Have you ever heard Muslims dismiss events like Earth Day because ‘every day is Earth Day’ … and yet fail to give examples of how Muslim children can celebrate Earth Day every day?
I haven’t been involved in Earth Day until this year, because care for creation is something I do incorporate into my daily way of life alhamdulillah, and it is something I am constantly working to improve. So I empathise with the dismissal.
This year, however, I see an opportunity to make personal improvements in connecting with others about ecology on a day when people who care are looking to make connections. This post is about sharing with you some picture book recommendations for connecting young Muslim children with Earth Day through literature, and thereby strengthening your relationship with Muslim children as active environmentalist/ecologists/earth carers.
Below is a list of some Muslim picture books I recommend for Earth Day … and for every green day.
Zaynab teaches her brother Zakariya how to recycle so he is able to avoid wasting the things he is clearing out and causing unnecessary landfill. Then the siblings read about caring for the planet and begin practising their new knowledge by composting and selcting eco-friendly products when shopping. This book, importantly is printed on recycled paper – in fact, all Smart Ark books are, and Smart Ark practices the best environmental and ethical policies of all the Muslim publishers masha’Allah.
Fehmida Ibrahim Shah’s biggest hope for children this Earth Day is that each child has the freedom to play, explore and interact with the natural world in order to develop a love and appreciation that will stay with them throughout their lives.
The first half of the book takes readers through a rich description of the natural world as created by Allah ready for people to appreciate, take care of, and utilise to remember Allah. Then mid way we reach a crescendo when we are told that Adam (AS) was brought into the world, taught how to care for it, and entrusted with its care. We then travel back through the world in reverse order to see how the world was positively changed by human witness of creation, care, and work because of our remembrance, thanks, and worship of Allah.
During a day in their garden, Aleena is guided by her mother’s questions to recognise and reflect upon Allah’s gifts. Aleena thanks Allah for giving her senses that enable her to enjoy His gifts of colourful fishes, birds singing, and delicious food, and for her abilities to learn, laugh, and move. Allah’s Gifts is a heart warming daughter-mother story with a delightful concluding reflection.
Tasnim Nazeer’s biggest hope for children this Earth Day is for them to be able to appreciate the blessings they have in life whether big or small. Her wish for every child around the world is to receive the love, support and comfort they need to grow and excel in their lives.
Friends Asad and Amin are fishing in a boat on a lake but Amin distresses Asad by throwing his empty wrapper into the lake because ‘nobody is watching’. Asad reveals the lake’s pollution problem, Amin feels compelled to help solve the problem by cleaning up, and the story is turned over to readers to discuss responsible recycling and waste disposal. Additionally, in this book’s ‘Into the Wild with Shireen’ pages readers are engaged in celebrating Allah’s blessing of water.
Hilmy’s curiousity about the reason for animals differences causes him to set out on a quest to find answers. He models knowledge seeking by travelling to seek answers from a creature of knowledge (the wise Terrapin), using his own senses to deduce truths while persevering in his quest, and applying what he is taught during a painful trial to the effect that he relies upon Allah more immediately and with more certainty than before his learning. Hilmy shows readers a personal understanding of every creatures’ need to reply upon Allah in order to care for and respect every thing in His diverse and beautiful world.
A beautifully illustrated collection of philosophical poems from a child’s perspective (or songs – there is an audio CD included) about family life, simple living, and remembrance of Allah, including various delights and reflections upon the natural world. A few examples: Rose poses questions about growth, design, and knowledge of what of has planned in order to discern trust in Allah’s will and have patience. My Mother explore the interconnection between family members through time time using analogies with flower petals, leaves, and raindrops. Little Ant shows observation of ants leading to understanding about working through hardships to develop strength.
Dawud Wharnsby’s biggest hope for children this Earth Day is that they will realize how connected we all are to each other and our earth ~ bringing back much needed balance to our planet. May they be a generation who ban weapons of war, turn their backs on genetically modified foods, technological addiction, digital device dependency and corporate control. May they make it globally “cool” to reawaken fading folk arts such as: frugality, micro farming, sewing, carpentry, pottery and masonry ~ leaning how to live both self-subsistingly and interdependently with dedication to global change through commitment to local community activism.
In a poetic series of similes between a Muslimah’s covering of hijab and various coverings in nature that are celebrating in vibrant, fresh illustrations, young Muslims are guided to identify Muslim people and practises as harmonious with the natural world. The book opens with Allah’s love for His creation, takes readers on a journey through images of beautiful Muslimahs as they actively endeavour to please Allah while surrounded by beauty in nature, and concludes by returning to Allah who sees the inner beauty of faith.
Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim’s biggest hope for children this Earth Day is that they do all they can to help protect the Earth and encourage others to do the same.
Faisal the frog discovers litter left by people near a picnic bench and he creatively plays games with it with his friends – having the effects of harming a fish by scattering litter into the pond, and hurting themselves by sticking to food and becoming trapped in a can. Faisal enlists help to rescue his friends. Then the group work to clean up the dangerous litter until the tiring work is finished and the area is beautiful. Faisal hopes that visitors to the pond will keep it beautiful, and readers are addressed directly with a query as to whether they will help keep the world beautiful and safe, and will a few rules to guide them in this task.
This book asks questions and gives answers to guide children to reflect upon their relative sizes to the big and small things they know on Earth, then to understand the Earth’s relative size in the Universe, and to contemplate Allah in terms of being bigger than all that He has created.
Emma Apple’s biggest hope for children this Earth Day is that they learn to treat their environment better than we have been doing, that they understand that it is a trust and a source of many signs from Allah, and that they understand how important our relationship to the natural world is.
The above list is not comprehensive, of course. For example, Muslim children’s book titles that I haven’t had time to summarise include Maryam and the Trees; The Perfect Gift; The Apple Tree: The Prophet Says Series; Love All Creatures; The Story of Adam AS; Allah Makes Early Reading Set; and Favourite Tales from the Quran: In the Beginning, First Man and Woman.
Above, some authors have kindly supplied quotes about their hopes for children this Earth Day. I did not have time to contact every one. However, now that I have recognised a the benefit of celebrating Muslim children’s literature for Earth Day, I hope next year insha’Allah to prepare and publish my post(s) in advance and therefore be more inclusive of available resources for different age groups and take up less of your time on Earth Day itself.
So, without taking up any more of your time, I hope you benefit from reading Muslim and faith-based children’s books today and that the earth benefits from the subsequent actions you take; happy Earth Day.
Elizabeth Lymer is the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. She loves eating chocolate while she writes, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, she also creates Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at her Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK. Elizabeth is a member of the Muslimah Writers Alliance. She’s on Twitter @elizabethlymer.
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