known as the "Pillars of Faith":
pronouncing the creed (chanting an affirmation of the existence of one God and that God is Allah)
praying, in a precisely defined ritual of words and motions, five times a day
fasting during the month of Ramadan (time varies according to lunar calendar)
making, during a lifetime, at least one pilgramage to Mecca
The strict rules for construction of geometric patterns provide a visual analogy to religious rules of behavior. The geometric patterns used in Islamic art are aggressively two-dimensional. Artists did not want to represent the three-dimensional physical world. They preferred to create an art that represents an ideal, spiritual truth. Ideals are better represented as two-dimensional than three-dimensional.
The star was the chosen motif for many Islamic decorations. In Islamic iconography the star is a regular geometric shape that symbolizes equal radiation in all directions from a central point. All regular stars--whether they have 6, 8, 10, 12, or 16 points-- are created by a division of a circle into equal parts. The center of the star is center of the circle from which it came, and its points touch the circumference of the circle. The center of a circle is an apt symbol of a religon that emphasizes one God, and symbol of the role of Mecca, the center of Islam, toward which all Muslims face in prayer. The rays of a star reach out in all directions, making the star a fitting symbol for the spread of Islam.
Many of the patterns used in Islamic art look similar, even though they decorate different objects. Artists did not seek to express themselves, but rather, to create beautiful objects for everyone to enjoy. It takes considerable experience in analyzing Islamic patterns before discovering that seldom are two designs exactly alike. That is worrisome to Westerners because of the premium placed in the West on originality in evaluating an artist. Not so in Islam; there the artist sees himself as a humble servant of the community, using his skills and imagination to express awe of Allah, the one God, eternal and all-powerful.
From the essay “Islamic Belief Made Visual” from www.askAsia.org Author: Jane Norman.
Picture Book World Religions: Islam