Indonesian Teens in the US Share Al-Quran Stories

Desiring to guide children in learning Islam while diverting their attention from thirst and hunger, Indonesian teenager, Shafiya Salahuddin (17 years), in Reston, Virginia, takes the time to read stories of the prophet and his companions in Al-Qur’an. Qur’an.

“I want to distract the children if they fast, a few hours before Maghrib so that they forget about hunger for a moment,” Shafiya Salahuddin told VOA recently.

Shafiya Salahuddin reads the story at the event "Story Time with Shafiya" (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

Shafiya Salahuddin reads a story on the program “Story Time with Shafiya” (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

Every day in the month of Ramadan, Shafiya interacts with children aged 6-10 years virtually. The activity which lasts for 30 minutes before Maghrib is named Story Time with Shafiya.

“Very good. I like it because (Shafiya) asks questions and we can answer them. I also like being able to raise my hand. The storytelling session was fun. I enjoyed it,” Sofia Maryam Rafiq, a 6-year-old participant in Herndon, Virginia, told VOA.

Sofia Maryam Rafiq while following "Story Time with Shafiya" (doc: Citra Puji Sam)

Sofia Maryam Rafiq while following “Story Time with Shafiya” (doc: Citra Puji Sam)

Currently, Sofia, who is in the 1st grade of elementary school, is learning to fast. Sofia’s mother, Citra Puji Sam, was also happy to include her son in this very positive event.

“So to wait for the call to prayer, this activity is very positive, yes. And the children also enjoy reading stories by Shafiya, about stories from friends, from stories in the Qur’an,” explained Citra to VOA.

Not only that, according to Citra, this event was really interesting, because there was a question and answer session or quiz about the story that was raised. Children who can answer and collect points to get prizes at the end of the month of Ramadan.

“Making this event even more exciting for children,” added Citra.

Sofia Maryam Rafiq, Citra Puji Sam and family in the US (doc: Citra Puji Sam)

Sofia Maryam Rafiq, Citra Puji Sam and family in the US (doc: Citra Puji Sam)

Story Time with Shafiya is one of a series of activities for the Indonesian community mosque, the IMAAM Center, which is located in Silver Spring, Maryland. When Shafiya submitted a request for this event, the IMAAM Center immediately enthusiastically supported it.

“This is a very brilliant idea, by involving the segment of children aged 6-10 years, to enliven the events in this Ramadan,” said the president of IMAAM, Arif Mustofa.

Arif Mustofa praised Shafiya’s readiness for preparing story material for a whole month. He also liked the method used by Shafiya in this event. The quiz given at the end of the story makes the children focus and concentrate on the story being read.

“Extraordinary. Very interactive, communicative, and the interaction is two-way. This is what makes these children really enjoy. This is an example of an interaction from Ananda Shafiya’s initiative to engage with the Muslim children’s community around the IMAAM Center,” he added.

Not only helping children learn Islam, Shafiya admitted that this activity also helped her in communicating, given the lack of interaction during the pandemic.

“Since the pandemic I have had a hard time communicating with people. So I’m trying to learn to communicate well,” said Shafiya.

Shafiya’s mother, Yulianti Ismail also often makes suggestions so that this event runs smoothly and is interesting for children.

“We’re watching too. After we finish, we give input to Shafiya, ‘Don’t read it too fast, there must be intonation, so that’s not it boring, questionadded for the quiz. And if it’s too short, read two stories,’” Yulianti Ismail told VOA.

Shafiya Salahudin with family in the US (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

Shafiya Salahudin with family in the US (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

Shafiya is already experienced in teaching children, especially those around 9 to 11 years old. In addition to being accustomed to helping take care of his three younger siblings, he has also often been an assistant in the IMAAM Center Madrasah class taught by his father for the past 2 years.

Teaching children, especially in storytelling sessions, is certainly quite challenging.

“Kids are sometimes difficult to understand. Their minds are sometimes distracted. You have to be patient,” he said.

Shafiya’s patience in guiding the children was recognized by the mother.

“When I saw him (Shafiya) he was really patient, yes, his son. To a small child like that care, gentle. He has a 2 year old sister. If (taking care of) his sister, he is painstaking, thorough, and patient. Maybe more patient than me,” said Yulianti Ismail.

Chance to Win High Scout Awards

Since she was in grade 5 SD, Shafiya has been active in a local scout group, consisting of Muslim girls. Together with about 10 other scout members, Shafiya often helps the community.

Shafiya Salahuddin (4th from left) with a Muslim scout group in Virginia (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

Shafiya Salahuddin (4th from left) with a Muslim scout group in Virginia (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

Now, Shafiya is in grade 3 high school at South Lakes High School and has become a senior scout member. The more hours spent helping the community, the greater the chance of winning the “Gold Award,” the highest honor given to a senior girl scout.

“(The storytelling session) was the last part of the (step) to get the “Gold Award”. So there must be 12 hours for interaction with (children),” explained Yulianti Ismail.

Given the limitations that exist in holding face-to-face events during the pandemic, finally an idea came up Story Time with Shafiya this.

Previously, Shafiya also helped clean and renovate the children’s room at the IMAAM Center mosque. Before Ramadan, Shafiya also held a face-to-face event Seeds to Gowho teaches children how to plant seeds for parking lot plants at the IMAAM Center, of course, while still adhering to health protocols during a pandemic.

Event "Seeds to Go" at IMAAM Center (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

“Seeds to Go” event at IMAAM Center (doc: Shafiya Salahuddin)

Now, through the activity “Story Time with Shafiya,” Shafiya hopes that children can learn more about stories in the Qur’an.

“Hopefully they can get something from these stories, because in them there are lessons to be learned,” explained Shafiya.

In the month of Ramadan this year, Shafiya hopes to become a better Muslim and to develop good habits, which can continue even after Ramadan is over. [di]